What Kind of Writer is the Editor Looking For?
I'm Alana K. Asby, the editor of the AJIL.
There is a certain kind of writer I'm always looking for. Evidence of the following characteristics is often apparent in submissions. This list is a tall order, I admit, but in literature as in life, we simply get as close as we can. In reality, I am eager to cultivate writers who have only begun their journey. Direction matters most.
The Ideal Writer For the AJIL Possesses:
Notable purity of heart
(This writer does not show off his morality consciously; that would subvert the purpose of literature and is unnecessary.
The core of being, one’s heart, is the spring from which all spiritual and soulish streams arise. It is the stream from which thought and language arise. Accordingly, its disposition inevitably colors one’s creative output.
If you consciously or instinctively avoid situations and actions which trouble you somewhere deep within, you are of the few. If you pursue the same policy in your writing, you are of the fewer. Sadly, this rules out many highly educated writers, who unfortunately have been taught that art should seek to trouble and disturb. It is my belief that nothing disturbs the heart but the contemplation of evil.)
A literary viewpoint devoted to goodness
(This writer produces work that is uncorrupted by nihilism, by moral relativism, or by postmodern recharacterisations of good and evil, high and low, worthy and unworthy, authority and devotion. It should also be uncorrupted by personal or corporate grievances and resentment, or by any other false-starting consideration which diverts the writer's attention from the focus of art, which is aesthetic above all.
I have been told that my insistence on goodness as a characteristic of true literature "risks misunderstanding the true purpose of art." I understand that art is not properly pedagogical; not a stand-in for Sunday Schools. I understand that everything in a work of art must be put in for the sake of its intrinsic worthiness to claim a human being's attention; for its ability to move the human heart.
What my challengers fail to understand is that there is more than one way to "misunderstand the true purpose of art" in relation to this question. When artists move the human heart, but move it toward evil, that is a corruption of the purpose of art. Not least because evil is ugly, only borrowing a seemingness of beauty from what it corrupts.
And only goodness is worthy the level of attention that art provokes. I call this kind of attention contemplation; it is a kind of unity.
I do love beauty for its own sake; but I understand that when I have created something for the sake of beauty, there remains a further "sake" for which beauty itself has been created. This ultra-teleological aesthetic awareness is something that I believe is shared naturally, though often inarticulately, by all people who have not been educated out of it. Your reader will expect you to grasp that your beautiful art-work needs to mean something; that it needs to bear some reference to the ultimate source of Beauty, which is good, and good beyond Good.)
A profound and uncorrupted imagination
(This writer works from an inner vision, infused with insight, which synthesizes nature’s parts into interesting new figures. These figures seem as if they could be real, given the deep nature of things.
Moreover, this writer is not given over to the imagining of evil. He does not habitually play devil in his imaginary worlds. The primary reason for this is aesthetic; goodness is original and no one can gain deep insight into the nature of things without remaining uncorrupted in his vision of those things.
I do realize that there is no story that satisfies the human heart, sore in the battle against real evil, but the story of the subduing of evil. To that end, evil must be represented and occasionally depicted in art. The FAQ page of this website does offer a discussion of this problem. Here, I will simply say that in art devoted to goodness, the virtuous artist presents evil from the viewpoint of the Good Man - someone better even than himself - and thus keeps himself, his work, and his reader, outside of that evil. (The Silmarillion is an excellent example. The Count of Monte Cristo is another.)
It is my belief that no one understands evil truly but the one who remains entirely outside of it, for evil distorts the understanding. Art, of course, portrays this situation in miniature and in representations, as it does all reality.
I also believe this is the true meaning of the story of the Fall in Genesis, with its tree whose fruit is Knowledge - the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Fruit should not be eaten until ripe; and the knowledge of evil should not be undertaken until the knower is firmly established in Goodness. Understand this, the virtuous artist keeps his reader's human frailty in mind.)
Sensory delicacy or power
(This writer's awareness of sound clearly distinguishes between beautiful and ugly. This capacity, when cultivated, makes a writer capable of heightened literary music, as in traditional poetry.)
A pattern of thought cultivated by and interacting with the great thinkers of the ages
(This writer evidences his cultivation not by quotations, which often indicate superficial familiarity, but by a recognizable character of thought, an awareness of the important questions and their best answers through the ages, and a subduing of literary vanity.)
A trans-epochal command of the English language
(This writer is fearless to rise above the flatness and dullness of contemporary usage.)
A practiced literary style
(This writer wields words, syntax, and rhetoric elegantly, efficiently, and powerfully. He is adept at avoiding awkwardness and naivety in his work, even when he cannot avoid them in real life.)
A healthy inventive faculty
(This writer astonishes the reader with situations, characters, settings, and solutions he does not expect.)
A sufficient level of literacy
(This writer is able to understand the above list without too frequent recourse to the dictionary.)