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An Introduction to Leaves in the Wind
Or: The Vagabond's Return
For the past few years, I have been deprived of something I probably did not value highly enough until it had been absent for a while.
I used to write regular columns and articles for a certain magazine, as many of you know. I never much cared for the publication’s dominant political leanings; but, given how idiosyncratic, fabulous, and hopeless my own political views are, that hardly seemed to matter. And, during most of that time, the editorial policy toward contributors of various political persuasions was one of considerable latitude. For me, it was a largely happy association precisely because the editors made no demands upon me except that I write as myself. They refrained from all attempts to alter either my prose or my opinions. I was given license, moreover, to choose not only whatever topics appealed to me, but whatever form of writing took my fancy: essay, book-review, short-story, vignette, dramatic dialogue, satire, poetry, boorish diatribe, and so on. And I was allowed to flaunt my peculiar style of humor and—within fairly fluid boundaries—of comic invective. It was an ideal situation for a writer. I was wholly at liberty to translate momentary inspirations into diverting ephemera or to develop complex arguments at length; to praise the things I loved and to lament the things I despised; to write for everyone by writing entirely for myself. And when a regular feature called “The Last Page” was invented for me, with which I could do whatever I liked within a frame of roughly 1550 words, the discipline required to be at once as expansive and as economical as possible made me, I believe, a better essayist, feuilletoniste, story-teller, humorist, literary miniaturist, and so on. So I am genuinely grateful for the years I spent there, and for the opportunity to write over 120 articles in my own unadulterated voice (for better or worse).
To make a long story short, however—or, rather, to make a short story even shorter—I severed connections with the journal some time ago, for reasons that need no laying out. In consequence, I lost a number of things—regular revenues, a few friendships, a few illusions—that were pleasant while they lasted. Principally, I lost that hospitable platform for my work. I live by writing, so I don’t have the luxury of keeping and supervising a blogsite. Every hour spent casually tossing off free articles or merrily wallowing in comment boxes is money stolen from my family. So I had largely resigned myself to petulant silence for now and had begun to apply myself solely to my books. Then a friend who knew what Substack is—and I have to admit that I don’t know what anything online is—suggested I follow the lead of several other writers and start publishing a regular newsletter, charging a subscription fee sufficient to keep the enterprise afloat (a fee based on what are probably fairly dubious estimates of what will suffice to make the enterprise worth the time spent on it). In this way, I might be able to return to my wanton ways as an intellectual vagrant. The idea seemed irresistible.
It may be the case, I should note, that these past few years of relative silence—at least, as far as “occasional writing” goes—came at an opportune moment. It was a time when there was a great deal to write about, as far as the social, civil, and political life of the nation were concerned, but very little that could be written about with equanimity or good humor. And yet to have ignored the grimness of the time and retreated into nothing but private fixations and fancies seemed impossible. Moreover, the time away did give me the opportunity to complete the writing of nine books, in just about every conceivable genre. Even so, it seems like a good moment to return to the short forms I enjoy, and that often reach further than the larger texts can.
So, then, here is Leaves in the Wind, a publication devoted to all the things I write about—World Literature; Religion, East and West; Philosophy (with a current emphasis on philosophy of mind); Theology; Metaphysics; Culture; Music; the Visual, Plastic, and Dramatic Arts, including Cinema; Baseball, including an obsessive veneration of Frank Robinson; Asian Languages, Literatures, Philosophical Schools, and Traditions; Japanese Aesthetics; Why Frank Robinson was the greatest player in the history of the game; Political Theory; Romanticism; Crab Cakes; Why there should be a national monument to Frank Robinson; the Sciences; Obscure Books; Philosophical Idealism; and so on.
As in the past, I shall write in various forms—essays, short stories, long disquisitions, dramatic dialogues, poems, satires, conversations with Roland, or whatever else takes my fancy. I’ll make every effort to be as diverting as possible without becoming merely facetious, and as reflective as possible without becoming merely ponderous. New material will appear more or less weekly. One regular feature will be devoted to great but largely unknown works of literature. This follows from an article of mine, “Books from a Vanished Library,” which also served as the introduction to my collection The Dream-Child’s Progress. It has proved to be a particularly popular essay with many of my readers, and many of them have asked me on various occasions to expand upon it. In time, podcast interviews and other items of streaming media will be added to the mix.
Oh, and on occasion, I will publish the full texts of previously published pieces that, for reasons of format, had to be shortened the first time around. This because I am probably an insufferable egotist who can’t bear to see any of his sentences lost to the record.
I can promise that it will be entertaining. I can even promise that it might occasionally—just for mischief’s sake—be profound.