After reading the March 2011 issue of Harper’s, I had to sit back for a moment and be impressed with the writing Harper’s puts forth. There are polemics here, and subjects I don’t care to delve into, but I almost invariably read on – the language is consistently elegant, ideas put forth in a compelling manner.
I’ve commented before on its fiction, and I’ll do so again here.
Daniel Mason’s “The Miraculous Discovery of Psammetichus I” is a pastiche of what are partly fictional sketches, partial allusions to history. Mason puts them forth in a tone and voice one might attribute to scribes on Egypt’s Old Kingdom. Psammetichus is a rational man in a time of superstition, and his intellectual curiosity begets experiments that could have belonged to the Enlightenment.
Beneath the story seems to be Mason’s view of the human condition, in which he teases the reader along to both reason and faith, which is based in erroneous observations of life on earth. The upshot? I’m not sure. Mason could have been reaching for a new sophistry here, in which there’s no meaning other that that which we impose on a stony world. Or he could be using his parable to imply that we may approach true knowledge but never attain it. At any rate, it’s a wonderful piece of writing.
Causes Bob Mustin Supports
Native American culture. Education. Creative writing.