ads without products

Archive for September 2008

‘lil help from the audience / xmas in september

with 2 comments

Dammit. I haven’t had my books fully at hand in over nine months now. Long story, not very interesting, why that is. Google / Amazon book searches can help, but if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for you get locked out eventually.

Here’s what I’m trying to find. Somewhere in his four-volume Age of… history of the modern world, Eric Hobsbawm says something about, hmm, this is a bit complicated. He says something that the life patterns of period X (the end of the nineteenth century?) became sort of locked in due to the fact that so many of “our” ancestors moved to the city, started a whole new way of life. That the way people lived then became a sort of primal scene that everything else is permanently referring to. So silly little things like the way we celebrate holidays like Christmas, how we think about all sorts of daily life issues, are in a sense permanently indexed to this moment of arrival, when we left the fields behind for the cities once and for all.

I happen to think this is very astute and correct. I just can’t remember what volume it is in or what keywords to use to search for it. I keep trying Christmas, but it’s not working so far.

Ring a bell?

Can you tell I’m writing an introductory lecture for a course? That time of year again, I’m afraid….

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 8, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

the “perfect day,” lou reed, radiohead, joyce, woolf, benjamin, etc

with 4 comments

Usually when we think about the literature of the single day (think of high modernist texts like Ulysses or Mrs Dalloway) we tend to think of the formal gesture at play as one that materializes, at base, the progressive and secularizing side of modernism. At least I usually think about it this way. Framing a text around a single day in the life of relatively ordinary people seems to represent a secularization of literary time, a turn away from the theologically-inspired teleologies and rhythms that normally structure (or had normally structured) literary works. Whereas the novel that follows its characters over long durations is the stuff of dynastic succession or in its more modern guise family inheritane, the work focused on a single day pulls us back to the everyday life of the man or woman on the street. There’s less room for parents or pedigree, more room for the common experiences and practices of modern life.

I’m not alone in thinking this way. Remember the conclusion of Erich Auerbach’s chapter on Woolf in Mimesis? Now, the chapter focuses on To the Lighthouse not Dalloway, and the former isn’t a one day novel but a two-day-plus-a-longer-weirder-stretch-in-the-middle novel, but I think the point that he makes here is appropriate:

Beneath the conflicts, an economic and cultural leveling process is taking place. It is still a long way to a common life of mankind on earth, but the goal begins to be visible. And it is most concretely visible now in the unprejudiced, precise, interior and exterior representation of the random moment in the lives of different people. So the complicated process of dissolution which led to fragmentation of the exterior action, to reflection of consciousness, and to stratification of time seems to be tending toward a very simple solution. Perhaps it will be too simple to please those who, despite all its dangers and catastrophes, admire and love our epoch for the sake of its abundance of life and the incomparable historical vantage point which it affords. But they are few in number, and probably they will not live to see much more than the first forewarnings of the approaching unification and simplification.

There’s a lot to unpack here, of course, but I think you see why the quote interests me here. The “representation of the random moment in the lives of different people” seems to augur a coming “leveling,” the emergence of some sort of “common life of mankind on earth.” The equation seems to run, at least here, for Auerbach, that the focus on ordinary, random time (like the mostly random time of Joyce and Woolf’s novels) suggests a turn to a politics of ordinary commonality.

Again, this is how I usually see these things, talk and write about them, and teach them. And I teach them all the time…

But, on the other hand, I’ve been listening to a lot of Radiohead (hahaha) recently and tons of Lou Reed (forever). And of late, two songs – one from each – have crystallized into a little mutually reinforcing dyad in my mind. They somehow came together on a playlist that I made, and everyone knows that random playlist juxtapositioning represents one of the key dark arts of advanced literary criticism and analysis. So… Here are the songs.

I realize that these two songs focus not so much on an “ordinary day” but a “perfect day.” Reed’s seems pretty pointedly ordinary though, but, no, we have no idea what constitutes the day that TY references. (Given the songs that precede it on In Rainbows, it’s hard not to come up with better-than-usual adulterous sex, but really, who knows… I guess the more likely and much tamer reading is that somebody’s about to kick the bucket… But I like mine better…)

Anyway, why so melancholy, Lou and Thom? Why has thinking about time in terms of the “single day” become so menacingly depressive or depressively menacing? Or was it always this way, right from the start?

Look, I know that this is, well, quite a literary historical leap that I’m trying to make, tracing a dynamic from a point marked Woolf and Joyce in the 1920s to Relatively Recent Music for Perpetually-Adolescent Depressives. I’m playing fast and loose, but I still think there’s something here. I could get all Benjaminian on you and take you down the Erlebnis / Erfahrung path. You know, the one that goes like this in the Baudelaire essay that’s in Illuminations:

The greater the shock factor in particular impressions, the more vigilant consciousness has to be in screening stimuli; the more efficiently it does so, the less these impressions enter long experience [Erfahrung] and the more they correspond to the concept of isolated experience [Erlebnis]. Perhaps the special achievement of shock defense is the way it assigns an incident a precise point in time in consciousness, at the cost of the integrity of the incident’s contents. This would be a peak achievement of the intellect; it would turn the incident into an isolated experience.

This stuff, by the way, goes perfectly with one of the general thematic concerns of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, which this very interesting post labels “data melancholy.” (Short version: the pathos in “Videotape” is as much a matter of storing the experience on a degradable and obsolete medium like a VHS tape as it is about, you know, leaving this perfect day behind. The act of preserving the single day (whether in a song or on tape or in a song about tape) reechoes the data loss that occurs due to the shock defense and its characteristic temporality in the first place.)

All that’s there, but I think there’s something else – something that definitely runs in parallel with this issue – that’s at once easier and harder to get at.What the songs underscore, both in their own way, is that the very act of framing time in terms of the single “perfect” day is itself a stress reaction, one that exposes not so much perfection of the day in question as the disastrous or even dystopian nature of the other days that surround it. While Benjamin is getting at the stress or shock on the level of perception or epistemology; Reed and Radiohead broaden the scope out to history, personal (explicitly) and extrapersonal (implicitly). How else to explain the apocalyptic overtone that sneaks back into both songs: the biblical sowing and reaping in Reed and portentous vagueness of “No matter what happens now” in “Videotape.” (Again, if you listen to the rest of the stuff on In Rainbows and the supplementary materials the band released with it, like for instance this, which itself is a song preoccupied with the relationship between time and disaster, you get a few ideas about just what might be happening now in the context of the song…)

The literary historical conclusion that we can get to out of all of this is a little pedestrian, but still worth saying. If the modernist single day texts are vaguely utopian in terms of their very temporality, these utopian temporalities themselves bear the marks of being stress reactions to a string of epistemological, existential, and historical crises that provoked them. This seems a bit obvious, and it is, but not to everyone. (I once got in a fight with a dickheaded senior prof in my old department about a question that I asked in a PhD exam about the role that the first world war plays in Ulysses. He argued that it, of course, plays no role because the work is set in 1904, and thus my question was unfair and illegitimate. I was on my way out of the department, so it was really tempting to explain to him what a fucking idiot he was, but I generally save my anger for my blog, so I didn’t…) With Woolf, it is relatively easy to see how the ordinariness of Clarissa’s single day concretizes itself against the impinging historico-political exterior, trying unsuccessfully to hold it away as it threatens her party etc. With Joyce, this is a bit tougher to see, but it starts to shed light on the relationship between the temporal cut of the book and Franco Moretti’s brilliant reading in Signs Taken For Wonders that Ulysses is a strange sort of science fiction dystopia, strange in the sense that it is a science fiction dystopia set twenty years since…

But there remains an even more interesting point that that. (I hope). The songs bring to the fore a more profound melancholy, a haunting disturbance of the everyday. There is something wrong with our everyday, with our every day. We second-guess, we cannot help but second-guess, ourselves as we attempt to shave small spaces out of this world where we can be happy, or where we can even simply be. There are many reasons why we second-guess ourselves when we do this. Many of them are political or economic. Maybe some of them aren’t. (Is that even possible?) What sort of single day novel would you write if you were to write one today? If I did one, it would be tremulous, afraid of its own shadow and the shadow of its chosen/assigned form. It would be empty – too empty even to register Septimus, to stage an event like the one that happens in Cyclops. I would feel like a hypocrite were I to attempt to allow the outside in. I wish I could put it more concretely than this. There’s been an erosion of the clifftop we call time. All of it has something to do with the necessary movement past Benjamin’s formulation – we now long for the shock factor, even. We’d take Erlebnis. Our Auerbachian “random moment in the lives of different people” has become laughable, commodified, the stuff of ad campaigns, the stuff of the media forms of civic reinforcement. It’s tricky to name, this thing. The everyday has become something that we reach for when we’re at our worse, when the clammy hands of bureaucracy have finally touched our hearts and we try to be gentle, try to fit in.

Christ, I’m not going to (be able to?) name it in a blogpost, am I?

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 8, 2008 at 12:56 am

when i hear the word “narrative”…

leave a comment »

Some of the American whateverocracy caught on tape discussing Sarah Palin:

Peggy Noonan: The most qualified? No! I think they went for this — excuse me– political bullshit about narratives —

Chuck Todd: Yeah they went to a narrative.

Mike Murphy: I totally agree.

PN: Every time the Republicans do that, because that’s not where they live and it’s not what they’re good at, they blow it.

The rise to centrality of narrative as a term of electoral art this time around is interesting. (It’s been there before, but now it’s all over the place). What’s further interesting is that when these people say narrative, this year at least, they actually mean Bildungsroman. There are of course other forms of narrative that can be yoked to a political cause, but when it comes to Obama and Palin, we’re definitely talking about that form, according to Wilhelm Dilthey way back in 1906, in which a

regulated development within the life of the individual is observed, each of its stages has its own intrinsic value and is at the same time the basis for a higher stage. The dissonances and conflicts of life appear as the necessary growth points through which the individual must pass on his way to maturity and harmony.

I won’t rehearse the narratives in question, but both Palin and Obama’s enact one of the standard lines of passage – basically the unlikely beginnings to unlikely ends sort of story. America loves a good Bildungsroman – it’s sort of the founding national mythostructure, which is no wonder given the period when the country was born.

It was hilarious to hear Palin slap at Obama’s memorimania in her acceptance speech

We’ve all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers. And there is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform – not even in the state senate.

– just after she delivered her own memoiristic self-framing as true Daughter of the Redneck Revolution.

At any rate, there’s a lot to say about the political unconscious of the form, but a few things stand out. First of all, it’s always been a form invested (whether consciously or unconsciously) in class legitimation. Whether focused on the emergence of a newly literate bourgeoisie out of the hovels of the artisans (think Great Expecations, Mr Pip learning his letters and the like) or informational workers from the ranks of the selfsame bourgeoisie or petty bourgies (oh, just about all of them – Portrait is a good example), it does the work of showing the work – the work of self-elevation, the rise from meagre roots whether financial or educational or what have you. And while it’s easy to say that every American election has been about class legitimation – or even that the American democratic political form is a form based on annual selling the populace on the virtues of being led by this particular set of betters – it’s clear that the current crisis in capitalism has forced the narrative of meritocratic legitimacy to the absolute foreground of the electoral stage.

Noonan is of course right about Republicans traditionally having a hard time with “narrative.” It’s easy to see why: the stories are generally fucked-up arcless little numbers, or if they have arc, it comes in spots and is hard to synthesize the “dissonances and conflicts” of these priviledged lives into a coherent story. (Once the Democrats realize that they are most certainly going to lose this election, they’ll hopefully go to work, Rove-style a la 2000, on the semi-narrative of McCain’s Vietnam capitivity, begging the question of what sort of longterm psychological effects trauma like this has on an individual, an individual with his finger on the red button and the like). But she’s undoubtedly wrong about Palin herself (who has been drawn from outside the usual lineup of Yale aristrocrats and Haliburton fixers) who will likely win the election for McCain, so long as they negotiate the tricky issue of fronting the VP candidate because the P candidate is so goddamned awful on stage.

At any rate, all of this is basically the superstructual echo of the basic point of this piece by Aziz Rana on n+1’s site about Obama, the election, and meritocracy.

Throughout our history there have always been multiple versions of the American dream. These accounts held in common the hope that hard work, discipline, and self-reliance would allow those recognized as citizens not only to improve their economic lot and achieve personal happiness, but to participate fully in political life. Today, however, only one version of the dream continues to make sense as a sustainable personal project. This is the dream exemplified by Barack and Michelle Obama—as well as by their former rivals Hillary and Bill Clinton—a dream of success through higher education and a life in professional work. It is a vision of social advancement that leaves little room for historically important narratives of blue-collar respectability.

Rana’s piece, when seen in the light of the “narratives” I’ve been discussing here, exposes a foundational contradiction in the American political system. Or, if not a contradiction, at least a fatal blindspot, an entrenched impossibility. In a system that’s weighted (perceptually if not practically, and perception leads the praxis here) toward the president as the embodiment of popular will, it’s very very difficult to imagine how a “narrative of blue-collar respectability” could ever make its way to the definitive foreground of American politics. Obama may be as close as we could ever get, what with the community organizing and the like. The system is attuned to, and has always predicted, rule by meritocracy, which we all know has never been and will never be based on equal-start merit. And even if it were, would it change matters all that much?

Think of all of those countless numbnuts Hollywood films about unlikely characters bumbling their way into Washington power – the donut eating prole, the dumb blonde, the black dude who didn’t go to Columbia… The tagline of the one pictured above: “In a country in which anybody can become president, anybody just did…” Their disneyfied absurdity, their thumb-sucking popcorn munch, is a register of the fact that none of us, down deep, believes that another narrative is possible here, not at least given the system that we have.

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 6, 2008 at 11:18 pm

stings a bit

leave a comment »

Rather fucking brilliant, this.

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 6, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Posted in distraction, fiction, sex

impotent narcissus

leave a comment »

Nice piece by Nicholas Lezard on Don Giovanni and the various things people have said about it / him:

So, for all that Don Juan is driven by carnal desires, or perhaps precisely because of this, he has been a philosopher’s favourite. Kierkegaard devoted much of Either/Or to an evaluation of the opera, excusing himself with the declaration that music does not exist in the moral domain. Michel Foucault, in his History of Sexuality, took perhaps the most radical line of all: Juan represented “the individual driven, in spite of himself, by the sombre madness of sex. Underneath the libertine, the pervert … We shall leave it to psychoanalysts to speculate whether he was homosexual, narcissistic, or impotent.” (To which one might well ask: “Come again?”)

Moral philosopher Bernard Williams asked whether the Don was “fleeing from exhaustion and inner emptiness … or, according to George Sand and Flaubert, engaged in a despairing hunt for a genuine encounter with another person.”

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 6, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Posted in music, sex

did you get that on record or what?

leave a comment »

We all, today, walk around with a portable archive of Historical Video Clips in our heads. Without checking, we can picture a secondary explosion on the doomed space shuttle challenger, Germans swinging torches and axes as they exuberantly tear down that wall. We all have that green lit gamescape of the anti-aircraft guns firing aimlessly and ineffectively into the Baghdad sky the first night of the first war on Iraq. Perhaps we have Clinton and Hilary swaying to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Thinkin’ Bout Tomorrow,” though we definitely all possess a whole panoply of views and perspectives on the day that the World Trade Center fell – we have two towers burning, we have the cloud of dust, we have Bush at Ground Zero.

But in this line what do we have – all of us, or even most of us – of the new Iraq War? The firework displays of the first moments of Shock and Awe? And then the day that the huge statue of Saddam fell? Saddam as he was about to die? For a present day, ongoing event, I am willing to bet that most of us carry around precious little in the way of those little mental mpegs that start running the moment the concept comes up. The reports of the embedded journalists at the start of the war were too banal to fix in the soft gray spot, and the ugly remainder of the war seems to be strangely (is that the right word?) under-represented on the nightly news, aside from the days death toll, and, in certain situations, accompanying photographs of dead soldiers when they were clean and young and alive.

No, the current war has not been, in the way that both of the previous major US engagements were, a television war. Bad news and ugly scenes make it difficult to sell retirement services to the increasingly elderly viewers of the network’s programs and CNN alike, and from the first days of the conflict the military has done all that it can to keep its arms tightly around the shoulders of the dwindling number of journalists actually working anywhere outside of the Green Zone in Baghdad. And even if the poll numbers have changed dramatically, the news organizations still seem to be extremely hesitant to do anything at all that would provoke the “Support Our Troops!” crowd.

But even if the images and streams never quite make it to our television screens, it is not the case that we have seen nothing or that there is nothing to see. In a perverse fulfillment of some of the irrationally exuberant predictions of the late nineties and early part of this decade, the scenes that are most pressing, the most real, appear via the efforts of what in a somewhat more hopeful time we used to call “citizen journalists.” They arrive, that is, via YouTube and similar video hosting sites. There is something incredibly strange about the fact that many of the most vivid and terrifying images that I’ve seen arrive via a site whose architecture and design seem ideally suited to dumb pet videos, teenagers glamming against the backdrop of their favorite song, or collections of rim shots from yesterday’s already obsolescent sitcom. These videos are forwarded to us, bloglinked, or, especially when we’ve grown a taste for them, we search them out. We view them during stolen moments at the office, late at night in our sleeping clothes – anytime but at an pre-ordained time. They are, true to the time and its habits of consumption, on demand.

The videos are at once, in general, incredibly simple and dauntingly complex to read. They solicit from us prefabricated modes of critical approach, the automatic and issueless discovery of the message in the media and a whole series of parallel pomo-lotry. Or they simply make us cry – for the dead civilians, for the soldiers that are doing the killing, for ourselves. This has happened to me a few times, viewing them in my office. (It is an unlikely scene – I’m a large guy, I don’t look like a crier…) I get choked up, the tears come, and then, eventually, I stop crying and eventually, I do something else.

I remember having this reaction, for instance, after watching this one in my office. It was one of my first.

You cry and you think. You wonder in what possible scenario these people in the car could have be, beyond any doubt, fair targets. There is the body on the road, another that we cannot see but only hear about just inside the door of the building. Perhaps there are others, also invisible, encased in the cars. Unfortunately, perhaps irresponsibly, you think perhaps what a great title or tagline that magic utterance, the Did you get that on record or what? would be. In order to hold off the tears, or maybe just in spite of them, you wrap yourself in this little puzzle of representational intention, in the contradictions and inconsistencies of the piece. It is a trophy on digital media, today’s ear necklace or captured Luger, but how did it reach the web and why? What do we make of the almost altogether unconvincing claim at the end – that no unarmed people were hurt during the shooting, despite the fact that the dead bodies don’t appear to have been armed.

There is a large subgenre of Iraq videos on YouTube that focus on children. Fortunately they are, from what I have seen, less bloody than the ambush above, but in a distinct sense they are even more disturbing. More dangerous to say, they are perhaps the most interesting of the videos available on-line.

It sometimes seems like a generic mandate that the videos include a self-referential phrase, a mention of the fact that the video is being made…. Are you getting this? Can you see this? But what exactly is this anyway? Is it, simply put, a slice of hideous if halfhearted cruelty informed by a viciously instrumental relationship to the occupied other? Or, are we getting it wrong if our readiness to assume the worst? Is it just a game, a moment of absurd interaction between the soldiers and the children? Children do love to run, to race, after all. We are left in a bind, unable to confidently read the clip, and inevitably turn again to the meta-issues. What about this scene made it camera worthy? And what about this video, once captured and, perhaps, sent along to its initial audience, inspired the wider dissemination of it, a dissemination wide enough that we – you and I – can watch it today?

The playful humiliation of children is in fact one of the dominant themes of the posted videos.

The videos stage and restage the intersection of everyday life – and do children ever have anything other than an everyday life, whatever the circumstances? – and the very different tedium, the anxious and defensive routine, of the US soldiers as they attempt to entertain themselves away from identification with the Iraqis least like to assume the position of antagonists. They all wanna be on video. Like they’re gonna see it ever. Like they’re gonna see themselves ever on video. But they all wanna be on it. Fuckers. Recording these moments is an act of cruelty that parallels the cruelty of the soldier’s actions themselves, but both acts share

At times, and despite their brevity, the videos featuring kids threaten to evolve into semi-allegories of the situation of the whole. The never quite fit the bill, but they come close. And in the closeness, they reveal, like some of the better known iconic images of the conflict, the way that patterns of thought and behavior circle up and down the ladder of rank, the hierarchy of violence.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To be sure there are lots of other clips that feature sunnier moments of contact, soldiers who haven’t been (haven’t allowed themselves to be?), distorted enough by their context to treat children in ways that would land one in prison almost instantly back home. But even in these softer moments, violence or the playful relaxation of violence seem to be the only options available on the menu.

My collection of clips, of course is selective, but is still, I believe, representative of a large number of similar videos available for viewing on YouTube and the like. And perhaps it is just my idiosyncratic way of approaching texts (I teach literature, I am something of a formalist) that tells me so, but it seems to me that the specificities of the medium in question – the very short video clip – has everything to do with the complex feelings and questions that these pieces engender. Or, of course, it is the close synchronization, the uncanny affiliation, between the formal organization of these pieces and the content that fills the container of the form that makes me feel that they are somehow

That is these clips, because of their atomic, episodic nature, the fact that they are too short to allow for backstory or substantive development, too narrow to permit even a glance at context, and the world surrounding the shot. They bring us right up close to where the action is, the real stuff that evades the propaganda strips, only to end abruptly – always abruptly – and, quite literally, provide us only with another set of videos that the formula has deemed “related.”

At moments, I feel like these YouTube videos are the distinctive aesthetic form of our time and place. They show us what we know, and hide what we cannot know. Often what is revealed during these disjunctive moments is a dead body, innocence or guilt unknown, there is no time for that. Or a smiling child who should be crying, or a crying child who should be smiling, but we have to go – there isn’t the bandwidth or server space to stay. And what would we do if we could stay?

They are like episodes, one starts to feel, in some sort of inchoate dystopian work, one which borrows extra intensity from the fact that it is composed of nothing that isn’t drawn from the real world, the world that we share with the children in the videos. Considered together, watched in a sequence, as I have had you do (if with a few interruptions) they come to seem a slow montage rather than a collection of autonomous shorts. As such, we might well expect them to have the disruptive effect that we have long heard arrives of such starting juxtapositions.

One of the persistent tropes of the “speculative” literary works and films involves the fantasy of the subject transformed by the forced viewing of images. Whether the object is reformation or ruin, submission or transformation, nightmares about the idea that somehow we might be reached and altered, or even controlled, by locking our eyes to a series of disjunctive images, a montage.

And in a sense the reach of this trope extends far beyond the realms of speculative and science-fiction and art film into media theory and notions of ideology, as well as more vulgar conceptions about the relationship between, say, represented violence and violent actions, school shootings and the like.

We wait for the image, the conjunction, that will blind us or make us at last see, that will reset the operating system and let us move under a power “not our own” but all our own, just differently, newly, once and for all.

But the right image, the effective conjunction, never comes. We have flags and mothers and cheerleaders, we have the soft core and the hard core, the lynchings, the bombings, and the children. We have the ambush and the dead and the dirty jokes about tiny girls and the flag, and we pang and parallax, but we do not snap.

These film clips lend us access to a world that has passed. The YouTube videos bring us back to the present. We see them, you have seen them, and they will stick, but they will not transform. Nothing does the trick anymore. It is hardly an appropriate message to draw from the digital stuff that we’ve just watched and the bodies that we can barely imagine behind it, but I am not sure what else there is to say.

Just as Theodor Adorno once argued for the reduction of speculation about emancipated society to a basic, simple demand – “There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more” – perhaps we need to develop an aesthetic, a form, that could ground itself in the coarse demand to stay close to children like these, to follow them from start to finish, and not look away in shame and boredom. We must, in short, find an aesthetic with which to break ourselves into compliance with our baser, animalian, that is to say human, enlightened, imperatives.

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 5, 2008 at 11:10 pm

scarcity mentality

with 2 comments

Do you remember, before the internet and amazon and the like, when you’d visit bookstores and see things and buy them because you had a sense that you might never see them again? The books that you could buy were the books that were in stock at the bookstores that you were able to visit. When you grow up somewhere like the New Jersey suburbs, this feeling would be particularly acute because the stores that you had were so lackluster, though you only have half a sense of that at the time.

I rarely buy books now, and almost never like that. Every once in awhile, under the right circumstances, I am taken back to that structure of feeling – that sense of intellectual scarcity – and I buy to hoard, to hedge against never buying again. A few days ago at the MOMA’s bookshop, I bought more than I should have, and did so for reasons at once immensely complicated and burningly simple.

Even if books are universally available, anytime anywhere, other things are not. Like people, like friends. Also crystalline situations, moments of unearned happiness, strings of synchronized rhythm between inside and out. And so you spend too much, spend whatever it takes, empty your wallet and even go into debt in order to have them when they are available since they might suddenly disappear or, more likely, you might not make it back to the place where they are offered any time soon or ever even.

Probably an idle train of thought, but I wonder sometimes what it would be like to live in a world where nothing at all was scarce. Whatever I come up with, it remains the bad faith doublethink mirror of progressivism, haunting it, taunting it, wherever it goes, wherever it leads. No, it is a horrible thing to think in a world where for most scarcity isn’t the salt of life but rather its daily bread. But scarcity is the key to the equation that hangs the spans of literature, and so I give it time. Or rather, it takes my time and gives it back cut into ribbons, satiny ribbons for rubbing while I sleep and sometimes while I am awake and walking or typing.

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 5, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Posted in everyday