January 2010 Archives
Note [South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer]'s confidence that anything that oozes from his mouth will be taken for folk wisdom so long as he makes clear that he is extrapolating from the teachings of his grandmother, who, since she wasn't "highly educated" (i.e., corrupted by book learnin'), must have had her every utterance informed by the higher wisdom of the heart. Because of the failure of his own family to prepare him for his moment in the sun by spending their lives sitting by the outhouse eating dirt, George Bush, Jr. had no earthy forbears he could point to and had to prove that, despite his diploma from Yale, he was himself a self-made idiot.
On the other hand, the piece is in Bookforum, which makes up for the aggravation, and not a little.
That'll teach me to get my work in earlier, so that there is time to go over proofs.
UPDATE: In a very generous blog post, Arthur Goldhammer passes along an account of another, even more unfortunate rendering of the group's name.
Then again it isn't necessary to do so, because I see that one blogger has figured it all out:
The finalists for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced Saturday night in New York. Once again, the titles that made NBCC's final cut seem to comprise a list more intended to make a small group of people feel erudite rather than making a large group feel passionate about books and reading.
Man, it's like she was a fly on the wall! That is all we ever talk about.
We spend months and months looking for books to make ourselves feel erudite, of course, but that's the easy part. Then we have to make sure no titles get through that might make someone feel passionate about books and reading. That happened one year and the whole board felt just terrible about it.
Making sure that mistake is not repeated is not easy. At the face-to-face meetings, it brings out the worst in us. Things get ugly at times.
"I can't believe you want to nominate something that will make a large group feel passionate about books and reading!" someone will hiss, between sips of tea and bites of crumpet. "What are you, Oprah?" Sometimes, in response, crumpets and tea cups are thrown. By the time announcements were made on Saturday night, three people were limping from shrapnel; one lost the use of her right eye. (I believe this was the worst year on record for casualties.)
But keeping "a large group from feeling passionate about books and reading" is a struggle, and you know when you enlist that you might not survive every battle.
On reflection, I'm not sure I should publish this; someone will take it literally.
For the record: The arguments over books during the meetings I have attended never address the response of the public at all. They are always about the qualities of the books as such. That is what makes the debates so intense. It is hard to make comparative assessments in the first place, let alone to respond to challenges to how adequately you've characterized a given book -- and all of it while the clock is ticking.
Maybe we should try to get a reality TV show out of this.
PS. Note that the blogger offers no grounds whatsoever for implying that the NBCC finalists would not appeal to "a large group" of readers. The logic here (if you want to call it one) is that since the titles don't spark immediate recognition in one person's mind, they must have been selected by a cultural elite to snub the hoi polloi. This is the literary equivalent of Palinism.(How's that for an oxymoron?)
This is it -- succinct, timely, and absolutely to the point:
Verso has just reprinted his Marx for Our Times in paperback, and I'm now reading his newly translated book Strategies of Resistance, with an introduction by my friend Paul Le Blanc
The quality of Daniel's intelligence was to combine theory and practice, intuition and political understanding, ideas and organisation. He could, at the same time, lead a stewarding force and write a theoretical text.
He was one of those who inspired a fight which combined principles and political boundaries with openness and a rejection of sectarianism. Daniel, his own political convictions deeply rooted in him, was always the first to want to discuss, to try to convince, to exchange opinions, and to renew his own thinking....
Although seriously ill he overcame it for years, thinking, writing, working on his ideas, never refusing to travel, to speak at rallies or attend simple meetings. Daniel set himself the task of checking the solidity of our foundations and passing them on to the young generation. He put his heart and all his strength into it. His contributions, at the International Institute in Amsterdam, in the summer universities of the LCR and then of the NPA, at the Fourth International youth camp, made an impact on thousands of comrades. Transmitting the experience of the LCR to the NPA, Daniel decided to accompany the foundation of our new organisation with a relaunch of the review Contretemps and forming the "Louise Michel" society as a place for discussion and reflection of radical thought.
Daniel was all that. And in addition he was warm and convivial. He loved life.
Although many "68ers" turned their coats and abandoned the ideals of their youth, Daniel abandoned none of them; he didn't change. He is still with us.
I always regarded him as something like the heir to Ernest Mandel. My own attitude towards that tradition is a mixture of heterodoxy and fidelity. Watever its limitations, it is infinitely preferable to the prevailing cynicism. It is sad to learn of his death; his persistance and patience were an example it will be hard to replace.
The tribute albums fared worst of all. Countless things bought on impulse testify to the days when I did that sort of thing. It is also possible that I still have far too many CDs by the New York Dolls and the MC5 -- who, after all, did not produce all that much material to begin with, and the distinct charm of live performance is usually not that rewarding given the limited space. (Some of the Dolls stuff sounds like the mic was planted in the nightclub's toilet.) I will probably thin those sub-sections out a bit next time around.
On the other hand, my collections of hillbilly, Western swing, skinhead reggae, and Benny Goodman recordings all remain intact. Likewise, the anthologies of British-invasion imitation bands from Fort Worth circa 1965 are staying put. The craving might return and it's not like replacing them is an option.
In the meantime, I learn that Peter Terzian has just started a blog called Earworms. "Each post will be about a song," he says, "and there will be videos and, once I figure it all out, streaming music." Peter edited a collection of essays called Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums that Changed Their Lives, published last summer, which I highly recommend.
But just to be clear, this does not mean that I am going to be getting any more CDs now just because there is actually some room on the shelves. No, it does not. I will take note of Peter's enthusiasms from a distance and leave it at that. Being too prone to enthusiasm is how I ended up with all those Ventures albums. That'd better not happen again.
So as not to go too far afield, I didn't mention in the column something that came up when talking with DeMott -- that, in a way, a predecessor for what he's doing is The Scene Before You: A New Approach to American Culture, which Chandler Brossard edited in the mid-1950s.
A predecessor maybe, but not an influence: DeMott told me he'd never heard of it. But I stick by the characterization, even so.
Coming just weeks after the Modern Language Association revealed historic drops in the availability of jobs for English and foreign language professors, the data show that while new English and foreign language Ph.D.'s may have a particularly tough time finding employment, they are by no means alone.
The number of jobs listed with the American Historical Association fell 23.8 percent in 2008-9 and the total jobs listed -- 806 -- was the smallest in a decade. And the 23.8 percent figure doesn't reflect the extent of the drop: A survey by the AHA of those departments that posted jobs found that about 15 percent of searches were called off after positions were listed.
And the American Economic Association, which started its annual meeting Sunday, is reporting a drop in new academic jobs listed of 19 percent in the 2009 calendar year. While plenty of new Ph.D. economists seek employment outside of academe, many of the companies that hire them are also facing financial turmoil. The drop in the association's job postings for work outside of academe was even greater: 24 percent.
Both fields are reporting stable or increasing production of Ph.D.'s, so demand for openings that do exist is expected to be particularly intense. Not all academic jobs are listed with disciplinary associations. But the associations' data -- which use slightly different time frames -- are considered excellent proxies for hiring trends; many of the jobs they do miss are off the tenure track, and thus are not those most sought by those on the market.
As it happens, a couple of people who know my work quite well made arrangements about three years ago under which I would (in spite of having no degrees at all) be admitted into a Ph.D. program in history at a prominent university. I was appreciative, and for a while did consider the possibility very carefully. Either of two long-term research projects I have been working on for some time now would make for a viable dissertation. It is kind of a pain to do them all by my lonesome, and I'd get something for the effort.
As things shook out, I let the idea lapse, in spite of feeling deep gratitude to the parties involved. It's complicated. I might change my mind and go ahead with it. But honestly, what is the incentive to do so at this point?
It isn't simply a matter of wanting to maintain fidelity to a certain model of intellectual life (neither Kenneth Burke nor C.L.R. James had more formal education than I've had). That, too, probably.But the whole market in credentializing seems profoundly dysfunctional, if only too stable, in some ways.I have friends who are on the track and obviously can't recommend any any alternative course. All I can do is worry about them.
The only reason to hold back from the conclusion that things can't go on like this is the absence of any particular reason to think they won't. Sort of like capitalism in that regard.
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Joe Horowitz on music
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog