8:31pm (184 notes)
"However, even if Lacan’s version [“If there is no God, then nothing is permitted”] appears an empty paradox, a quick look at our moral landscape confirms that it is much more appropriate to describe the universe of atheist liberal hedonists: they dedicate their life to the pursuit of pleasures, but since there is no external authority guaranteeing them the space for this pursuit, they become entangled in a thick web of self-imposed Politically Correct regulations, as if a superego much more severe than that of traditional morality is controlling them. They become obsessed by the idea that, in pursuing their pleasures, they may humiliate or violate others’ space, so they regulate their behavior with detailed prescriptions of how to avoid “harassing” others, not to mention the no less complex regulation of their own care of the self (bodily fitness, health food, spiritual relaxation …). Indeed, nothing is more oppressive and regulated than being a simple hedonist."
12:12am (29 notes)
Slavoj Žižek, from God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse
"I do not believe God can be dishonored."
Richard Rodriguez, from his new book Darling.
"In sum, there is only one type of young person, her parents are super-rich, and they reside in a great big house with expensive PJs and an awesome couch to live on forever. There is, it would seem, no American species more tediously homogenous or more consistently inept than the Millennial generation. That is, perhaps, except for the columnists who write about them."
"Although the techniques of Moore’s verse—the quotations, the syllabic stanza shapes, the persistence of rhyme in free verse, the counterpointing of colloquial speech with counted meter—have been both investigated and praised, her piercing glances into the difficulty of living have not as yet been fully interpreted."
"Badger, Mole, and Marianne Moore" by Helen Vendler in the New York Review of Books
"Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay. In the modern state there are very few sites where this is possible. The only others that come readily to my mind require belief in an omnipotent creator as a condition for membership. It would seem the most obvious thing in the world to say that the reason why the market is not an efficient solution to libraries is because the market has no use for a library. But it seems we need, right now, to keep re-stating the obvious. There aren’t many institutions left that fit so precisely Keynes’ definition of things that no one else but the state is willing to take on. Nor can the experience of library life be recreated online. It’s not just a matter of free books. A library is a different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal."
I never felt myself to have, as you as you say, a full access to the classical whatever. I was always partially aware of this and that and very aware of being a bad student, a bad researcher, an incomplete scholar, and so a lot of what the thinking that I did about classics or in classics was provisional and patched together and sort of looking over it’s shoulder to be discovered as a fraud, which is the attitude most people have all the time in their lives, I know, about whatever they’re doing, but it’s OK to have that with regard to a body of knowledge, and then just start somewhere, decide that somewhere is the middle, and go ahead with whatever you can grasp of it from there. …
It’s a kind of helter-skelter way of taking in the world—that’s who we are, we’re not renaissance masters anymore, we never will be. We’re not Giordano Bruno. We’re just us in our kitchen with Wikipedia on the stupid web and a bunch of other more respectable sources and we patch it together.
Anne Carson, talking about her process in answer to a question by Michael Silverblatt on KCRW’s (brilliant) Bookworm program in this
"Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness … We’re giving way to terror, to news of terror, to tape-recorders and cameras, to radios, to bombs stashed in radios. News of disaster is the only narrative people need. The darker the news, the grander the narrative."
4:21pm (13 notes)
Don DeLillo, Mao II
"Lessing, like Angus Wilson, William Golding, and Murdoch herself also argued that the novel of the time, despite the recent war and the Holocaust, had trouble in wholly imagining evil. "Our inability to imagine evil is a consequence of the facile, dramatic, and in spite of Hitler, optimistic picture of ourselves with which we work" ("Against Dryness"). We saw everything, Murdoch seemed to be suggesting, too easily from inside ourselves. Our sense of value was wound up in our judgement of our own "sincerity". In another phrase which I never forgot, which changed the way I looked at things, she wrote, "For the hard idea of truth we had substituted the facile idea of sincerity."
A. S. Byatt from her introduction to Iris Murdoch’s (excellent) novel The Bell.
I wonder in what ways this criticism still applies today. I think David Foster Wallace’s criticisms of irony are often misinterpreted as condoning facile sincerity instead of getting at hard truth. At their best, shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men, take the problem of evil seriously. (The “fandoms” of these shows sometimes don’t, however.) In shows like these and in Wallace’s fiction, this problem is represented most clearly in addiction, with twelve-step programs offering the hard truth against a facile sincerity that can always twist to meet the needs of the addiction. Certainly the social impact of the modern cults of sincerity and authenticity bear this out. It’s a nice distinction.