13 October 2019

Too Long in the Smoker

Sometimes Life gets in the way of the sausages. And sometimes they just need a little bit more time in the smoker to let the flavors blend.

  • Mythology abounds in literature. Not just in its subject matter, but in how to write in the first place. That three-word mantra — which I shall not repeat here, as my own background in literature is sufficient to refute it as universal, as should have been apparent to anyone who actually "did the homework" (instead of relying upon "talent") not later than Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction — simultaneously overvalues and devalues both context and words. It draws too many of the wrong lessons from Joyce's (and other Joycean) experiments, to begin with.
  • Almost as many wrong lessons as Clive James seems to have drawn from magical realism. The real problem here is that one doesn't know what Mr James means by "overrated"… or, for that matter, "magical realism." Does he mean just the South American political subtext variety (and imitators), epitomized by Garcia Marquez, Fuentes, and Vargas Llosa? Do Europeans, or immigrants to Europe like Rushdie, "do" magical realism? How about Yanqui? Is there a gender issue here (as seems implied in other interviews with James over the years, although it's always difficult to tell how much of that is the interviewer inserting his/her preconceptions)? Does "overrated" mean that he would now disapprove of Olga Tokarczuk's Nobel Prize in Literature while approving of Handke's (the opposite of the general bent among the literati, at least as has appeared in public)?

    Perhaps it's just an extension of a poem Mr James wrote quite a number of years back. In media res,

    The book of my enemy has been remaindered
    And I rejoice.
    It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
    Beneath the yoke.
    What avail him now his awards and prizes,
    The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
    His individual new voice?

    Would that Mr James had been confronted with this contrast. But that would be telling, not showing…

  • Which, I suppose is all slightly better than prison censorship, and that link to a non-US-based source is entirely (and archly) intentional. What we have heah is failyah to communicate. Of course, there is no marketplace of ideas in prison — leaving aside the problem of a "marketplace" that is oligopolistic or worse (and who is acting like a well-adjusted adult in that pairing?).
  • I'm not sure which is more fun: Watching Brexit prove that the sun set on the Empire decades ago, or further disclosure of this Administration's links to Soviet-era intelligence tactics and people. But then, I have a very sick and twisted sense of humor. (I have to, to keep despair somewhat manageable.)
  • Speaking of dubious intelligence techniques and assets, don't forget the private sphere, which provides a refutation worthy of Marsh. Governments can and do succumb to temptations to misuse power; that doesn't always mean that the so-called private sector is better.
  • As Domino's Pizza has more than adequately demonstrated. Admittedly, this isn't just blaming a bad pizza company that misuses "franchising" to push risk generated at the national level onto local investors, mistreats the employees, and historically refuses to take responsibility for the consequences of 30-minute-or-less delivery "guarantees" without regard to, say, safe driving in neighborhoods with kids. No, this is about the misbegotten dominance of "design" over "content." Perhaps every marketing dork should be required to take a three-credit-hour seminar with Edward Tufte… and so should most state attorneys general.

    The less said about contemporary Flash-influenced menus in fast-food restaurants, and their disrespect for those who have even moderate visual impairments like bifocals, the better. Actually, I'd love to say even more… but I'd be shouted down by the marketing dorks, because there are a lot more of them (and they have an interest in "encouraging" lazy choices by consumers rather than the subjectively best ones).