ALSCW President’s Column

The girl on the bus looked like that actress—Chloë Moretz. But what would Chloë Moretz be doing on the damn bus? Arlo was deep in his phone when she sat down right across from him with a shiny paperback on her lap. She was wearing a big gray hoodie over her lavish blonde hair. No lipstick. Baby blue high tops. Beautiful girls always knew how to scale it down. If it was Chloë Moretz, she was going incognito.

He thought of texting a friend, but decided against it.

She was reading her book. Something about witches. The author’s name was Updike. What kind of a name was Updike?

He went back to his phone and tapped some links. The Knicks were terrible as usual. Being a Knicks fan was plainly a curse.

Then he tapped an editorial by accident.

X is a total liar. 

He snuck a peak over at Chloë Moretz and she smiled at him. Damn.

X is a total liar. If you like X, you are a bad human being. There is no such thing as a good X.

The bus stopped and the girl got off. Arlo tucked his phone into his jacket and took out his notebook. His exam that morning included a number of writers who were new to him. Mark Twain seemed harsh and bristly, but satire was definitely interesting. The Gilded Age, they called it. It might still be the Gilded Age, he thought, as the bus turned north on Bowery. Gilded and Wired. Then there was his poetry class. No exam today, possibly a pop quiz. The professor was old and hated computers. She always came into class trailing clouds of nicotine. But she could teach. She’d shown the class how poets escaped the X-Y binary, even if they weren’t doing it for political points. There was one poet in particular he hadn’t figured out yet, but he liked the sound of the poet’s words.

Stepping off the bus, he noticed a sign for a play. “X and Y in Love,” it advertised. Hmmph, he wondered, what could that be about?

* * *

This brief musing on the good of literature comes at a time when political enmity threatens to intrude on every quiet page. Will common readers assert their rights? If not, if our literary culture goes, the ALSCW will go with it. We recognize that literature and scholarship count as forms of political expression. ALSCW members address their political commitments over a wide range of writings. But we balk at the notion that there is nothing more to literature than politics. We feel, at odd moments, on and off the campaign trail, a need to pursue beauty and knowledge for their own sake.

We hold that writing should be accurate, most especially when one is pointing out the deficiencies of others. We will not award literature prizes on the basis of political criteria. We will continue to foster an eclectic conversation about a broad literary heritage. For the real Arlos out there, we hope you will agree that the price is still worth paying.

Lee Oser

Lee Oser

Lee Oser is the President of the ALSCW. He is the author of three novels, including Oregon Confetti (Wiseblood Books), named by Commonweal as one of its top books of 2017. His fourth book of literary criticism, The Christian Humanism of Shakespeare, is due to press next year.
Lee Oser

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Author: Lee Oser

Lee Oser is the President of the ALSCW. He is the author of three novels, including Oregon Confetti (Wiseblood Books), named by Commonweal as one of its top books of 2017. His fourth book of literary criticism, The Christian Humanism of Shakespeare, is due to press next year.