“But the limits of the poem are human, and here in the world things are, the poet says, absolutely hopeless. Young people do not realize this, because they’re not yet fully aware that they will die, and not only they themselves will die, but their whole civilization, everything they love and believe in will die–and sooner than they dream”-Gardner
Well, geez. Gardner must be super fun at parties. Sitting here reading this on this rainy day made me a little more sad than I thought it would. Also, I can’t figure out how to make the font all the same on here so I apologize to all of you fontaphiles.
Gardner is obviously a very smart guy, capable of writing such a philosophically ornate novel effectively, which is quite impressive considering the difficulties in doing so that he describes. But something seems kind of off about him, based on this letter. Maybe he’s too smart for his own good. He sees the things in life that none of us really want to see, which in turn, makes him a pretty salty guy.
Aside from his passive-aggressiveness (they’re just kids, Gardner!), I do enjoy his personal views on life. As someone more or less agnostic, I agree with the way he views religion. He writes: “There may or may not be a God, but in all likelihood the question’s irrelevant since we’ll never know unless, if there is one, we meet him or her in an afterlife, at which point it’s too late for this life.” He also says “I sort of incline to the persuasion that there is a God; but that isn’t important either; since he never talks to me or writes me a letter I have to get along on my own.” He makes sense. He’s not an angry godless heathen, as one would expect a philosophical novelist to be.
Understanding Gardner’s religious views based off of this letter makes understanding a lot of subtleties in the book a bit easier. The way he exaggerates the Shaper’s stories in a comparison to religious optimism; the way he has Grendel feel sympathy of some sort for Ork; the way that he has the society praise killing and indulging on all things antithetical to Christianity.
Gardner himself says “It’s true, of course, that the writer is likely to have his own pretty strong opinion; but if he’s a true artist, he doesn’t ram it down the reader’s throat.” So we know that Gardner is a religious skeptic, but in his nature as a good writer, we wouldn’t know that just based off of the novel. That’s an art many of us young writers still need to learn.