Sunday, February 05, 2023

The above, indirectly, from Mary Gaitskill. Read it, and the comment by Tavi Gevinson. If you don't recognize the name, google it. 

Also reminds me of a friend who's reading Bret Easton Ellis's new novel. I haven't read it so here's my friend's description: "the teenaged character is invited to a producer's hotel room who then says 'now you have to do something for me' and essentially rapes him.” In the novel the narrator says something like, “But I wasn’t a victim.” And my friend said that reading the novel, he (my friend) felt like the narrator was clearly pained and trying to reframe it. But in a podcast interview, Ellis talked about how that really did happen to him, and also said something like, “I decided I’m not a victim.” My friend said that in the novel the line felt nuanced, whereas in the interview—especially given that Ellis is typically pretty reactionary--it sounded more like a comment on the culture wars, somehow no longer about one person’s experience and psychology.

I guess this is not a revelation (that fiction can be capacious in a way non-fiction isn’t), but maybe if I have any point it’s that it still feels really important to me that writers grapple with this stuff in nonfiction contexts where the reader knows more about what is at stake for the writer. (Just knowing I May Destroy You was based on Coel's experience made me more attentive to and trusting of the show's ideological arguments, even though it shouldn't be read as purely autobiographical.)

The private world and the public world of politics.

Since our feeling for reality depends utterly upon appearance and therefore upon the existence of a public realm into which things can appear out of the darkness of sheltered existence, even the twilight which illuminates our private and intimate lives is ultimately derived from the much harsher light of the public realm. Yet there are a great many things which cannot withstand the implacable, bright light of the constant presence of others on the public scene; there, only what is considered to be relevant, worthy of being seen or heard, can be tolerated, so that the irrelevant becomes automatically a private matter. This, to be sure, does not mean that private concerns are generally irrelevant; on the contrary, we shall see that there are very relevant matters which can survive only in the realm of the private. For instance, love, in distinction from friendship, is killed, or rather extinguished, the moment it is displayed in public. ("Never seek to tell thy love / Love that never told can be.") Because of Its inherent worldlessness, love can only become false and perverted when it is used for political purposes such as the change or salvation of the world.

What the public realm considers irrelevant can have such an extraordinary and infectious charm that a whole people may adopt it as their way of life, without for that reason changing its essentially private character. Modern enchantment with "small things," though preached by early twentieth-century poetry in almost all European tongues, has found its classical presentation in the petit bonheur of the French people. Since the decay of their once great and glorious public realm, the French have become masters in the art of being happy among "small things," within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today's objects, may even appear to be the world's last, purely humane corner. This enlargement of the private, the enchantment, as it were, of a whole people, does not make it public, does not constitute a public realm, but, on the contrary, means only that the public realm has almost completely receded, so that greatness has given way to charm everywhere; for while the public realm may be great, it cannot be charming precisely because it is unable to harbor the irrelevant.

With some people I'm always torn between criticism and silence. I'm not sure I'm done with this.

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