Tuesday, February 07, 2023

 Gavinson on Tár, in the New Yorker.

I grew up worshipping artists and the exchanges they have with their audiences. My dad is a high-school English teacher who shares and interprets canonical works; my mom is an artist who weaves tapestries inspired by sacred Jewish texts and traditions. When I started writing, I saw myself in part as a professional fan. Through a fashion blog that I started when I was eleven years old, and then through an online magazine that I created for teen-agers, I was able to interview artists I admired, siphoning their wisdom, believing that creative ability and strength of character went hand in hand. The magazine, Rookie, celebrated fandom in all its forms. Our writers wrote of artists as queens, kings, gods, goddesses, dream B.F.F.s. Our readers sent in photos of homemade shrines to their heroes. In regular columns, famous artists gave our readers life advice. I delivered talks at universities and lecture halls arguing that the fan’s capacity for enthusiasm was as holy as the works of art we lived by. I would quote a passage from Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey” comparing a performer’s audience to “Christ Himself,” a righteous entity worthy of serving. I found similar comfort in a scene from “Manhattan” in which Woody Allen’s character asks what makes life worth living, then rattles off a mix of cultural touchstones (before landing, of course, on “Tracy’s face”). At nineteen, I wrote in a private journal that “the knowledge that anything I feel has already been expressed in a work of art” was my version of feeling watched over by a higher power. 

The first time I saw Chloe Sevigny, sometime before or after, she was a lower east side street urchin, huddled in a corner on the floor with her boyfriend, head down. We were in the same, extended, circle, though I was in and out by choice. The last time I saw her she cruised me like a movie star, and that was still years before this pic. 

Watching smart people who grew up with no knowledge of the past find their way. And I'm one of them. The "New York intellectuals" were petty bourgeois snobs, the bookish children of immigrants, reinventing the past. But I was left to figure that out for myself, and I'm an heir, literally of that "tradition". My parents' book collection was called the best private library in Philadelphia, and still they knew nothing. Their world began with them. And this is the future. Humanism is reduced to an an appreciation of ambiguity in a world ruled by greed and pedantry. Or maybe that's what it always was. But more and more history is lost. I want to give Gevinson credit, but then I don't. I haven't seen Tar. I have a bet with myself that it's just kitsch; like Todd Haynes, a fantasy of art and women, voyeurism and in this case, overt misogyny, putting a woman on a pedestal to watch her fall.

At nineteen, I wrote in a private journal that “the knowledge that anything I feel has already been expressed in a work of art” 

I would've been embarrassed to write that at 19 or admit it at 26. And the Woody Allen reference. To Allen's credit I've always thought he married his step-daughter because she was more of a critic than a fan. It was the best of both worlds: he met his mother before she met his father. 


One of the few characters to challenge Lydia directly—a “bipoc pangender”-identifying Juilliard student who struggles to connect with Bach because of his “misogynistic life”—is not given the time to make a full or coherent argument for a more inclusive canon.   

Richard Brody

Yet, at the same time, Field has the chutzpah to liken today’s #MeToo era—in which, one character claims, to be accused is to be considered guilty—to the supposed excesses and false accusations of Germany’s postwar period of de-Nazification.

Brody has always annoyed me, but the disconnect is wild. My mother described Mahler as a writer of art songs who never understood symphonic form. I'm sure she got that from somebody but she agreed, and so do I. Frère Jacques played slowly in a minor key is just a cover.  Tár reeks of kitsch, and the moralizing about Nazis seals it. But Gevinson is very smart, and Brody's pretension annoys me more.

Gaitskill, Gevinson and Didion: Holly Golightly, and Louise Brooks

I have two connections to Leacock, through one of his daughters and one of his girlfriends in the mid 80s. He told her she reminded him of Brooks, an ex lover. Brooks in old age reminds me of my mother.

I've watched as much of Tár as I could take. It's a moralizing parody. Field is cribbing from Ruben Östlund. That no one gets the joke—including Field?—is sort of amazing. 

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