In Auden’s essay “Reading” collected in his book The Dyer’s Hand, he talks quite a lot about reviewers and reviewing books. He says:
Though the pleasure which works of art give us must not be confused with other pleasures that we enjoy, it is related to all of them simply by being our pleasure and not someone else’s. All the judgments, aesthetic or moral, that we pass, however objective we try to make them, are in part a rationalization and in part a corrective discipline of our subjective wishes. So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dreams of Eden are his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments.
To that end, Auden created a questionnaire for himself of things he would like to know about other critics when he was reading them. Does it help to know a reviewer’s idea of Eden? You be the judge. I give you my answers to Auden’s Eden Meme:
Moderately cold and snowy winters and mildly warm summers.
Ethnic Origin of Inhabitants
As diverse as possible
English will be the official language but all languages are encouraged (even Elvish and Klingon) and everyone should know more than one.
Weights and Measures
I know metric is easy, but I am attached to the quirkiness of feet and pounds and ounces and since this is my Eden, quirkiness rules.
Nature worship in which trees are sacred and animals can talk. Summer and winter solstice and spring and autumn equinox will be high holidays with festival celebrations.
Auden doesn’t have food on his list so I thought it should be added. All food will be sustainably grown and organic and vegan with no weird processed chemicals or ingredients that no one can pronounce.
Size of Capital
Small enough that no one gets lost but big enough that everybody doesn’t know your name. Maybe somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people.
Form of Government
An empire ruled by me. No just kidding! A democracy in which everyone is engaged and participates. It’s messy everyone gets a voice and plays fair because this is my Eden.
Sources of Natural Power
Wind, water, solar. Also human power especially in winter when it is cold. There will be communal power generating stations with stationary bikes hooked up to the power grid. For fun there will be community events – films and concerts – and those who attend will pedal the bikes for as long as they want to. That way people get out of the house, get some exercise and have fun. There will be no coal and no oil.
Farming, arts and humanities, science and technology
Means of Transport
Bicycles, trolley cars, trains and boats. In winter skis and dog or horse-drawn sleds will be encouraged.
Hobbit holes or other architecture that looks organic and melds with the landscape. There will be no skyscrapers. Buildings should be beautiful and human-scale and energy efficient.
Domestic Furniture and Equipment
Clean and simple design of natural materials in the style of the Amish and Shakers. Kitchen gadgets like coffee makers and food processors, and modern appliances are a must.
In my Eden dress will be casual and hold to no particular style. Festival clothing will not be formal but it will reflect the season and be appropriately – er- festive.
Sources of Public Information
Publicly owned radio, citizen journalism, chatting with your neighbor over the garden fence or at the market. Particularly important government/city/village information will be broadcast over the radio and published online as well as posted at public gathering places.
Animals and characters from books, the occasional author or artist might also be honored with a statue.
Theater in the Park, orchestra, dance, poetry and book readings, amateur and professional performances, the solar festivals, community created events. No television.
So there they are, my answers to Auden’s Eden meme. Does it help you understand where I am coming from when I review books? I suppose it might a little since it reveals some of my biases and ideals. Please play along if you’d like and leave a comment or link back to this post so I and others can read about your own Eden. I won’t officially tag anybody but it would be really nice if Litlove, Danielle, Emily, and Daphne played along. Heh, I guess I just tagged four people.