An Essay on Criticism
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Appendix (On Being Silenced in Germany)
Down From the Mountain
Eclipse of God
History of the Chinese Revolution
Philosophy Without Mirrors
The Alchemist (Japanese text)
Tuva or Bust
In his preface to his novel, The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James famously describes fiction as a house with a million diverse apertures-windows that are “either broad or balconied or slit-like and low-browed.” On one side of the windows is the human scene. On the other side is the artist, who, with his neighbors, is “watching the same show, but one seeing more where the other sees less, one seeing black where the other sees white, one seeing big where the other sees small, one seeing coarse where the other sees fine.”
In this account, James is describing the infinite possibilities for imaginative engagement. The writer looks into the human scene from the outside, through the peculiar window of his consciousness. What he observes is not what another writer would observe. Henry James peers in and sees Isabelle Archer. Virginia Woolf looks through a different window and sees Mrs. Dalloway. Joseph Conrad sees Lord Jim, William Faulkner sees Addie in her coffin, and Beckett sees two bums waiting for Godot.
With his “Concretions,” Douglas Manchee looks through the window of books and sees readers-angry readers, clueless readers, smug readers, appreciate readers, crazy readers, readers with obsessions, readers with ideas of their own. All the readers in the world seem to be gathered and compressed into Doug’s images, and they’re all armed with pens and pencils. They talk back to books. They reconsider individualism. They lengthen a short history of philosophy with their thoughts. They wonder where Godot is.
These gorgeous Concretions do more than illustrate the conversations between readers and texts. They show us varied shapes that imaginative expression takes when it has something interesting to see. A writer sees the world transformed into the dream of language. A reader sees the writer’s dream and makes it his own. Doug Manchee sees the dreaming reader toss and turn on the page. Out of these minglings come mysterious truths and beautiful art.