The other day the Hammer and I discussed how I never discuss and have never discussed a book or any literature with certain friends whom I thought close. (Interestingly, my workplace is replete with avid readers, electronic and otherwise.) Granted, we are attracted to different folk given our myriad interests and personality traits, so this is not a criticism per se. (Otherwise, it would be a criticism of myself, and we cannot allow that!) It is, however, an anomaly given the educational background of the people I have befriended. I do not participate in an Oprah-sanctioned book club nor struck up a conversation with my local crack dealer about the failings of magical realism. But I like discussing what sentences and ideas humble me. More often discussion tends towards music, movies (or, as Entourage's Billy Walsh proclaims, "films") or the shocking events as brought to us by Matt Drudge (which center around abhorrent human behavior in the tangy sunshine state of Floriduh). So, I relish the words of the WSJ critic James Seaton in his review of Praising it New, a compilation of essays by the New Critics:
"It may be hard to imagine -- given our current obsessions with television shows, movies, instant-messaging, Facebook and blogs -- but literature was once at the center of American cultural life. In the middle of the 20th century, novels and poems, of varying quality and aspiration, were widely read and widely talked about."
Very true, indeed. I am not arguing against the utility and artistic value of these above-listed technologies (and it may strike you that I am rather anachronistic, or plainly, a curmudgeon). I, too, am guilty of engaging them with fervor. However, the prominence of discursive and expository writing, or the centrality of the narrative in American culture has been supplanted by the rote (and vapid) 3-act script, the jail of the XBOX, or the on-line and off-line tabloid shenanigans. Ah, the path of least resistance. As oft complained, how did we get here? There are points of light, e.g., the success of Amazon's Kindle; the New Yorker's continued relevance; the perseverance of Arts & Leisure Daily. The fact of the matter is that I am still in love with old media and I lament its Sarlaac death. Hell, the New York Times published the obituary of the cassette tape. Meat-space publications are surely soon to follow, no? (And lest you think it ironic (no, thank you, Alanis Morrissette), it is not lost on me that I am utilizing a technology which is contributing to the death of my beloved.)
In light of this ersatz "ode to the fallen", I thought I would share a friend's self-flagellation after drinking at the teet of Hollywood. It is a fitting coda: