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Wyndham Lewis and the Moronic Inferno

Looking back today at the achievements of the heroic modernists, we must do so with at least some degree of ambivalence. The presence of those colossi has receded with the passing of the years; and we no longer regard them as they themselves taught us to do. Yet they still loom on the mental horizon, and we continue to live in their long shadow.

Eliot, Pound, Joyce, and Lewis—"the men of 1914," as Wyndham Lewis himself named them—remain vital today because of the continuing viability, the relevance, and the diagnostic power of their best work. We still live in Mr. Eliot's Waste Land, like it or not. Madame Sosostris is still in business and sees "crowds of people, walking around in a ring" in the Unreal City. Of course, there have been some changes. The "other testimony of summer nights" are now distributed, in the best modern way, to schoolchildren. I am told that "the young man carbuncular" is now on Retin-A, and that "the typist home at teatime" is a data processor who no longer "lays out food in tins" but rather nukes it in her microwave.

I think too that the citizen who menaces Leopold Bloom in the "Cyclops" section of Ulysses continues to harass us via the daily news. He still doesn't "grasp" the "point." hi that sense. Pound's Mr. Nixon (from Hugh Selwyn Mauberley) is still the embodiment...

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