Saturday, April 24, 2021
a history of religion riff on Western art-religion: a Donatist controversy in art-religion and a progressive push for the priesthood of all believers in art-religion
Ethan Hein on J. S. Bach's Contrapunctus I. from Art of Fugue, Bach's legendary work as a springboard for new musical explorations
I shudder to think of how many writers have been wrecked by the cult of American minimalism. If you want to define everything wrong with 21st century American writing, think of some self-impressed brodude gazing down at you in mock concern and saying “uh, have you tried writing less?” Minimalism is a virus that infected American writing in the early 20th century and which has flared back up for seasonal outbreaks again and again ever since. Minimalism says that there is nothing a writer can say that would not be better left unsaid. Minimalism lusts after a blank page. Five word sentence? Couldn’t it have been three? There’s a profoundly regressive spirit to this shit, and it teaches young writers that words are something they are confined by rather than something that empowers them. (Why write if you’re scared to write lustily and out loud?) Over and over again, “couldn’t you have said this more concisely” (OK), “less is more” (sometimes yes, sometimes no), “nobody wants to know what’s in your heart, just give us the facts” (says who?), “what, are they paying you by the word?” (fuck you). I have never known any of these crabby ass old men to be capable of writing anything that moves anyone, so I don’t know why we’re supposed to bow to their monastic wisdom. Write as much as you have to.
In our tradition minimalism is something like the mutant child of Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, James Wood, and Strunk and White. Bastards, all of them. Talented! But bastards. Strunk & White ruined a generation and I for one am glad that The Elements of Style is steadily fading into the mists of history. (For an interesting look at Strunk & White’s connection to political and social conservatism, I recommend this article by Catherine Prendergast. Favorite line: “Though a terrorist, Kaczynski is also Strunk and White's target audience: an amateur writer who hates to be wrong.”) Woods has been parodied so effectively that I feel nothing more about him needs to be said, though he has written many great book reviews. Orwell was a shitty novelist but a sublimely talented essayist who frequently used those skills to say things that didn’t need to be said. Hemingway is like Glenn Danzig in that he was a walking talking self-parody and yet at times that parody matches the moment so perfectly you don’t really care. Where was I? Oh, right - don’t let an older generation lay a curse on you just because they labored underneath it themselves. Write the way that you would like, including expansively if it suits you. The world is complicated and sometimes writing has to be too.
That Danzig reference reminds me of how much music from the 1990s I hated but never mind. I'm going to resist the temptation to write about how Kurt Cobain and Mariah Carey distilled two paths in pop songs that "ruined melody" and paved the way for the Millenial Whooping Cough problems of mainstream pop.
Following a chain of Freddie deBoer posts on the institutional press and journalists, he seems to be arguing that there's an impulse toward an authoritarian view of the press culture in the Twitter/Slack orbit
I have been considering what deBoer has been driving at writing about popular distrust of the institutional press, particularly with regard to the reflexive liberalism of the press, which must necessarily be kept distinct from the potentially (or actual) conservative stances of those business leaders who own the institutions and apparatuses of the press.
Granting that media and journalism are not his fields of training, what deBoer seems to be making an ultra-longform argument for is that as the institutional press goes through its death rattle members at the lowest rungs of the industry, the writers themselves, seem open to endorsing what in journalism studies used to be called the authoritarian theory of the press only instead of the state the authoritarian mentality is a weird mixture of herd mentality and social media bids at cancellation. Another way to try to put things is deBoer seems to have noticed that there are sumptuary codes around production rather than consumption in the contemporary media/entertainment/journalistic nexus of industries.