On the Author and the Journal
About the Author
TO INVITE a man to describe himself, is to open one’s ears to equivocation and inadvertent guile. For if he should seek to draw an appealing image of himself, he will fall at once into boastfulness; if he should desire instead to present an honest assessment, he is likely to court a false and exaggerated modesty. If he would interest his listener he will leave out whatever is dull, and that will flatter him inordinately; if instead he would edify his reader he will leave out whatever is bad, and that will make him inordinately dull. He is caught in the distasteful position of having to choose between an honest mendacity, or a mendacious honesty. Rather than asking him to describe himself, then, it seems to me all in all more humane for us to seek to learn this man, not through his self-assessments, but through his deeds. And writing, too, is a kind of deed.
Yet there is a single point of self-knowledge which we, all of us, are able to speak truthfully, if only we will forget our vanity a moment: not indeed what we are, but rather what we strive to become. Then let me tell my reader what I would be. That will be best for the both of us: I will not be taxed beyond my power, and my reader will be left in the pleasant position of being able, from the privacy and comfort of his own home, to judge the degree to which I fall short of what are, today more than ever, exacting standards. I am permitted to be indiscreetly honest, and my reader discreetly diverted, and neither one of us will finish the worse for it.
Here, then, Reader, is John Bruce Leonard as he would like to be: a man of letters, a man of the Muse—whenever she will have me—; a sometime poet, sometime draughtsman; a free spirit on occasion and on occasion a scholar; a dilettante in music and an aesthete by turns; an anti-modernist and enemy of most of what today is toted as “progress”; a lover of the noble past, a striver after a nobler future—may all this serve to mark me!
If this abstraction proves bland to the more practical among my readers, then I spice it with a peppering more concrete. I am American by birth and European by election, though I bear, as all transplanted souls must, indelible sign of the soil that first nourished me. I live with my wife and my son nella bella Italia, where we make our daily attempt to live as much as we may off the land, and of art. I am the author of several books—one, Shepherd, now available, and several others which I am in the work of formatting. All interested will find further information in the “Fiction” section of my website.
For the rest, I cordially invite anyone who wishes, to test my will against my deed, by reading what I have penned.
For Whom This Journal is Intended
NO WRITER writes, if not for himself; and no writer writes exclusively for himself, but always also to some other audience as well—even if it be only the legion within him. Here, then, is but my humblest forecast as to the sort of reader who might draw some pleasure or profit from what I have to say.
I write for those who have not forgotten, in today’s maelstrom of “information,” how to read—those who do not grow restless when the sentence does not finish at the phrase, nor the paragraph at the sentence; those who do not read to have done with something, but rather and much more urgently to commence with something; those who know to read both between and above the lines; those who know how to reflect as they read, or who are willing now and then to halt in the very middle of something to ruminate as necessary. I write for readers.
I write for those who do not conflate agreement with respect, nor disagreement with dislike; those who know how to dispute matters of the mind and even of the heart with all due warmth, but sine ira et studio; those who are not afraid to candidly challenge this writer’s multitude errors and manifold follies, with light and not umbrage; those who are not hasty to embrace and defend the first of their conclusions—nay, nor the twenty-first—but know that love of haste and love of truth are irreconcilable. I write for thinkers.
I write finally for those who appreciate the depth, the richness, the versatility, the unrealized potential of this our English tongue, and who love to find it emboldened to its promise; those to whom the occasional unfamiliar word or even neologism is less insulting than inviting; those who hold that the aesthetic qualities of our language are not incidental to but fundamental to the expression of its meaning. I write for writers, and the friends of writers.
With this much said—perhaps superfluously, I admit, if it is really the case that the reader chooses the writer, and not vice-versa—I welcome you, good guest, whomever you may be, with the sincere hope that you might extract some modicum of pleasure or benefit from my writings here—or at least feel the rousing sting of some occasional goad, which never did any harm to anyone.
A Word on the Organization of the Journal
THIS JOURNAL takes the form of a website; yet it is a website which deliberately flouts many of the conventions of most contemporary, and certainly most professional, websites. I have expressed already, and shall surely express again, my distaste for much of the warp and woof of modernity, and I find modern tendencies imprinted most visibly on everything to do with the “communication technology” of our day. I can protest no love for the larger part of these manifestations, and so I find myself in the curious position of being admittedly ill-at-ease in the medium that I have chosen to publish these writings.
This anachronistic, antique, even backward, even quite disputable and disreputable taste of mine is certainly reflected in my journal in a number of ways, some more superficial than others. It will be noted from the start, for instance, that I have insisted on calling this a journal, and not, as would be ten times more fashionable, a blog. Nowhere will the reader find “hyperlinks” within the body of my writings. (I supplement this dearth by the inclusion of a “Related material” list beneath each of my entries, which directs the curious reader to related sources, within or without my journal.) I have also determined—at the risk perhaps of producing a less “professional” appearance to my website—that I will allow no advertisements (not even of my own books) nor external links nor widgets nor any like “features” to ride officiously at the sides of what I have written. I refuse as well the formatting which has attached itself to digital writing, such as substituting spaces between paragraphs for indentation, for I believe this formatting has arisen precisely to abet the haste and superficiality with which we are wont to scan everything that comes before us on the computer screen.
None of these decisions have been taken, as might at first glance seem, out of an arrogant desire to tyrannize my reader’s attention. I have made these choices rather because I have perceived in myself and in others a growing and troubling tendency toward distraction, toward the dissolution of centered and assiduous thought, in our reading. This is due, I believe, to a number of factors, some subtle and some obvious; but among them is surely the way in which internet reading itself, due in part to the conventions I have noted, promotes a dispersive and polyp-like freneticism. As an example: how often have I, whilst perusing some website or other, opened this or that link in a new window, lending my attention (as I believe) momentarily thence—only to find in the end that I had opened perhaps a dozen windows, had lost the original in their midst, and had not given even the most cursory reading to the better part of half of them? This kind of habit, I aver, is pernicious. Though I do not doubt there are willful and clear-headed readers who manage to rule themselves in the face of the internet’s thousandfold distractions, yet I see no reason whatsoever to contribute to a tendency which appears to me so evidently deleterious. I write, therefore, in an elder and more book-like fashion. My entries are all that the reader shall encounter, unless the reader should care to defer to the top or the bottom of the entry in question, to navigate the other parts of my website.
If the reader should find any of this annoying, then I would beg to know why: and if the answer is simply that I, in any of these editorial decisions, have done the opposite of my intention, in rendering my words more difficult to comprehend, or more painful to regard with care and sympathy—then I tender at once my apology. If instead my reader would justly and quite pertinently reproach me with being little “up-to-date,” little savvy and much behind the times—well, then I call myself, in this, reprobate.