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Things Hoped for, Things Unseen

Hill, Russell Barlow
Let me begin this critical introduction with what I hope is an explanation and not an unnecessary justification. Things Hoped For, Things Unseen is not a completed work of fiction yet--for the same reason that it is far longer than was required, it will become longer still. There are too many things that need to be made clearer. I do, however, believe that the story at present can stand on its own as a novella, even if that word is taken to imply less abou~ length than about the structural differences between short fiction and long fiction, the short story and the novel. As indicated, what remains to be done with the story is essentially elaboration and clarification of themes and images and meanings which already exist. And it is this same elaboration and clarification which I see as the substance of this critical introduction. The language of ends and means is in more subjective terms the language of what I meant and what I have so far said. At some point the discrepancy between the two, if it is significant enough, will preclude this piece of writing from standing on its own. That point--at which this introduction becomes simply what Oliver Wendell Holmes called "post-factor rationalization"- -occurs if at all when the suspension of disbelief ends; and there seems little reason not to apply such a literary concept to literary criticism. Meaning is no less present because it is not initially obvious, as literature has always recognized. But criticism (unlike literature) cannot create meaning where none existed before, and this principle is the touchstone, the definition of any critical suspension of disbelief. If you decide that you agree with this introduction, that you believe the story said what it meant, then these 181 pages, for lack of a better word, are a novella. I believe they are. But if not, if this introduction gives more weight to the writing than it can bear at this point, then Things Hoped For, Things Unseen is simply an unfinished, hopefully promising, work. And as Philip said, I can handle that.