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If you’ve missed the Southwest Review in the past few years, you’ve also missed: John Barth Paul Christensen Annie Dillard Millicent Dillon Rita Dove Horton Foote Laura Furman Reginald Gibbons Don Graham Allan Gurganus Elizabeth Harris Shelby Hearon Rolando Hinojosa Edward Hirsch James Hoggard Beverly Lowry Walter McDonald James Merrill Howard Nemerov Naomi Shihab Nye Joyce Carol Oates C. W. Smith Frederick Thrner Miles Wilson Don’t miss it, or them, any longer. Subscribe now. $20/yr $40/2 yrs $50/3 yrs . Name I enclose $ \(Please send Southwest Review, 6410 Airline Road, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Available at the following locations. Bookstop 1400 N. 1-35 Austin Old World Bakery 814 W. 12th Street Austin Garner & Smith Books 1109 Nueces Austin Guild Books 2456 N. Lincoln Avenue Chicago, Illinois Crossroads Market 3930 Cedar Springs Dallas The Stoneleigh P 2926 Maple Avenue Dallas FW Books and Video 400 Main, at Sundance Square Fort Worth Brazos Bookstore 2314 Bissonett Houston Guy’s News Stand 3700 Main Street Houston College News 1101 University Lubbock Daily News & Tobacco 309-A Andrews Highway Midland Paperbacks y Mas 1819 Blanco Road San Antonio Obit TEXAS server on. Since we were to memorize 100 lines of verse in order to pass the course, I started memorizing Shakespeare’s sonnet to love’s perfection, unaware that my life was being changed, that 30 years later I would admit the tacit goal of putting words together in such a way that the reader may feel love for mankind, somehow, in their texture. I did not know then that a line of poetry possessed life, that a man could pour his life into a line, then stake his claim to truth on that life: “If this be false and on me proved, I never writ. …” I was not then prone to reflect on “the experience of art,” either in learning to memorize Shakespeare or in learning to bop to Elvis and shake to Fats and Chubby and to discover that Music was the teacher in both cases. That came later. Part of my preparation for exams preliminary to a degree I never completed included asking myself whether I could define great with respect to literature, should I be asked. I wasn’t, but the inquiry was its own reward. In the course of it a friend told me of taking his family to an exhibit of Giacometti ‘s sculpture in Houston. He had looked up from scolding one of his kids there he was, striding gauntly toward the museum, striding gauntly from the museum, an iron giant, gutted and bone-burned by world war, striding somehow still human into the center of his consciousness and taking over. “I wanted to say, ‘that’s it, that’s all I need to see today, I’m ready to go home now,”‘ he said, and said the shock was still clear in memory. Such is the experience of art. “You know how it is when you hear a song,” said Willie Nelson, “and it hits you immediately hey, that’s the truth.” Right, and the beauty equivalent to it. But has it any use, this welding of beauty and truth into something good? y OU DON’T go to the art museum because, well, it’s expected and some stuff called culture will maybe rub off on you. You don’t, though lesser breeds may. You go looking for that arrow fired at you from eternity, the one that goes straight into your pineal gland before your brain apprehends and sends back the message, “Hey, that’s the truth.” We each have our Touchstones, as Matthew Arnold called them, our shocks of recognition. Of what use are they, though, beyond the admittedly limited world of art? My own theory, and it is the theory of a self-confessed madman, is this: First, I suggest that any culture will offer those born into it useful functions, functions without which the culture could not, in fact, be a culture chief, warrior, arrowmaker, planter, builder, perfect hostess, and so on. These functions must fit the various manifestations of human genius: some have the knack of getting and spending, some of trickery and killing, some of pearl diving in the collective unconscious and discerning the information writ in their own entrails and bones, the knack of humming the bloodsong on the heartstring. These are the shamans. The shaman, like Plato’s philosopher, has found the Sun Door and gone outside the cave, and has burrowed into the depths of the cave and found that door, too. His job is to bring back images for healing of the soul, the individual or tribal soul. Second, I suggest that the shamanic function is highly fragmented in our large and diverse tribe. Some potential shamans become psychiatrists and some their patients, some become priests and some become poets and painters and dancers and actors and songsters, artists in a word, breathing the totemic into their culture, firing arrows from the eternal, seemingly at random but destined for particular strangers. Art is useful, is healing, to the extent that we do not reject the image the shaman offers, that is, to the extent that we respond usefully to art by refusing to lie to ourselves. To decry the diabolism in much rock music, for example, is not a useful response. To acknowledge that a nation whose wealth derives from its greed and whose major export is its own detritus is on “the highway to hell” for a fact, is to respond usefully, and honestly, to the images those rattle-banging screamers reflect back to us, fellow natives of their land. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23