Thursday, September 10, 2015

Farrell: "George Scialabba is one of the great writers and intellectuals of our time."

Henry and his sister, the Church, the military.

Scialabbia, ex Opus Dei, a moralist who thinks Shakespeare is a cheap nihilist, a "very clever wordsmith, but no more than that".

[Banality, Boredom, Culture, Determinism, Futurism and Data Culture, Make it Idiot-Proof, Mannerism and The Gothic, Naturalism, Pedants and Children, Philosophy, Politics, Sexuality]

Farrell: "My personal favorite is this devastating piece on Isaiah Berlin"

Scialabbia's piece, originally in Dissent in 2001, the first sentences, and last
Securus judicat orbis terrarum, says a maxim of Roman law; which means, loosely translated: the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement can't all be wrong. Isaiah Berlin is a certified sage, an object of near-universal veneration. ...

Forty years ago Irving Howe wrote: "But if the ideal of socialism is now to be seen as problematic, the problem of socialism remains an abiding ideal. I would say that it is the best problem to which a political intellectual can attach himself." So it was, and still is. And Berlin still hasn't.
Hitchens on Berlin in the LRB in 1998, first sentences and last.
In The Color of Truth, the American scholar Kai Bird presents his study of McGeorge (‘Mac’) and William Bundy. These were the two dynastic technocrats who organised and justified the hideous war in Vietnam. Cold War liberals themselves, with the kept conservative journalist Joseph Alsop they formed a Three of Hearts in the less fastidious quarters of Washington DC. Another player made up an occasional fourth man. Isaiah Berlin was happy, at least when Charles (Chip) Bohlen was unavailable, to furnish an urbane ditto to their ruthlessness....

But irony originates in the glance and the shrug of the loser, the outsider, the despised minority. It is a nuance that comes most effortlessly to the oppressed. Czeslaw Miloscz, Isaiah Berlin’s non-Jewish Baltic contemporary, went so far in his poem ‘Not like This’ as to term irony ‘the glory of slaves’. He did not, I am certain, intend to say that it was a servile quality. But Berlin’s aptitude in this most subtle of idioms was conditioned in part by his long service to a multiplicity of masters.
Scialabba: "The concrete situation is just what he has rarely had a word to say about."

Every reference in his piece is to philosophy, or to literature as uplift: Berlin's failure is a failure to cleave to affirmative ideals. Scialabba the moralist abhors irony.

Hitchens' piece refers to a history of actions and events. He says Berlin's failure is cowardice and ends quoting a poet's black humor.

I've linked to the Hitchens piece before

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