To some, the bigoted nature of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons is clear. “It’s a racist publication,” Ms. [Francine] Prose, a former president of PEN, told The Nation last week. “Let’s not beat about the bush.” (nytimes)
since when is islam a race? not to beat around, or even about, the bush, but i always thought it was a gender.
i do think that shooting people over cartoons is a sort of hyperbolic pc: they kill you for caricature; we just exile you for using the wrong phonemes, thug. but people really do confuse being offended with being assaulted, which would indicate that, unaccountably, they have never been assaulted. no one has a right not to be offended, or else each of us has a concomitant duty to maintain absolute silence. christ i'm offended all day every day, for example by the words 'impactful', 'relatable', and 'proactive'. it feels like an attack on my family and my identity: i come from a long line of prose stylists. consider the latest ad for microsoft robotics: 'the real question that needs to be aksed is, what can we do that is impactful?' fetch me my club, b, and i'll show you.
i bet i have said this before, but my favorite contemporary writer on art, by a good long way, is dave hickey. such a bold and wild and and combative and hilarious writer, and also so sharp and right on many matters. (he doesn't have to be right about everything according to me to be my favorite writer.) i'm teaching his invisible dragon again in my beauty course, though i love some of the essays in air guitar even more.
If I said, "Beauty," they said "The corruption of the market," and I would say, "The corruption of the market?!" After thirty years of frenetic empowerment, during which the venues for contemporary art in the United States evolved from a tiny network of private galleries in New York into this vast, transcontinental sprawl of publicly funded, postmodern iceboxes? During which the ranks of "art professionals" swelled from a handful of dilettantes on the East Side of Manhattan into this massive civil service of Ph.Ds and MFAs administering a monolithic system of interlocking patronage (which, in its constituents, resembles nothing so much as that of France in the early nineteenth century)? During which powerful corporate, governmental, cultural, and academic constituencies vied ruthlessly for power and tax-free dollars, each with its own self-perpetuating agenda and none with any vested interest in the subversive potential of visual pleasure? Under these cultural conditions, artists across this nation are obsessing about the market? Fretting about a handful of picture merchants nibbling canapes in Business Class? Blaming them for any work of art that does not incorporate raw plywood?...
During my informal canvass, I untangled the "reasoning" behind this presumption. Art dealers, I found, "only care about how it looks," while the art professionals employed in our institutions "really care about what it means." Easy enough to say. Yet even if this were true (and I think it is), I can't imagine any but the most demented naif giddlily abandoning an autocrat who monitors appearances for a bureaucrat who monitors your soul.
i am gearing up to teach david hume's enquiry concerning human understanding in my modern phil class. in my opinion, hume is, first off, the best philosophical prose stylist ever to write in english. it's not strunk-and-white stripped-down plain-speaking, exactly, but through all its complexities it is at great pains to achieve clarity.
coming to it after teaching descartes, locke, pascal, spinoza, i am struck by the modernity of hume's voice: really maybe the whole culture made a turn to something more comprehensible to us in the intervening decades. but also hume's voice - personal and intimate and yet amusing and entertaining - is perhaps a bit more like the style of his novelist contemporaries than it is like locke or malebranche. obviously, he had benefitted greatly from swift and addison, as well as his own people like samuel johnson and adam smith and gibbon. it is not surprising that hume's great style could be turned to a variety of authorial purposes, and it sparkles still in his essays on various topics and in his histories.
and then he really is both a charming and a killer intellectual: swashbuckling, bold as hell, but more precise in his way than any of his predecessors and also more humble. he is disarming, genial, but devatsting. he will rip your concepts to shreds. here's a good example: the classic section IV, part II of the enquiry.
i'm working on a review of a book called british ethical theorists from sidgwick to ewing. admittedly, this is the sort of thing jeeves would hold up in front of his face just to intimidate bertie, and perhaps it is not primarily intended to provide amusement. however, it has got me reading things that i had long neglected or forgotten. i have to say, it's hard to imagine clearer or more solidly-constructed work in ethics than that of h.a. prichard or w.d. ross. one re-discovery: the very excellent five types of ethical theory, by c.d. broad. it is written with extreme confidence and a lot of flair.
when i did the index for obscenity, anarchy, reality in the early '90s, i thought i had invented the comical index, or at least had done the first one in an academic book, or for heaven's sake the first in an academic philosophy book. (you can actually check out the index in the look-inside bit of the amazon page; no one but randy auxier really noticed, though.) but frigging c.d. broad was there ahead of me. some sub-entries:
Bentham, Jeremy; tentatively compared to God, 160
God; may possibly be a Utilitarian, 81-82
Green, T.H.; his power of producing prigs, 144
Hegel, G.F.W.; was a philosophical disaster, 10
Paul, Saint; less widely appreciated than Mr. Charles Chaplin, 173
Russell, Hon. B.A.W.; his inordinate respect for psychoanalysis, 24
Socrates; less widely appreciated than Mr. Charles Chaplin, 173
etc. also this is an artifact of an era when a professor could actually express bold, slashing opinions definitely and amusingly. we long ago transcended that era.
one thing about authorship in the age of word processing: one definitely no longer thinks in terms of discrete drafts and revisions: the thing can grow from within with rolling revision. or you're working on two or more chapters simultaneously, while every so often trolling for corrections or obvious additions throughout. one suspects that this had just got to change the final product, though it's perhaps an elusive matter to say just how. you might dick around with all sorts of different organization, to the point of fucking your shit up or getting strangely fragmented. i have to say, i would much much rather write this way than on a typewriter, which is how i started. or i used to write on pads and then type. obviously there is something to be said for that, but how many writers would go back? for one thing, it's just a far more refined product; you've been over it dozens of times, though perhaps not with the same concentration as on the two stabs you used to get.