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Showing posts from November 16, 2014

the agony of not writing.

There is a plot of a short story by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovskii that I would love to read, although I don't think it has been translated into English, yet, and I only read a summary of it by a russian scholar: “The Life and Times of a   Thought”. The thought occurs in Immanuel Kant's brain, where it is happy and everything is glorious. And then it has to be written down, which depresses the thought utterly. Apparently, writing is to a thought what the rack is to a man being questioned by the Inquisition. What an idea! … Which brings me to this post. I’ve been pondering the Krzhizhanovskii story. I recognize in it not only a familiar modernist trope (writing as the scene of the agon – Flaubert’s famous throes of dispair on his sofa as he tears apart and rebuilds a single page in Madame Bovary), but also a human predicament. As literacy spread in the early modern era, so did the introduction of a writing system into people’s lives. Literacy did not always mean the abilit

Marx and the machine man

As poor as a machine “And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”. “ “While the division of labor increases the productive power of labor, and the wealth and refinement of society, it leads to the impoverishment of the laborer until he sinks to the level of the machine. While labor incites the accumulation of capitals and thus the increasing well being of society, it makes the laborer ever more dependent on the capitalist, thrusts him into a greater competition, drives him into a rush of overproduction, from which follows an equivalent slump.”  - Marx Leszek Kolakowski has written that Marx, unlike the socialists of the 40s, had a firmer grasp of the fact that capitalism was rooted in de-humanization. His economic analysis does not marginalize this insight, but builds upon it – which is why Marx never puts the market at the center of economic analysis, even as he is able to represent the reasons

the homeric cliche

In Les Fleurs de Tarbes, Jean Paulhan’s exasperated tract (which holds a position in modern French literature similar to that held by Cyril Connolly’s Enemies of Promise in English lit ), Paulhan puzzles over the growth, in literature, of what he calls a “terrorist” ethic – an ethic that proscribes all cliché, all “literary-ness”, that makes literature only out of renouncing literature, or hunting it down and exploding it. As he points out: “ The classic poets welcomed proverbs cliches and common sentiments from every direction. They welcomed abundance and gave it in back to those around them. But us, we who have little, we risk at every instant to lose that little.” The “war on cliché” – to use Martin Amis’s hackneyed phrase declaring his allergy to hackneyed phrases, which as is the way of allergies is a disease of the immune system that is constructed to fight disease, a disease that turns on the immune system’s excess - was first declared in France. Independence from the commo

NYT columnists Nocera and Kristof divide up the compassion-labor

At the NYT, the columnists have seemingly decided to divide up the labor of compassion. It has fallen to Nicolas Kristof to worry about the Cambodian orphan and the Thai sex worker, and it has fallen to Joe Nocera to worry about the oppressed billionaire. Last week, Nocera was very worried about BP, which was on the verge of being plucked by no account peasants. Hasn’t the company suffered enough for killing ten men and destroying the Gulf ecology for a year? It is all on account of trial lawyers, Nocera gravely intoned. You know, if the justice system would simply secede entirely from the jury system and allowing the poor to have lawyers, we could get some things done in this country. Today, Nocera is shedding copious tears over various Russianbillionaires, represented by Bill Browder, who made a pile in Russia during thetime that Nocera euphemistically calls the Wild West period – Yeltsin’s time, when all corruption was excusable because it was in such a good cause! – and is no