Considerations on the Cultural History of the Top of My Head

Between overdue work and impending travel, this will probably be my last entry here until the new year. I would like to use it to invite any readers who will be at MLA in Chicago to get in touch. I'm expecting to meet a couple of people in person for the first time there, and to say hello again to a few others. My schedule is still pretty open, though I need to make definite plans over the next few days.

But first, I am going to blog about my hair.

When a marriage is well into its second decade (I proposed during the first Clinton inauguration, or rather amidst it) and it turns out there is something you can do that your spouse finds particularly appealing and attractive -- well, then it is undoubtedly a good thing not to take this for granted, and just to go along with it.

So it came to pass that, twice over the past eighteen months or so, I let my hair grow out. She likes this a lot. There are waves in my hair, it seems. I never would have noticed this, let alone regarded it as a good thing; but evidently so, in the eyes of the one whose opinion in this matters.

At some point along the way, usually around the seventh or eighth month, the effect has been rather like that associated with Bernard-Heni Lévy, the best-known member of the group from thirty years ago called the New Philosophers ("by a double antiphrasis," as Castoriadis once put it with a certain wicked economy):


Enough guys my age are going bald that, yes, there is a bit of will-to-power involved in this. But the whole thing goes against my nature. Over the next year, we're going to hear a lot more about the generation of '68 than anyone should have to do. But I am no hippy, nor was ever meant to be -- and sooner or later, the hair began to weigh on me, quite literally. It became distracting. My wife liked it, which was good; but she did not like the grumbling.

And so now, once again, I look like Soviet futurist poet Vladmir Mayakovsky:


This really is for the best. Of course, I might well think otherwise upon arriving in Chicago in the dead of winter, when the extra insulation could prove useful.

UPDATE: A concerned reader asks, "Did you keep the facial hair?" Yes, I did. So we're talking more or less a cross between Mayakovsky and Bukharin at this point.

December 17, 2007 9:26 AM | | Comments (7)



Hilarious, but may I make a very strong aesthetic plug for a reversion to the mean?

All talk of moderation and "a happy medium" is just so much Menshevizing idealism, to be dismissed with a wave of the hand.

I expect to use the expression "Menshevizing idealism" a lot at MLA, of course. That's it in a nutshell really.

You obviously have not seen the picture of Lenin during the "July days" when he shaved his beard and mustache. Those were the days, when shaving was the way to achieve a disguise as a mere proletarian.

Menshevism, schmenshevism.

Of course I have. But Lenin was a master at temporary retreats necessary to consolidate future gains; and anyway, if he hadn't let them grow back, then Red October might never have happened.

I could use this as an occasion (however farfetched) to begin arguing my theory that the degeneration of the Third International began during the Second Congress, when a proposal that all speeches be translated into Esperanto was effectively killed by Zinoviev. But that can wait for another day.

Oh, yeah? Well, I'm issuing a pamphlet on your haircut, to be entitled One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

That hurts, though not as much as Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade McLemee.

In all seriousness, I do own a book with a title of the same formulation, except the renegade is Tim Wohlforth. This appeared after Gerry Healy expelled Wohlforth as leader of the American wing of international Healyism. (For anyone who has never heard of Healyism: Trust me, you are better off not knowing.)

Somehow, he got over this. If I ever see Tim again, I am going to ask him to inscribe my copy.

Curious your post about hair, and how both men seem as if they could exist today (although one is in color, the other b/w). Lice was probably responsible for short hair at one point in history, and maybe long hair was the result of poor cutting implements, laziness or both. Just watched the second edition of Elizabeth and was a bit shocked at the wigs QE 1 wore. What were these people thinking?

Happy holidays and all that stuff...

Matthew Rose/Paris, France

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This page contains a single entry by Quick Study published on December 17, 2007 9:26 AM.

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