apparently killed himself a few days ago. I've only sporadically read some of his stuff, but what I have read, I have really liked, and what I haven't read, I've always sort of felt like I would really like. Poking around some obituaries tonight, I've found a couple really nice pieces of his. One comes from an essay on Kafka:
"That the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home. It’s hard to put into words, up at the blackboard, believe me. You can tell [students] that maybe it’s good they don’t “get” Kafka. You can ask them to imagine his stories as all about a kind of door. To envision us approaching and pounding on this door, increasingly hard, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it; we don’t know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and ramming and kicking. That, finally, the door opens . . . and it opens outward–we’ve been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komish."
Apparently the German at the end means "that is amusing."
I had never thought about Kafka in quite those terms, and since Kafka is so difficult to grasp and evaluate, it's a really useful analysis, as well as striking me as fairly accurate and beautiful in and of itself.
He also did a pretty nice commencement speech at Kenyon College in '05. I don't even remember the speech or speaker from WU, but I don't think I would have forgotten this one so quickly. Does anyone else happen to remember who it was, or what he talked about? No researching!