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Showing posts from November 22, 2009

cowardice of the great

Behind Proust’s essay on Sainte Beuve and Baudelaire, one feels the whole experience of the Dreyfus affair, which taught Proust an unforgettable lesson: how much depends upon the cowardice of the great. It is this insight that drove the alienated liberals towards socialism at the end of the nineteenth century. In Sainte Beuve’s treatment of Baudelaire, Proust saw an emblem of the system of relations that put the imagination at the service of the platitude, and the platitude at the service of maintaining, at any price, one’s place in the artificial paradise. Of course, the essay has capacities, pockets, unexplored frontiers that can’t be reduced to the above thesis. But to understand the peculiar immersion of the artificial paradise – the swallowed commodity that swallows the user (as we restlessly toss and turn in the golden egg) – I want to use Proust’s essay as the torch that lights my way into the vault. Proust’s problem in the essay is not just to untangle Sainte Beuve’s rel

Urban renewal

Owen has written a very suave piece in the Guardian about the London suburbs. There’s a show at the London Transport Museum, Suburbia, which hails the synergy (if not conspiracy) between the advancement of the London subway system and the development of London’s outer ring. As Owen puts it, dapperly: “The exhibition alludes to the fact that London's private transport companies were the sponsors and often the creators of suburbia, extending their lines into open country, promoting the glories of the countryside, and then developing it out of existence.” Ah, the displaced rural nymphs. Myself, even as a boy loose in the suburbs of Atlanta, it amused me that the apartment complexes of Dekalb county would invariably give themselves names evocative of the stuff they had just bulldozed over in order to offer the 2bd 1bth for a reasonable 1970s price of 200 or 300 per month. Oakwood Trail. Sweetwater Acres. The exhibit's enthusiasm for suburbia apparently wanes after the swe