I’m probably opening myself up to the emotional/intellectual equivalent of what Kansas did to Marquette in the Final Four three yrs ago but whatever, I’m going to try to get heavy, related to Whet’s shit about qualitative judgments on mainstream culture through the lens of Whet’s post parelleling Tom’s post about some guy’s article about the fiction of Jonathan Lethem. It bears mentioning that I have read exactly 1 book and a handful of articles by same and have no pressing plans to change that anytime soon. Not because I didn’t like the one book or handful of articles but because I have no money and Jonathan Lethem books do not show up in the Powell’s free box with any frequency. Let’s wait on this for a minute.
First, though, are Ten Things I Do Terribly, at the behest of Mascaro:
10. Moderate the intake and evangelicization of Special Treats
9. Give a shit about whether or not a person who will never be conscious again gets to eat free goo for another one to 20 years
8. Sit still (I’m not saying my soul is too big for 9-5 work or something, I’m saying I have something like homemade ADD, a disease that should be renamed “Just Being Dumb and Fidget-Prone”)
7. Feel comfortable about my knowledge base in comparison to other people I know and the people what write for books now
6. Preserve my occasional forward momentum in the culinary arts/sciences
5. Maintain a baseline facial expression that is not suggestive of anger towards other people in my immediate vicinity (Example: this summer it was suggested that I looked like I wanted to kick a baby that was walking past me when I thought I was actually smiling at it. Him i mean)
4. Confrontation ,or at least telling people things that I think they don’t want to hear, or rather telling people things I don’t want to tell them.
3. Dressing myself in a manner befitting a 23 yr old college graduate
2. Brushing my teeth. Not in terms of frequency but the value of each individual brushing project
1. Dealing with retail professionals.
Anyway, my take on the whole (insert altitude)-brow hegemony in modern artistic U.S. fiction: I understand Leonard’s knock on J. Lethem for spending an awful lot of time hashing out themes and medium-height truth in comic books, American pop culture, etc, at least based on the way Leonard presents Lethem’s 10 or so books, almost all of which sound like they are about superheroes, detectives, or just Jonathan Lethem’s childhood. Not that Jonathan Lethem is particularly guilty of solipsism or navelgazing. I had much the opposite impression of Motherless Brooklyn, which I dug at the time but have come to regard as pretty wispy in the longview. Anyway, I take the criticism of Lethem at face value, but I’m not sure why exactly Leonard freaks out at the end and starts taking swings at MTV/a bunch of writers/various generation groups. The rhetorical stronghold of devout classicism is sort of appealing, in that it presents the audience with a simple choice. Instead of embracing changes in culture, reject everything (always easier to do) unless it’s been verified by some formula (50,000 fawning references in dignified periodicals, 100 homages/instances of influence in appropriately serious works of art, themes discussed ratified by a panel of people who do not laugh at fart noises, even when the fart noise is actually funny).
Maybe I’m looking for a fight with Leonard (I clearly am, maybe not with Leonard but with someone) but this sounds somewhat like an advocacy of a canon of literature/culture/art, which I don’t have a terribly strong opinion about (well, I do have a strong opinion about it — there should be no such thing — but I didn’t pay enough attention or take the right Hum classes and I don’t know enough fancy words to get away with wielding a strong opinion about that). Anyway, that’s a bunch of dogdirt. You read what moves you, what attracts you. Jonathem Lethem or anybody else isn’t beholden to anyone to class up his writing with big themes or a literature PhD’s sense of context or historical scope. That’s not the author’s job, or the typical reader’s job. I’m running out of steam because I have this weird knotty feeling in my throat (unrelated to the topic at hand- i think it has something to do with the falafel I ate yesterday) so I’m going to motor away. But yeah, TV that guy.