AH, INNOCENCE! What would we Americans have for a subject without it? What could we claim as the spine of our literary history if we didn’t have, as a ubiquitous protagonist, an innocence which we can send abroad or dedicate an age to; an innocence we can never go home to again; an innocence that, in our minds, we can summon forth perpetually to be soiled and beaten down by the crudities of experience; but an innocence, finally, which will never be completely obliterated from our memory.
Whatever the rough facts of existence teach us about our frailties of being, we still cling to the recollection that it was not always so, that we have not been predestined for the dull, grinding, self-centered agonies of our daily selves; but, rather, in the history of our consciousness, we once had a clear vision of joy and beauty that we have only sold or misplaced in the scramble to build a society. On a popular level, this has meant that many of our whores anonymously send their unseen children to the best colleges, that our murderers risk police bullets in order to see their bedridden mothers once more before they die, that our besotted journalists of mayhem and scandal keep, tucked deeply away i their desk drawer, a half-finished, lyric novel about their childhood. We may smile at these types, but we never completely disown them because, as gross as they are, they somehow create and reenact for us our pageant of original purity, a drama of clear definitions that tells us that although we are misguided and lost, we are not irremediably tragic.
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