one hundred essays I don't have time to write*

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43. Can you be avant-garde if you are dead? The strange case of e.e. cummings and Thornton Wilder.

How is it that e.e. cummings and Thornton Wilder, who radically challenged form, were transformed by intellectual opinion into treacly sentimentalists for the masses? Is it because they died? Is it because people liked them? When formal newness becomes populist by sheer dint of its ability to communicate broadly in its new form, why is it prosecuted (and found guilty) after death? Will James Joyce’s Ulysses always and forever be avant-garde because only a certain kind of literary priesthood enjoys it? How to reclaim the dead and enjoyed-by-many and put them back in their proper place as radicals…

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