Midway through this past year, I wrote a new lead sentence for my official blog description: 21 Essays is my cultural history blog.
It took some trial and error on my part to realize that my initial blog concept was too open-ended. I thought I wanted complete freedom to write about anything that struck my fancy. But looking back now, I clearly see that there was a very real connecting link between my favorite pieces. They all shared a love of cultural history.
When I was young, I read half of Will and Ariel Durant’s 11-volume The Story of Civilization. By that, I don’t mean that I read midway through volume 6 (which would have left me stranded in the Reformation). I mean that I read the parts that interested me: the sections that covered the history of literature, art, science, philosophy, and religion, as well as the descriptions of the history of domestic life. I skipped over the royal intrigues and the endless wars.
Forty years later, I’m still relatively uninterested in the history of power. As far as I can see, it’s still the same story ever repeating—only the weapons change. But I love culture more than ever. The ideas that shape our world are constantly in flux. Whether in novels, poetry, film, music, or painting, every artist expresses a new interpretation of the world. There’s a thrilling wildness in the variety and beauty of creation.
So starting in January 2013, 21 Essays will officially be my cultural history blog. Of course, I won’t be attempting to repeat the Durants’ mad 11-volume achievement and try to cover everything. I’ll continue to write about the artifacts and artworks that I personally find most exciting, examining them closely and from multiple perspectives in order to (in the words of William Blake) “… see a world in a grain of sand/And a heaven in a wild flower.”
© 2012 Lee Price