Sven Bickerz, known by critics as “the master of modern prose”. Birkez has published a number of anthologies exploring literary and cultural phenomena, which have received rave reviews. His main works include Man-Made Wilderness: A Collection of 20th Century Literary Criticisms, Passionate Life: A Collection of Modern Poetry Criticisms, American Vitality: A Collection of Fiction Criticisms, Gutenberg Elegy: The Destiny of Reading in the Electronic Age, Reading “, “Into the Blue Life”. Birx’s essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Republic, The Nation, American Scholar, and more.
In “Gutenberg’s Elegy,” Bickers writes that “our growing fascination with electronic interactive communication” may “block the edification of the written word”, “in the onslaught of electronic books and interactive video recordings.” In the future, our ability to think will be degraded and exhausted.” It is not surprising that literary critics such as Bickz are so emotional. In this special article, he talks about how he used thinking and reading to reach the deepest part of his soul, thus discovering himself and positioning him in relation to American business culture. The descendant of European immigrants, Birx has lived in this culture since he was born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1951.
For the past four years, I have devoted myself to writing a memoir of my teenage years, telling the story of my first foray into life. The original intention of writing the memoir was to try to think about my journey from various perspectives, starting from experiencing Freud’s cliché about balancing love and work, and ending it with my own feelings about my writing career. However, the result was far beyond all my imagination. The manuscript chronicles my struggles with my own sense of tradition, recalling how my dense Latvian roots under my feet deepened my longing for America as I grew into adulthood. If, when my memoir was recently unscripted, I thought to myself that I finally had some comprehension of the many basic issues that form a sense of belonging, then after my parents and siblings read the experiences I wrote down, I suddenly realized that in the face of family relationships and the concept of ancestry No matter how much I describe in words the way to resolve it, it only confirms the difficulty and twists and turns of my departure from it all. As for how my writing career as an American will be affected, it has been in many ways an eternal topic.
I was born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1951 to Latvian parents from Germany who moved to the United States shortly after. It is said that both parents have family background and outstanding talents. My grandfather was a landscape painter who attended the Moscow Academy. My father’s parents were both cultural scholars. My grandmother studied folklore and was also a philologist and teacher. Grandfather wrote extensively, dabbling in psychology, sociology, and folklore.
Latvian culture, especially the Latvian language, has a sacred place in our family, but my parents were not cultural conservatives, unlike many American Latvians. My parents saw themselves as ardent followers of the zeitgeist, jumping on the wave of modernism freed from shackles. My father was an aspiring young architect at the time at the legendary Alosa Renon, and even for my father the solid folk culture of the country was ingrained, and if his experience had not given him some degree of If he is impacted on the top, the reason is that he has obtained a detachment from it.
At the time I didn’t know, and never realized that there was an either-or line in surrendering to a certain party. In my formative years, my passion was to erase the traces of Outland, to avoid being out of touch with others, and to be fully American. I was prepared for the hardships, there is no room for manoeuvre. I know very well what I aspire to. I want to be like the kids around me, like the kids in my neighbors and school. Cast from the same mold. I envisioned myself as easy-going, physically strong, named Bob or Mark, nicknamed Chip, with a normal shaved head, and parents who could talk and behave like normal people, and people would be happy to accept them. I’m looking forward to a shiny new Ford wearing a greased mitt and practicing in the yard with my dad (he’s in his late 80s, and I know his hands have never touched a mitt).
I have my own dreams, and I can’t call them lofty ideals. Maybe I will be a ninja warrior, or gallop across the Argentine savannah like a gaucho herdsman. Whatever changes may appear on the surface, I can arbitrarily say that we haven’t even begun to adapt. We are strangers from a strange land. Every year on the first day of a new term, I always say during the roll call that I can be called Peter—my alias. We both speak Latvian at home and I can’t change that. My parents didn’t care which language was used in public. Every time I go out to play with my family, I always feel nervous, for fear that my mother tongue will naturally pop out of my mouth. As for the house where my family lives, the interior is angular, cold as water, and without a trace of comfort. So I never invite friends to my house.
I went through all the pain, longing to meet American norms, and if I found myself slightly different, I would be ashamed, but unable to express myself. I was acting all day, imitating friends who were born with good luck, taking off one mask and putting on another, slang for everything while avoiding pretentiousness, but I never felt like it was my character. It didn’t change until I was almost 20 years old. At that time, the counterculture movement had sprung up, and “weird” and “special” were instantly accepted and even admired.
In the formative period of my literary career when I started writing, the desire for assimilation did not have much effect. It only deepened my inner intuition, the difference from others, and a deep alien imprint on myself. There is a lot of emotion about not being able to truly enjoy the “inalienable” rights of the U.S. Constitution. Of course, this feeling gave birth to all kinds of desire to write. However, feeling different from others is unlikely to make people smile, especially in teenagers, who are always looking for relationships, wanting to be recognized, and seeking out any good strategies to get out of the misfit state. A person will seek sustenance if he cannot get all this directly from his surroundings. I find the sustenance I need in books, almost ever since I was a child. At first escaping reality and imagining things—experiencing real American life entirely from imagination, from the Hardy brothers Frank and Joe, and from my voracious reading of children’s books, where athletes And the images of heroic characters come alive, which is dizzying.
But the period of immersion in imagination is no longer the same as when I was twelve or thirteen, when I experienced my first major transformation. I read to literature. I read The Catcher in the Rye, The Solo Reconciliation, and Thomas Wolfe’s series of novels featuring Eugene Gantt. I heard the voices of teenagers who were seen as deviant. The plots of these works tend to be thick and dignified, and my thinking about everything in the world has also undergone a huge turning point.
My sense of alienation and alienation is directly linked to the outsider status I see as the new literary icon. Coincidentally, the structure of American cultural life at the time also changed. Rock ‘n’ roll, hippies, rallies and demonstrations, and everything that gave rise to the counterculture movement of the late 1960s, swarmed, and the American “ideal” I used to envision was beyond recognition. The feeling of being excluded for so many years had been frustrating, and the resentment had built up, and now I’m starting to flip everything from the past.
If you ask me, what effect has being an American had on my thinking and writing as a writer? Ask me, how has being Latvian affected my understanding of what it means to be an American? The 1960s happened to be when I was growing up, and when that long period of madness was over and the most important stereotypes in life were gone, I believed that my lingering troubles were also abandoned. aside. It can even be said that I no longer repeat the old way of thinking, no longer question whether I have Latvian or American attributes. I don’t have time for general rhetoric. I was busy looking for a job, finding love, trying to be a writer, and accomplishing these real life events. After the tide of the counterculture movement ebbed, there followed a long-term unquenchable social boredom, and people only looked after their own backyards, which seems to be the portrayal of the time.
Of course, all kinds of problems, all kinds of doubts can not disappear forever. I’m just out of sight. Even if the past resurfaced, it came quietly and unknowingly, and it was not until many years later that I realized what had happened.
When I was about 30 years old, a change came and I was blown away. I was living in Cambridge at the time, making a living by working as a clerk in a bookstore. A long relationship broke up and I was in a lot of pain. My attempt to write a novel also failed miserably. If there has ever been a light, or a moment of clarity, in my life, it is entirely due to reading. During this period, I read book after book, voraciously and engrossed. I was stinging in an apartment, sharing a room with a young man who dreamed of becoming a poet, sitting on a shabby lounge chair by the window, smoking and reading novels. I don’t know how many days and nights have passed through the window. To be more clear, I read foreign novels, translated novels, European novels. The more obscure the content, the better. I am fascinated by the background and atmosphere of these novels, and if I find any difference between them and the domestic novels I have read for many years, I will have a strong fascination. I did not feel, nor do I remember, having a soft spot for any description that felt similar to my own cultural origins. I just kept reading, spreading out my dream-filled reverie, and navigating these strange worlds of deja vu.
So I got my own breakthrough. A new idea also came into being. Reading brought me back to writing again, but instead of fiction, it was thinking that excited me. I was strongly driven to go one step further, capturing my various feelings and movements with the pen in my hand.
I have been struggling for weeks to write an essay reviewing Robert Musil and his unfinished masterpiece. I checked all the translated sources; I also looked through some books on Viennese culture in the first decades of the 20th century. I developed intensive imagination and imagined that I was living in the world of the past, in the narrow streets, parks, and cafes, and experienced the social life of the citizens of Vienna. Old-world customs and red tape came into view, and I seemed to see it all clearly. The only thing I didn’t see was the bland and obvious side. I didn’t wake up until the end of my memoir decades later.
My thinking: I’ve been stuck in a vividly imagined world for so long, and it’s essentially tied to the world of stories I grew up with. Musil’s Vienna—a specific era, a specific culture, a strong baroque scene—in many ways mirrors Riga in a carefully selected way, mirrors the life experiences of my grandparents, and also More or less revealing what my dream parents looked like in their childhood. My past longings involuntarily stemmed from memories that I had stored since childhood. I found that whatever upbringing I got, photos and postcards that caused me to brood (despite my obsessive desire to be assimilated and become a normal American boy), remained in continuation with the situations and atmospheres that fascinated me in Musil’s novels, The relationship of the direct transmission of vitality. I was familiar with his Europe; I was soaked in it, intimacy, and that was why I was motivated everywhere.
After the completion of this debut work, many more works have come out, many of them, and even most of them have European themes. Despite the long and slow learning process, one day I finally found myself blazing a distinctive literary path: as a critic, I was able to navigate between the American literary tradition and the rich and splendid translation of literature, mainly in Europe. My first monograph was The Man-Made Wilderness; A Collection of Twentieth-Century Literary Criticisms, and two years later, The Passionate Life: A Review of Modern Poetry. It wasn’t until I published my third volume, American Vitality: A Collection of Fiction Reviews, that I was ready to feature writers from my own culture.
And then I kept on writing, because writing made me realize, in an instant, what seemed obvious to me, even though I had been unaware of it for many years: my entire life, including my writing career, was inexhaustible in a variety of circumstances. First was a categorical rejection of my own culture, and then a tacit acceptance. The deepest driving force behind this power is a powerful, even distorted, idea of what it means to be an American.
The passions that I have spoken of above belong to my primal state as the son of new immigrants, and fall almost in the category of hyper-logic. I wanted to be part of the world I experienced, the world in absolute form. Interestingly, however, this is not just my personal reverie. People usually imagine that America is made up of all white people who are well-off, physically fit, and well-educated. The America I used to yearn for is pretty much in tune with this standard model. Today, this standard image has become a global fashion, even if it fails to dominate the world. While I was so tirelessly pursuing the American Dream, I actually embraced the vision that Madison Avenue had woven for me.
In the 1960s, I was shocked and stopped talking about these things. Because of the rebellious force of the counterculture movement at the time to break free, coupled with life events and my realization of a growing understanding of domestic and global realities, I was driven to resist the tyranny of the old model. I take pride in defending against these ingrained legacy – aren’t we all like that? -Because I got my wish. No matter how I interpret Americans now, I can be sure that my thinking is inextricably linked to racial perspectives and diversity, and that my awakening adds to the difficulty of thinking and writing at each turning point. But realistically speaking, the process of awakening does not repeat the past, but reaches a state beyond intuition. Perhaps I might hope for another outcome. Had I ever had another thought in my mind, and not expended so much energy into the life of a typical upper-middle-class white man, I might have walked a smoother, less bitter path. Yet such speculation, no matter how fascinating, is unlikely to get us to do anything. Whatever we dream of, it will subtly change with the situation. We can only let nature take its course.