Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Guardian: "Literary storm rages as critic Lee Siegel pronounces the American novel dead."

Siegel's piece is here

Two links on this page from 2008.
"He added: “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining.”

"It is a commonly held assumption that Americans don’t like to read authors who write in languages they don’t understand. That belief persists here in Frankfurt, where publishers from 100 countries show off a smorgasbord of their best — or at least best-selling — books.
By and large, the American publishers spend most of the week in Hall 8, the enormous exhibit space where English-language publishers hold court."
Contemporary -young and serious- American culture is stunted because its practitioners came of age in an intellectual milieu that stood and stands morally opposed to the dangers of imagination, and in defense of an ideology of facts, or perspectival facts, labeled as truth. Their art is derived from what they enjoyed as angry teenagers, and refusing to put away childish things -in their impotence, still tempted by rebellion- they celebrate them in the off hours of their adulthood, with vague memories of why they were important and a lingering awareness that what they signified is out of reach.

For the elite, objectivity is the model or the scold: to be outré is to point to something labeled fact and giggle. The isolation of adolescents and the poor becomes the exceptionalism of the adult and educated; the genius of kids who can't play guitar and don't care becomes the indulgence of adults who can't and think it doesn't matter. And in the end it doesn't, because fun and games are only fun and games and tomorrow they go back to work. The arts, necessary to the elite in their youth become entertainment for them in their maturity. Ph.D.'s in any subject, even literature, are most comfortable, most in their element, watching Buffy or Lost, with their knitting circles. And of course they're lousy critics of what they love because in the end they're fans, as unwilling to analyze their tastes as they are unwilling to investigate themselves.

This lack of curiosity is rooted in privilege, class loyalty and nationalism, and in a deep insecurity guarded by assumptions labeled reason. A graph is the model for the myth of a transparent non-constitutive frame A story is the model for a constitutive frame you can't ignore. That the latter is easier to disagree with isn't a weakness it's a strength. Stories require an audience. Propositions stand alone. And for the majority, and for outsiders who don't matter, fiction or faith, as narratives held with an irony unrecognized by the elite, rule no more or less than ever.

If American literature has become academic and provincial, non-fiction is moving away from the academy, becoming fresher because more vulgar. Narrative vulgarizes the ideal. Considering his history of criticizing vulgarity Siegel's argument now lines up on the side of vulgarians over the professionals. I don't have to agree with his examples to note his reasons for choosing them; post-war America was not a "Golden Age" for anything but the economy. Siegel too is a fan.

The introduction to a thread at CT
I have almost nothing with the Tour de France, or with any other big sport event for that matter. The only relation between the Tour and me is that it started in Rotterdam this year, the city where I work. I have no interest, no expertise, no patience.
The author is: "a philosopher and economist, and... a professor in Practical Philosophy[!] at the Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam". You'd think that would imply an interest in or even a preoccupation with forms of public activity and social life. But Ingrid Robeyns' preoccupying interest is her rational non-narrative framing device, and her problem with the Tour de France is that it's a public -collective- narrative. If you want to understand how the Tour, or public narrative, is perverted by commodification, you have to want to understand what commodification is perverting.

Robeyns has no interest in things that don't interest her. She wouldn't put it that way; I'm sure she'd justify her choices as the result of rational process, and they are. But her choices are no more or less rational than those of bicycle racers or tribesmen in the highlands of New Guinea. Her frame, lens, preference, sensibility or tastes all precede her choice of tools. But to her in a sense they don't exist, because they're a given. Having no interest in her own subjectivism, it her own subjectivity, it does not exist. It's sad.

More of the same.
Liberal technocrats against the world they helped make. The socialism of monads and drones. The cognitive dissonance is painful.

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