Skip to main content


Showing posts from July 24, 2016

just say no to freakonomic parenting

There’s a lovely passage in an essay by Cynthia Ozick about the trick of personal identity. She is writing about seeing herself as an old woman, and feeling a certain “generational pang” about seeing young people rise up in the literary world that she has long been part of. “All the same, whatever assertively supplanting waves may lap around me – signals of redundancy, or of superannuation – I know I am held fast. Or, rather, it is not so much a fixity of self as it is of certain exactnesses, neither lost nor forgotten; a phrase, a scene, a voice, a momment. These exactnesses do not count as memory, and even more surely escape the net of nostalgia or memoir. They are platonic enclosures, or islands, independent of time, though not of place: in short, they irrevocably are. Nothing can snuff them.” This exactness of the person is what so painfully escapes me, what so painfully is missing, when I read about parenting. Amy Davidson, in this week’s New Yorker,

on not knowing what pokemon go is

To pay attention to pop culture takes energy – like anything else. One can choose to pay attention to, say, Taylor Swift’s feud with Kim Kardashian or not, but attention is not free, and the payoff is not guaranteed. Perhaps, in the end, the feud won’t amuse you. Perhaps it will even leave a sour feeling – you will feel like you didn’t want to go into it. The pop culture rush, which is administered by thousands of media sites, is supposed to overwhelm any  prudence you might feel about your attention, and even make it laughable that you haven’t “given” it to some phenomenon that everybody knows about. Usually, the media sites can rely on shaming techniques among the audience, who will pick some certain piece of information and make the person who doesn’t know that piece of information feel embarrassed about his ignorance. Shame and information are linked from our earliest days. I see myself using shame, ocassionally, to make Adam know things. I find it weird, when I step back, that

london calling opening

Where'd I see this guy?  Last night we went to the opening of the London Calling show at the Getty. I hated the title, since the Clash song – which the DJ played as we ate fish and chips and drank our wine – is about rioting and the ice age (Thatcherism), not the particular bourgeois fantasies enacted in the paintings in the show. Not that I am criticizing those fantasies, far from it – but there was no punk sensibility there. The works by Frank Auerbach, Leon Kosoff, Lucien Freud, R.B. Kitaj, and Michael Andrews – composed, according to the curator, Julian Brooks (I think – I couldn’t hear the name of the gent who was supposed to lead the invitees through the justification for the exhibition), a school of London that showed that New York critics who, in the fifties, had proclaimed the death of figuration were wrong. It was a pretty plain aesthetic argument, and I think a false one. Abstraction not only submerged figuration, it produced the conditions that would assure t