This book by a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner treasures books and those who write them. IT is a work of literature about literature. It is, in a sense, autobiographical because what Paul Horgan says here of other writers is true of himself, "Words on a page... are the central obsession of his life."
A Certain Climate is tripartite and muti-faceted: One, "Toward History," about the writing of history, the collective human biography; Two, "After-Images," essays in the biography of diverse individuals from Willa Cather to Rouben Mamoulian to Alice Roosevelt Longworth; and Three, "A Certain Climate," about the value of books, literature, and writers.
Throughout, certain central concerns recur: - The individual vision reaching farther than his art can express"); - The relation of form to substance ("Historical writing that is not literature is subject to oblivion"); - The significance of style ("an indispensable element of all lasting aesthetic achievements"); - The relation of intuition and imagination to fact and demonstrated proof (only "a power of reconstructive imagination" can keep "memory memorable"), and of feeling to art ("I believe that no artist can fulfill his own vision unless he loves the world"); - The capacity of literature to create reality ("an artist's words once read become part of our own truth and our own qualifying memory").
Paul Horgan's distastes are a reflection of his tastes. Thus, for example, he eschews pedantry and cant, that is, an exclusiveness "that seems to disdain the general reader"; cynicism as "too cheap a response to the marvels of life to yield an act of art"; and cultural orthodoxies, for "the intellectual slang of a given period, with its reigning critical modishness, is rarely capable of enclosing the aesthetic judgment."
The work of an acute and sophisticated intelligence and a rich and passionate mind, A Certain Climate is civilized company of a high order. [via]