20 I CHRONICLESnetc. Whatever they may be, it doesn’t always work out innPoirier’s equations. He will say rather haughtily, for example,nthat Emersonians have little or no interest in the novelsnof Catholic violence by Francois Mauriac, GrahamnGreene, and Flannery O’Connor. Moreover, he calls thisn”theatrical spirituality,” without for a moment acknowledgingnEmerson’s pathetic incapacity to recognize the presencenof evil in the world. Poirier, of course, doesn’t like the threenwriters he names any more than Emerson would, mainlynbecause they are novelists who have perceived the elementnof transgression as a key component in the matter of ournhuman drama itself When, indeed, Poirier later praisesnNorman Mailer as one whose “writings are laced withnEmersonian doctrines,” the game is given completely away.nSo it is time to put before the beleaguered reader thenexample par excellence of the civil, rational, and humanenform of the literary essay in our time. I mean, in thisnparticular instance, Guy Davenport’s 20 new essays collectednin Every Force Evolves a Form (North Point Press), whichnmay be considered an extention of the 40 essays in ThenGeography of the Imagination (1981) issued by the samenpublisher. There is nothing wimpish about Davenport; henhas strong opinions, to be sure, but on the whole they seemnboth eminently lucid and refreshingly sane. His writing isnan antidote to the fashionable premise that nothing may benprofound that has not first been made obscure. I don’t knownof a single academician today who would dare to write, fornexample, in praise of E.E. Gummings; but Davenport doesnit splendidly and without affectation. He is equally at homenwith the paintings of Henri Rousseau and the diary of MarynBoykin Chesnut. Davenport may be at his best as a writer ofnobiter dicta: Also,nIt is my opinion that The New York Review ofnBooks, that bastion of gratuitous meanness, hasndone more to discourage good writing in the UnitednStates than the Litkontrol branch of the Politburonhas in the Soviet Union.nNAME THAT TUNE by Janet Scott BarlownFirst things first. In the briefly intersecting histories ofnrock and roll and Pentecostalism, it is recorded thatnJerry Lee Lewis, at age 15, was expelled from SouthwesternnBible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas, for unrepentantiynplaying a boogie version of “My God Is Real.” In view ofnthe depth and breadth of the Jim Bakker-PTL scandal, itnseems only reasonable to ask: Should Southwestern BiblenInstitute reconsider its decision?nPTL. The letters have become almost as much a part ofnthe cultural alphabet as CBS and ABC (or IRS and FBI).nTheir familiarity grew along with the scandal, a scandal thatnprovided irresistible media fodder, news from all directions,nJanet Scott Barlow covers popular culture from her homenin Cincinnati, Ohio.nnnThe settiing of history’s dust is always full ofnsurprises: Emily Dickinson, John Clare, Melville.nThe universe is harmonic, or it wouldn’t work.nEvery writer asks us to agree to a tacitnunderstanding of how he understands the story he isntelling us.nWe have not had literary commentary like this since thenlate Randall Jarrell, and what makes Davenport all thenmore valuable to us is the keen awareness he has of historicnprinciples and the continuity of the Christian tradition,nAnd yet he manages to do this in a wholly unobtrusive butnstartiing manner, as if tightrope walking with ease andnconfidence above the fetid morass of 20th-century nihilism.nAlso working in the humane tradition of the literary essay,nhowever cynically, is V.S. Pritchett in books like the recentnA Man of Letters (1985), in which he covers a wide range ofninterests in groups of British, American, and Europeannv^’riters.nOf singular interest in the field of the literary essay, innour time, is Joseph Brodsky’s Less Than One (1986). One ofnBrodsky’s merits is his interest in subjects that are notngenerally familiar to American and English readers. Whyndo we not know Osip Mandelstam better than we do,nespecially since we possess a wonderful account of the greatnRussian poet from his wife, Nadezhda? It is refreshing tonnote the enthusiasms of any literary essayist these days, butnBrodsky himself takes the risk of excess in his long andnrevealing analysis of a well-known poem by W.H. Auden.nBut such excesses give life to the literary essay, even whennthey are the outrages that one may read in Anthony Burgess’nBut Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen? (1986). In the end, angood essayist takes the intelligent reader into account as onenwho receives—and who may even accept—the strong andnlively opinions of others. A real essayist does not ask us tonagree with him but only to give him a friendly hearing.nsomething for everybody. The story had sex, money, andnpower; and we were given the details, the numbers, and thenstandings.nThe only thing we didn’t get is what the story had mostnof Religion. The reason we didn’t get religion is that thenpeople asking the questions—journalists—didn’t speak thenlanguage of the people with the answers; and the peoplenwith the answers—like Jerry Falwell—knew enough not tondo any helpful interpreting unless it served their purpose.nThe evangelical appraisal of sin against God was as relevantnto this particular story as the legal question of fraud in God’snname. The media responded to this confusing situation bynshoving everything under the all-purpose label of “Gospelgate.”nOnce they learned the difference between a Fundamentalistnand a Pentecostal, journalists more or less called itn