The fashion for titling books and articles with the aggressive phrase “why it matters” – why sinatra matters, why the middle ages matter, empathy: why it matters, and so on – has begu to itch the retina of my conscience – it is giving me spiritual hay fever. “Why it matters” is, one would think, the unsaid and the hoped for of any research, any project, which of course must engage the researcher, writer, artist or maker on some desperate level. Whether it engages the reader or spectator is, I think, another matter entirely, and that comes down to both form and content. When I entitle a piece “why it matters”, I am making a rude, bogus, or desperate claim of pre-emptive victory. It is a bullying maneuver, trying to put the reader in a corner. But it is also a ridiculous maneuver, as the reader is unlikely to be convinced by a title alone, and either thinks a thing matters or doesn’t. It is never a good sign to begin with a puff for yourself, because that usually ends badly, in boredom and disinterest. Even Nietzsche’s Ecce homo, surely the most triumphant or triumphing title in literature, plays against his incorrigible tendency to parody, to doubling, to setting his Zarathustras in the midst of cranks, exhibitionists and gargoyles.
My first response to these why it matters titles is: fuck you. To get me to watch what you are doing, don’t poke me in the eye first.