Man of Loxley
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AFTER THE LONG DARK of my yet unpublished Thorntree, I had need to step into the light—out of the shadows of our contemporary artistic crisis, out of the shadows of that void at the heart of our gleaming modernity, out of the shadows of modernity itself. I had need of the sun, the day, a sky brighter and air less befouled.
And where better to seek the light—I asked myself—than in the “Dark Ages?”
All jesting aside—though jesting is very much in order here—there is all too little play in this modern literature, all too little chance to stand astride the rules, so little gaiety and space for gaiety. Consider only our dialogues—how these modern conversations do clunk and dodder on! How little joy in language! Where is gone our Anglo-Saxon richness of vocabulary, our delight in etymology, our cheer in wit, our large-hearted, wide-minded delectation in ambiguity? Where, in short, is our recreation in our speech?
And how little nobility of thought, what poverty of sentiment, is on our tongues and in our hearts! How we are burdened by our contemporary ways! How small we have become! We manage, at our very best, to express and embody a kind of dignity. Will it be held against me if I confess that this modern dignity grows tiring to the mind weened on the classics, and that this modern tone must be taken by the teaspoon—when it is to be taken at all? Ah, how drear and how depressing, these books in which all of the characters must be “normal” in order to be “believable,” and the tone is fit to accommodate all the gray and gear-like grinding on of our contemporary capitalistic democracy!
I admit, these troubles are peculiar to me. I despise slang and abhor vulgarity. I can admire, say, John Steinbeck’s mastery of a dialect of a portion of my own people, while simultaneously thinking it a sad display of how far we have fallen. And more, I have never been able to abide by inclusion of these modern things in my writing. I do not like writing about computers, cars, cell phones; it makes me grate my teeth even to use such words in a novel, as though I must mar an otherwise clean page, and to no good purpose. This to say nothing of such terms as “facebook,” “twitter,” and like perversities!
Yet—how can one write about the day in which we live, and not include such omnipresent novelties? What kind of plot would be realistic without them, any longer? How to avoid them—without being offensively unworldly, evasive, and altogether impertinent?
Well, I and my poor writings are certainly not destined to be fashionable. I have long known that. Then (so I bethought myself) let me get me to a time in which my very unfashionableness can have its free reign over things, and I can play a little the tyrant and a little the mountebank, without fearing to offend either my reader’s credulity, or my own taste. If I am not at home here in this world in which I have been born, then let me find myself a home in some other time—or, if need be, let me invent it for myself!
Is that flight? Am I guilty of fleeing? But I protest: for there is an obtuse difference between the fugitive and the finder. It is one thing to run away, feeling ever the hot breath upon one’s back; it is quite another to go roving far and wide in search of something, as the Crusaders or Don Quixote.
To be sure, as fundamental a difference as that is, it is yet a fine one to perception. One merely looking at me will wonder just where the evidence can be mustered to support my self-defense. Dear Reader, would you believe me—there is a passage in this very book, which can address itself to your concern!
As how could it not? This is the tale of Robin Hood, that protean man of wiles. How could it not then treat of appearances and masks and the equivocation of all seeming? Aye, this is the tale of Robin Hood, but told, I fancy, as it has not been told before; with all the legerdemain of the thief, and all the seriousness in play of the child.
And did I, as even my Little John, then find what I was seeking in the sun-streaked shadows of Sherwood? Pray, Reader, do not tax my good will so far as to ask such impossible questions of me! But if truly you would know—why, where better to inquire, than with the Merry Men of Sherwood, and the Man of Loxley himself?