have ever read” We have ahvaysnknown that Moriarty was annintelligent louse; this aspectnhelps describe why he is so.n”While Feuer’s instincts are right,nand while he does impart a goodndeal of information about thenperiod, he just isn’t up to retellingnone of Holmes’s adventures.nOr perhaps Dr. Watson wasnhaving a bad day. DnNeoned SoundnCharles Olson: TheMaxitnusnPoems; Edited by George F.nButterick; university of CalifornianPress; Berkeley.nContemporary society desiresncontraction. That is, there seemsnto be an objective at large thatnmaintains that things should benreduced in scope. Movies werenonce always at least two hours innlength, and double features werenthe rule; now an hour-and-a-halfnis the averse and a double bUl isnfreakish. Large newspapers usednto see themselves as documentarynrecords and so were obligednto print the fuU texts of thingsnlike presidential addresses; nownthey offer easy-to-swallow capsulensummaries. Most televisionnshows are 30 minutes long in thenlistings; they are much shorternwhen the ad time is figured. Fromna technological standpoint itnwould seem that these medianwould be more expansive nownthan they were a quarter centurynago, thanks to superior cameranequipment and filmstock, wordnprocessors and computer-controlledntypesetting equipment,nvideotape and a proliferation ofnavailable channels.nEarlier this year, a great dealnwas made out of the feet that itnhappens to be the title of a booknby George Orwell; comhientatorsndiscussed whether ournsociety was or was not becomingnthe dystopia envisioned in 1984.nGiven the level of discourse, it’sn26inChronicles of Culturendoubtful that many of the morenvocal took the time out to readnthe novel. The situation typicallynpresented was centered onn”Them” vs. “Us,” the formernbeing those with access to thingsnlike computers and the latternrepresenting all others, who arensomehow beleaguered by thenvery technological advances thatnmake life in late 20th-centurynAmerica as easy as it is. One of thenkey devices described in Orwell’snnovel—indeed, that whichnis perhaps the most insidious—^isnthe “telescreen,” a variation onnthe television. Orwell points outnthat there is one in every abodenand that they cannot be’turnednoflf (with the exception of thosenin the homes of Inner Partynmembers). Today, of course,nmost households in the U.S. areninhabited by at least one TV set.nDevelopments in the area ofncable television make many BignBrotheresque feats possible in annumber of homes, includingnmonitoring what is on at anyngiven moment. However, what isnoverlooked by the long-facednand wild-eyed commentators isnthe fact that people choose tonspend hours and hours and hoursnwith their sets on; the on-offnswitches on televisions almostnnever wear out while channelnselectors and tuners fede fest andnfrequently. Our society seeksndiversion, whether in the form ofn22-minute sitcoms, seminewspapers,nand/or marshmallow-likenmovies.nOne of the consequences ofnthis state of mind is that readingntime is contracted to extremelynbrief periods. The books thatntend to be most popular arenessentially tabular: diet andnexercise books, for example.nOther forms of writing have to benvery broad: novels by generallynpopular authors (e.g., Ludlum,nDailey, Asimov) must be virtuallynwithout subtlety and complexitynsince they are read in anseries of short sittings. Evennauthors of what pass as “serious”nnovels (e.g., Vidal, Mailer, Vonnegut)nhave molded their textsnto fit the fleeting retinal patterns.nThis fitting can be discerned innthe unseriousness of their oflferings,nthe rendering of copiousnamounts of unnecessary sex andnthe tendency to resort to similarlyncrude jokes. The genre tonsuffer most is poetry. Anythingnother than the School ofnHallmark is all but unknownnoutside of academic circles. Thensonnet length is about thenmaximum; even the niggardlynPoe thought that 86 additionalnlines would be proper.nCharles Olson (“Who?” manynare undoubtedly saying to themselves)nwas a poet of the longnform. TbeMaximusPoemsweieninitiated in 1950 and were completednin 1970, the year of hisndeath. In the University of Californianedition, the first completencollection in a single volume, thenpoems are presented on 635npages that measure 8-1/2 x 11ninches. Some of the pages arenfeirly empty (the final page readsn”my wife my car my color andnmyself’); some are blank (284nand 285). One can find diagonalnnnpatterns, a nearly illegible cursivenhand, and a prayer resemblingnthe flourish of CorporalnTrim’s stick (vide TristramnShandy, volume IX, chapter 4).nThe pieces have a physical presence.nAs Sherman Paul put it innOlson’s Push: Black Mountainnand Recent American Poetryn(LSU Press; Baton Rouge; 1978),nOlson’s “major work” was “locatingnhimself and living in a physicalnworld of things”—enduringnthings, not fleeting images.nPound’s Pisan Cantos come tonmind, but Olson is concernednwith this country, not Europen(indeed, Eliot thought thatnOlson’s study of Moby-Dick,nCallMelshmael, was “too Americanna book”). Olson’s poetry isnintensely difficult. Referencesnabound to such a degree thatncomprehension suffers; understandingncan come in spots onlynthrough illumination, for rationalnmeans are stymied by the opacitynof personal referents. Olsonnseems to have pushed his workninto the academy, his concernnwith the ordinary man notwithstanding.nBut perhaps he feltnthat the academy was the onlynplace in which he would get annextended hearing. As he wrote:nBut that which matters, thatnwhich insists, that which willnlast, that! o my people, wherenshall you find it, how, where,nwhere shall you listen whennall is become billboards,nwhen, all, even silence, isnspray-gunned?nwhen even our birds, mynroofs,ncannot be heardnwhen even you, when soundnitself is neoned in?nWhen every householdresemblesnthe Las Vegas strip, when thinkingnis done by Commodore VICn20’s and carefully coiffed newscasters,npoetry is replaced by anvulgar video palimpsest. Thafsnwhat OrweM worried about, nn