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Showing posts from September 24, 2023

living in an essay: Musil

  This is how Shaw, in the preface to Heartbreak House (1919),   summed up the ruling class in prewar   England: “In short, power and culture were in separate compartments. The barbarians were not only literally in the saddle, but on the front bench in the House of Commons, with nobody to correct their incredible ignorance of modern thought and political science but upstarts from the counting-house, who had spent their lives furnishing their pockets instead of their minds. Both, however, were practised in dealing with money and with men, as far as acquiring the one and exploiting the other went ; and although this is as undesirable an expertness as that of the medieval robber baron, it qualifies men to keep an estate or a business going in its old routine without necessarily understanding it, just as Bond Street tradesmen and domestic servants keep fashionable society going without any instruction in sociology.” The war pulled back the curtains. The incredible lack of sense of the ruli

The prophet essayist

There are essayists who, as Virigina Woolf puts it, relate their “I” to the “rheumatism in your left shoulder”; and those who relate it to “the immortality of the soul”. Myself, I see a textual and genealogical difference between the two groups. The first are discursive, associative, and move outward to a world of doubts and quasi-comic situations. For the latter, it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a living god. They are prophetic, apophantic, revelatory, assertive. In the prophetic tradition, Nineveh is always wicked, and will always pay for it in keeping with the wrath of God. We are always in the valley of bones, asking if these bones will live. The former group are in it, ultimately, for the sport, the play, the sentiment. For every assertion there is a counter-example, and this is not to be met with some tremendous overthrow but with a certain modesty of scope. Universals will be used, but not to talk of the soul – rather, to talk of, say, the best way to roast a

Commodification on the streets of Paris

  “As I went out one morning”to quote a song, I strolled around the Marais until I came upon the Camper shoe store and “laboratory” on Rue Debelleyme, and I started to laugh. The laugh has to be backfielded. Go back to Paris this Spring. There were constant demonstrations against our squirt of a president, and this was accompanied by much black block versus the cops action. One of the black bloc signatures was to throw bricks through the windows of luxury goods shops and banks. I once saw a Gucci store that not only put the usual plywood over the window, but actually took down the Gucci sign, trying to hide. The result of this anti-capitalist fronde was that for a while, many streets in Paris sported shops with broken store windows. Now, Paris is the home of the art of the show window. Beginning with the consumer society of the 19 th century, this has been one of the constants, something the walker in the city looks out for. Show window design is an almost pure interface between