By Gerald Hausman
Santa Fe, NM, USA

Notable scholar and author, Alexander Blackburn, has written a book that begs to be read more than once. The Fire Within: Reflections on the Literary Imagination is a paean and pledge to human nature. The better half of said nature.

The author explicitly states in this wise and deeply rooted book:

Our evolving consciousness, in all probability a hardwired one with an innate capacity to love, must combat our own auguries of dread. In a timely and sublime growth out of our currently marginalized idea of imagination, we will, I believe, be delivered of temporal engagements of the old order, and a new world of consciousness may emerge. Doomsayers hope for sudden up-risings and movements, and such acts of political power may occur, but they will be preceded by what is inherent in us all, experienced especially by mythmakers, poets and writers. The fire within, the compelling and irresistible inner drive of all humankind, the miracle of our imagination, is our sanctuary of hope.

There is in fact a growing consciousness, as stated many times by Alex Blackburn, that we are constantly evolving.

He puts his faith in the evolution of the mind. The power of the imagination to transform. When reading this book, which is as much a memoir as it is an essay on the subject of change, you come away with a feeling of great optimism. The chaos we feel in the dystopian moment somehow reverses itself with Blackburn’s clear cut, rhapsodic prose.

Gerald Hausman

In the process of enlivening us, he also educates us. He reminds that Shakespeare may have been another man named Edward de Vere, a writer who had access to literature Shakespeare had no way to procure. de Vere’s access to his father’s literary and mythological library reveals a surprising fact – much of what Shakespeare wrote was laden with Nordic myths this streetwise bard probably had no way to read. de Vere was dubbed “Shakespeare by another name” by contemporary author Mark Anderson.

I fully accept this, but in addition, I believe there were many more Shakespeares as my lit professor said in college. Why not? Did one man, one particular genius, write so many erudite and myth-laden plays? Did he have to be one man? Or could he have been more than one, joined at the pen. Multiple Shakespeares. But that speculation is itself a wild imaginative leap.

Blackburn does, however, speculate that Coleridge may have gotten a portion of his thematic material from coastal observance of sun-charred, wrecked ships off the Bristol Channel of Nether Stowey. In this case, the poet had a bird’s eye view, so to say, of the images he uses in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. These were, Blackburn points out, “…the rotting remains of ships that had been used for the trafficking of black slaves.” This makes sense, as Coleridge’s cottage was just a short distance away and the hulks must have haunted him in more ways than one.

Alex Blackburn explores the universality of imagination; how when we dream, when we write, when we imagine, we sometimes see truths unavailable to those who do not indulge in this leap of faith. Even in a deli in New York City, he discusses what he calls “The Used Tea Bag Man,” a perhaps homeless fellow cadging a free meal. But in Blackburn’s imagination, he is the modern equivalent of a ragged character in Gilgamesh, incongruously afloat in the mad modern city of Manhattan.

Whether you are a writer, a reader or a lover of mythology and literature, you should greatly enjoy this book simply because it is itself a firestick drawn from the fires of the human imagination.



Gerald Hausman is an award-winning, bestselling author and storyteller. 
His memoir, Little Miracles, was published in July 2019.


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.