Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Liberal Orthodoxy

. . . a reporter from the New York Times was interviewing me once for a piece fleshing out my take on country music with some personal data. His started his questions by asking what films I liked, and my first thought was that I should not say anything very pretentious. (Even the word films seemed to lead the way to disaster.) So I replied that, actually, I liked Adam Sandler's work very much. The writer paused, pen midair, beheld me gently, and said: "I'm going to do you a favor and not use that." Okay, I thought. We'll go with that, and say nice things only. The New York Times plays to a kind of audience, and it wants what it wants -- don't argue. But I was interested to see, when the piece came out, that my answer to the question What book are you currently reading? was framed as He claims to be reading Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence. Now, that book, like everything else Jacques Barzun has written, is for a general reader, not a way-out intellectual. The claims, in other words, is uncalled for. Plenty of country musicians are interested in Erasmus and 17th-century politics in Venice and so on, but aren't steeped in it enough to slog through a work of primary scholarship. That's nothing that should choke the average reader on his morning coffee.
— Robbie Fulkes, Potpourri, March 25, 2009


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The House of Intellect After Fifty Years

R. R. Reno, End of an Era, First Things:

Rereading The House of Intellect has helped me understand our times more clearly. Certain images recur: abdication, desire for release, and exhausted impotence. The adult world of achieved self-discipline abdicates to an adolescent world of spontaneity and desire. Among those charged with responsibility for cultural standards, Barzun sees a strong desire for “a release from responsibility.” People “idealize youth” and “hope that youth will bring to the conduct of life an energy that manners have sapped in their elders.” The really smart and ambitious intellectuals read the signs of the times and strike poses accordingly: “Nowadays it is assumed that all attacks on culture are equal in virtue, and that attacking society, because it is society, is the one aim and test of genius.”

Read also Frank Wilson, Get to Know Today . . ., in the blog BOOKS, INQ. — THE EPILOGUE, March 12, 2009.

Both tips thanks to David Lull.