Evening in America

About Ray Bradbury's death I have nothing to say. I was not a reader of his books, so I won't pontificate on his death. A death less observed but roughly coincident is that of Earl Shorris, who should not go unremarked on this blog. As the NY Times obit explains, Shorris made his mark by sharing the riches of literature with the poorest Americans. The Clemente Course in the Humanities he designed in 1995 was, as he saw it, real redistribution of wealth. It brought literature, art, moral philosophy and history to the homeless, the unemployed, the addicted, the poor. Poverty, he came to think, is not an absence of money but of reflection and beauty. Reflection, which the humanities instills, is the beginning of engagement, and of the leap out of poverty. 

I was moved reading this essay Shorris wrote for Harper's: the last thing he submitted to the magazine before his death on May 27. It's about his slide toward death in a cancer ward, and the slide into darkness he observed in America. His dystopian vision was not of book-burning, but of an unethical and unequal society in which poverty grows, and happiness belongs to a smaller and smaller elite.

His passing is the more to be lamented because he strove to increase the stock of the world's happiness, and to bring light to the darkest places.