A New Lear; or, Daughter Dissed

We waited last week in an anon umbra for the expectant promise over at Literary Rejections on Display, an entertaining and informative site we visit periodically to check up on the latest trends in rejection slips and attitudes of those on the receiving end. Apparently, Writer Rejected, the hospitable host of LROD, had landed a paper airplane safely somewhere, an acceptance.

What Wasn’t Passed On” (New York Times, Dec. 8, 2011) is a familial, personal essay about a daughter who is disinherited by her father. We were reminded, of course, of the mad dad mother of them all, King Lear, and we posted our congratulations to the now somewhat less mysterious WR in a non-puckish comment, for the tone had grown serious, and we also realized a larger context of the personal theme, for the whole country has by now disinherited an entire generation of its young, and it appears to be headed toward disinheriting a generation of its old as well.

Yet we were also reminded of Faulkner’s Isaac McCaslin, who, in Faulkner’s “The Bear” (see Go Down, Moses), rejects his inheritance, insisting that no one can truly own the land, for the land inevitably has a complex history of giving and taking, of laying claims and laying hands.

“Nothing will come of nothing,” Lear tells his daughter, and Blake’s road of excess may indeed lead to a palace of wisdom, but what’s a palace emptied of its children and its old people? Where’s a fool when you need one? For maybe something does come from nothing, for “God bless the child that’s got his own.”