1. THE BIRTH OF MODERNISM
Dark Horse Retrieved in Our Time
In an era when young people inevitably acquire a familiarity with conspiracy
theory because it is a popular topic on the Web,
Prof. Surette's 20-year old research into the history of "conspiracy memes"
is invaluable for university curricula today - perhaps even for seniors in
And his book is especially important because he shows the encyclopedic
posture in modernism - the interplay between high brow and low brow, the
pedestrian and the esoteric. Once this avant-garde non-univocal technique is
grasped by the student of Pound, Eliot, Yeats - and I would add Joyce and
Lewis - then "elitist" literature opens up, reveals new vistas, and exposes
the fallacy of the hardening of the categories modern and postmodern
criticism wallowed in.
Surette's work may have been ignored these past two decades but luckily he
was just ahead of his time. Let's not hold it against him.
2. DREAMS OF A TOTALITARIAN UTOPIA
Dark Horse is Really the Linnaeus of Modernist Scholars
Prof. Surette continues his talent for providing useful overviews for the
student and connoisseur of an increasingly remote modernist literature.
Surette is so clear-headed in his approach to Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and
T. S. Eliot that one could be forgiven for wondering why one should read
such muddle-headed idiots as these three. What Marshall McLuhan once said
(albeit in a movie) applies to these three "antennae": "How you ever got to
teach a course in anything is totally amazing!"
But Surette is also fair-headed and does his best in balancing off our
disgust by actually showing how the three Magi fared quite prophetic for
their respective constituencies when one considers how confused Western
society became under the onslaught of the techno-storm of the Thirties.
Surprisingly, Lewis becomes the most relevant for the drifting global
citizen today with his political maxim:
"Now disregarding if you can whatever your political views may be (and mine
are partly communist and partly fascist, with a distinct streak of
monarchism in my marxism, but at bottom anarchist with a healthy passion for
order)... " - Wyndham Lewis, THE ENEMY, Vol.3, p.70, 1929
There's not an informed person who couldn't use the above quotation as an
all-purpose alibi for the cross-pressures rampant today in our ridiculously
Above all, this new work proves Surette is an expert at evoking new
questions about old answers to the mystery of the creative process. He
actually aids us in marvelling anew at how art becomes charismatic.
3. ART IN THE AGE OF THE MACHINE
They Used to be Giants
The subtitle of Leon Surette's third entry into what has turned into a
trilogy should be: They Used to Be Giants.
"Art in the Age of the Machine" is a prodigious inventory of all the
thinkers, scientists, philosophers, and artists who once made an impact and
drew attention to themselves as they wrestled with the unpredictable
juggernaut of human creativity in the industrial phase of cultural (d)evolution.
Again, I can't stress more that, like his previous two works, Surette proves
once again to be a real live Noah who preserves the 200-year old history of
arguments and varieties of response to technoculture in order to inspire a
general perspective that none of our present institutions of learning have a
clue as to how to engender.
Young minds require this book. It should be mandatory reading in all
locations of higher education. Since the present fashion is to reject the
Western Canon, then we should experience and understand ONE MORE TIME (or
perhaps, for the first time) what we are increasingly amnesiac concerning
what is the UR question: "When is a human not a human?"
Surette's mosaic is to be recommended just for the sheer audacity of his
choices. Any work that includes the thinker a recent BBC TV broadcast
declared "one of the most poisonous minds of the 20th century" - Wyndham
Lewis - has the edginess that will attract the natural curiosity of coming
generations who always can sniff out where the crux of the biscuit is.