Koontz, Yeats, Eliot, and Anti-Semitism

Having been on a Dean Koontz kick lately, I’ve been coming across a lot of Yeats poetry in his works. I’ve always had a taste for Yeats, his ‘Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’, is one of my all time favourite poems. ‘The Second Coming’ is another recent favourite, I love the imagery in the first stanza.

Another poet that finds a lot of prominence in Koontz’s work is T. S. Eliot, he of the perennially quoted ‘The Hollow Men’, ‘The Waste Land’, and ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ – which seem to be some of the most quoted poems in the world, and the basis for a hit musical, respectively.

Because I’d so liked the excerpts I’d read of Eliot’s poetry in Koontz’s novels, I went searching for more of his work, and really liked most of the shorter ones I’d read. I admit I was/am not intellectual enough to fully understand all the nuances of ‘The Hollow Men’, which is why I went looking for him on wikipedia. I find it usually helps to understand poetry once we know the life and times of the writer.

And that was where things became a little…murky, I guess, is the best word for it.

There were all these allegations of anti-semitism,  and counter accusations by critics defending Eliot. What little reading I, myself, have done leads me to believe the accusations are true, which saddens me. I do really like Eliot’s poetry.

It always comes as a surprise to me when people who produce works that I really like have less than stellar qualities within them. Again, as I said before, personality issues or self-destructive urges (such as propensity to womanising, drink, drugs, etc.) are something I can sidestep when it comes to writers/artists I like, but things like pedophilia and racism really cannot be condoned.

For the definitive look at Eliot’s anti-semitism the consensus seems to be that Anthony Julius is da man. A shorter piece on the same subject for those who cannot procure/do not want to read his book.

Excerpt:

To describe a person as anti-semitic is not to imply that he endorses the crimes of the Nazis, still less is it to imply that he would be capable of committing them himself. It is to imply, however, that he is careless about the consequences of anti-semitic positions held by others, and that he lacks the imagination to grasp where Jew hatred may lead. Anti-semitism encompasses both drawing-room condescensions and forest shootings.

For all the people who say ‘who cares anyway, Eliot is long dead, and this doesn’t lessen his poetry any’, I think the above paragraph perfectly encapsulates exactly why it does matter.

One Comment

  1. ok zebra

    Nice analysis. I struggle with enjoying Jackson Browne the musician knowing Jackson Brown the partner is a woman-beater, including an assault on Darryl Hannah that put her in the hospital. Your point on the artist versus the art is well taken. When you get an answer to that, let me know.

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