Salmagundi (the Summer issue) features an essay by Dubravka Ugresic, entitled Artists and Murderers, that is right up my alley in terms of being a scathing and total denunciation of the world of art and culture in the time of genocidaires and businessmen (the two types often trading positions, now collecting civilians in camps and massacring them, now setting up chains of folky fast food restaurants). It seems that in Croatia, where Ugresic hails from, the writing, artmaking and artcollecting fields, which were once overflowing with the botched, the bewildered and the bohemian, the eccentric heiress and the surrealist poet, are now booming thanks to the participation of the usual masses of scum: politicians, celebrities, and the whole herd of tv talk show guests who at one point or another stole, killed, defrauded, scored, screwed, lied, and otherwise made their heap out of an almost transcendental assholery. You see them in the glam magazines, they roost in the lists of the 100 most influential. Or, more innocently, they are heirs of the heap, children of the rich, having traded in Daddy’s very real semi-automatic for a goldplated squirt gun. Croatia, in other words, sounds much like the United States. Here’s a couple of grafs:
“All that would be fine. Why not let a thousand flowers bloom? Each of us can be nourishment for the mind of a child, in the words of a Croatian amateur poet in celebration of literature. Murderers and criminals are, however, remarkably ambitious, their appetite is growing, it is not enough for them that they have published their own books, have had their own solo and group shows, garnered media attention; they want acclaim, they want the society which they have bestrewn with their artworks to bow down before them. Front and center at every theater's opening night, at every new show, they pontificate on the aesthetic values of each movie, book, performance. But even that is not enough, they aspire to wield total control over any realm of art inhabited by their hobby. They are more than happy to join committees, editorial boards, councils, they become members of juries, elbow their way onto school curricula, into primers, textbooks, anthologies. Their hunger is insatiable.”
And this, after Ugrasic receives an email from a friend explaining at length who were the drowned and who the saved in the current cultural industry in Croatia, lamenting that she is the only person in the world who can’t get her book published because – well, she really is a writer:
“The email from my friend sparked my imagination. Chilled by the nightmare vision of millions of people worldwide from an array of occupations clutching their books, and millions more adamant that it was only a matter of time before they, too, had their book in hand, and inspired by the movie Fifty Shades of Gray, which I watched along with millions of other earthlings, I went off to a store that sold practical merchandise. There I purchased the strongest rope I could find, sturdy iron stakes (as if off to scale a mountain), a drill. The salespeople jollied me into buying it all and as a bonus they threw in adhesive strips. The usually snarky salespeople proved unexpectedly solicitous in my case.
I'd decided to end it all. As far as suicidal practices and strategies go I may be an amateur, but I am well-read. Recent statistics suggest that women who commit suicide no longer rely on pills nor do they lean toward the good-old technique of slitting wrists; instead they tend to embrace the Bye-bye World! trajectory of the "male" technique of - hanging. This, then, was why a key item on my shopping list was the rope. Only a few months later we learned that hanging is not a man's preference; General Slobodan Praljak, having heard his sentence read out in The Hague, downed a little flask of poison before the "cameras of the world." One might say that his theatrical instinct had the upper hand; he did die. On television screens lingers his grimly frozen head, his gaping mouth, looking more like an immense fish than a human being.”
This is my kind of stuff, served piping hot. My pantheon leans towards the critics of the grotesque who through a sheer hatred of vice (and a entropic decline in the love of virtue) became grotesques themselves: Swift, Leon Bloy, Karl Krauss, Pasolini.
So read the essay – it is very funny, very sick – and look around you.