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Date: Spring 2022
From: Chicago Review(Vol. 66, Issue 1)
Publisher: University of Chicago
Document Type: Essay
Length: 3,528 words

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The silence of death is the worst kind of silence, because Rulfian silence is accepted and Rimbaudian silence is sought, but the silence of death cuts the edge of what could have been and never will be, that which we will never know. We'll never know if Büchner would have been bigger than Goethe. I think so, but we'll never know. We'll never know what he might have written at age thirty. And that extends across the whole planet like a stain, an atrocious illness that in one way or another puts our habits in check, our most ingrained certainties. --Roberto Bolaño, The Last Interview & Other Conversations (1)

Is there a silence in poetry so stunning and so fatal, so inundating and so full as the one at the end of Keats's "On First Looking into Chapman s Homer"?

Is there a silence so plural? Is there a silence so deep? Is there a silence so perfused? Is there a silence so much like being hit on the head? (2) Is there a silence so much like being brained? I always thought it must be like that when the Muse arrives. To be brained. To be crowned with a blow that alters one's thinking. I always think of that silence at noon when the sun stands over the style. Fatal attitude. Art's arrival. I always think of a wreath of poison blooms. In Looney Tunes, when one is hit on the head, by an anvil, safe, or a club wielded by infant, mouse, or chicken, one comes to slumped against a barn wall, rock, or trunk, one's head orbited by a wreath of whistling birds and stars, pound signs, dollar signs, exclamation marks, other diacriticals. The eyes bulge, the wig zags out, and the tongue wags. First, lights out. Then, staggering around under Art's crown. It altars one's thinking. [section]

This is an essay about error. It begins as an essay about an apparent factual error, but widens into a contemplation of error in its widest possible sense--a moral error, that is, a mortal sin. It's possible here that I draw the connection between factual and moral error, and consider sin a type of moral error, because I am Catholic, and learned to sort my sins via the Baltimore Catechism, that is, to list, by rote, those that could be survived or worked off in Purgatory, i.e., the venial sins, and those that condemned one to Hell, i.e., the mortal sins. To make a factual error while reciting one's catechism might be itself a venial rather than a mortal sin, but at any rate, the connection between sin and error was here, I suspect, cross-coded in me. To consider a sin an error in the etymological sense of errare, a wandering or straying from the path, is a convention of Western Christianity, as allegorized in any number of knights' tales, in the straying-from-the-path that opens Dante's Inferno, and, most iconically, in James 5:20 in the King James Version of the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A722456490