a1 Susan Manning is Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, CB3 9DF, England.
Henry Reed's poem of the Second World War offers a studied, ironic catalogue of some parts of experience silencing others. Here are observable facts, given as imperative command; knowledge of their use is for the future, rather than a possession of the present, however: one of the many things we (or you) have not got. Here also is the beauty of nature and its utter irrelevance to the human struggle. “Naming of Parts” excludes more than it includes: what is not said constantly overbears and threatens to break through what is. But the balance of information is precariously maintained, the unspeakable, the horror which is the truth of the war being disguised, expressed, and controlled in the naming of parts.
In a very different register, William Gass writes in his Habitations of the Word,
Lists, then, are for those who savor, who revel and wallow, who embrace, not only the whole of things, but all of its accounts, histories, descriptions, justifications.