In a word, a respectable epistemological word, what he,nthe novehst’s character, discovers in his search is that therenare other ways of knowing not only quite as valid as scientificnpropositions, but of far more critical significance in one’snpersonal life.nThus, while he had admitted all along the universalnvalidity of such sentences as “The square of the hypotenusenequals the sum of the square of the other two sides,” or,n”Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade at sea level,” now allnat once he, the novelist’s character, the pilgrim-searcher, isnable to take note of other kinds of sentences that he hadnignored before. Perhaps in his wanderings he encountersnanother person. The stranger has an unusual air about him.nHe is onto something. But he is not a guru who conveys tonhim some universal truths about the self and the cosmos.nNo; he, the stranger, is a newsbearer, and of all things newsnof an event in history. News? History? Hardly the stuff ofnempirically verifiable scientific sentences.nThe stranger is not importunate. He is serious but almostnoffhand in his manner, smiling. “I have something to tellnyou,” he says to the pilgrim. “A piece of news. It is of greatnimportance to you. Whether or not you choose to believenme is your affair.”nPerhaps the pilgrim does not believe the stranger, as wellnhe might not. Let me note here what is extremely importantnand the source of much confusion. The physician-novelist isnnot himself a newsbearer, and he is not in the business ofnwriting edifying tales. He has other fish to fry. It is enoughnfor him to have discovered and put his finger on the peculiarnlesion of the age. Perhaps by this very act the abscess isnlanced, the ear drained so that the patient, whatever else henmight do, can at least hear. Nevertheless the physician,ninsofar as he is a novelist, is in the business of diagnosis, notnON AMERICAN LETTERSnMuch has been said, of late, about thennecessity of maintaining a proper nationalitynin American Letters; but whatnthis nationality is, or what is to bengained from it, has never been distinctlynunderstood. That an American shouldnconfine himself to American themes, orneven prefer them, is rather a politicalnthan a literary idea — and at best is anquestionable point. We would do wellnto bear in mind that “distance lendsnenchantment to the view.” Ceterisnparibus, a foreign theme is, in a strictlynliterary sense, to be preferred. After all,nthe world at large is the only legitimatenstage for the autorial histrio.nBut of the need of that nationalitynwhich defends our own literature, sustainsnour own men of letters, upholdsnour own dignity, and depends upon ournown resources, there cannot be thenshadow of a doubt. Yet here is the veryn12/CHRONICLESnLIBERAL ARTSnpoint at which we are most supine. Wencomplain of our want of an InternationalnCopyright, on the ground that thisnwant justifies our publishers in inundatingnus with British opinion in Britishnbooks; and yet when these very publishers,nat their own obvious risk, and evennobvious loss, do publish an Americannbook, we turn up our noses at it withnsupreme contempt (this as a generalnthing) until it (the American book) hasnbeen dubbed “readable” by some illiteratenCockney critic. Is it too much to saynthat, with us, the opinion of WashingtonnIrving — of Prescott—of Bryant —nis a mere nullity in comparison with thatnof any anonymous sub-sub-editor ofnThe Spectator, The Athenaeum or then”London Punch”? It is not saying toonmuch, to say this. It is a solemn—annabsolutely awful fact. Every publisher innthe country will admit it to be a fact.nThere is not a more disgusting spectaclenunder the sun than our subserviency tonnntherapy.nLike all artists, he is interested not in edifying, but inndiscovering and pointing out and naming certain sectors ofnreality, both within oneself and outside oneself, which hadngone unnoticed. Whereupon he, the novelist’s character, isnfree, as only a man can be free, to act accordingly.nBut—and I can hear the question despite my disavowalsn— what are you suggesting? Are you suggesting thatnone must be a believing Jew or Christian to write goodnnovels? Certainly not — though one is tempted to make thencase and indeed present the evidence that the Jewishnnovelist, secular or religious, has a certain advantage, whatnwith his unique placement in a strictly linear time andnhistory. By a “certain view of reality” I am speaking of thenlinearity of history, the density of things and events, thenmystery and uniqueness of persons, a view that seemsnnatural to us but is in fact the cultural heritage of Judeo-nChristianity. Which is to say that I haven’t read any goodnBuddhist novels lately. It is to say also that B.F. Skinner,nwho believed that all life is a matter of stimuli and responses,ncould not possibly write a good novel — though I believe innfact that he did try. It is to say that the novels of H.G. Wellsncould not possibly be otherwise than as bad as they are. AndnI have never read a Marxist novel without being overwhelmednby the thesis.nFinally, it also helps the novelist to have interned atnBellevue or at Cook County Hospital. For one develops annose for pathology. And it is only when one sees thatnsomething is wrong that one can diagnose it, point it out andnname it, toward the end that the patient might at least havenhope, and even in the end get well.nnBritish criticism. It is disgusting, first,nbecause it is truckling, servile, pusillanimous—nsecondly, because of itsngross irrationality. We know the Britishnto bear us little but ill will—we knownthat, in no case, do they utter unbiasednopinions of American books — wenknow that in the few instances in whichnour writers have been treated with commonndecency in England, these writersnhave either openly paid homage tonEnglish institutions, or have had lurkingnat the bottom of their hearts, a secretnprinciple at war with Democracy: — wenknow all this, and yet, day after day,nsubmit our necks to the degrading yokenof the crudest opinion that emanatesnfrom the fatherland. Now if we mustnhave nationality let it be a nationalitynthat will throw off this yoke.n—Edgar Allan Poe in thenBroadway Journal, 1845n