Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Because personal fidelity is more important than art"

Back in April, I mentioned poetry critic Helen Vendler in connection with the issue of an artist's right to destroy his own work. Vendler had been very critical of the decision to posthumously publish poems by Elizabeth Bishop. There's a profile of Vendler in today's New York Times Book Review, and she's sticking to her guns:

"'If you make people promise to burn your manuscripts' — as Kafka and (by legend) Virgil did — 'they should,' Vendler insisted. 'I think the "Aeneid" should have been burned and Kafka’s works should have been burned, because personal fidelity is more important than art,' she said in her quiet, direct manner. 'If I had asked somebody to promise to destroy something of mine and they didn’t do it I would feel it to be a grave personal betrayal. I wouldn’t care what I had left behind. It could have been the "Mona Lisa.""