Monday, June 30, 2008

The Average

His peasant parents killed themselves with toil
To let their darling leave a stingy soil
For any of those smart professions which
Encourage shallow breathing, and grow rich.

The pressure of their fond ambition made
Their shy and country-loving child afraid
No sensible career was good enough,
Only a hero could deserve such love.

So here he was without maps or supplies
A hundred miles from any decent town;
The desert glared into his blood-shot eyes;

The silence roared displeasure: looking down,
He saw the shadow of an Average Man
Attempting the Exceptional, and ran.

"The Average," W.H. Auden
Summer 1940

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Politics and Markets

The world is not so governed from above that private and social interest always coincide. It is not so managed here below that in practice they coincide. It is not a correct deduction from the principles of economics that self-interest always operates in the public interest. Nor is it true that self-interest generally is enlightened; more often individuals acting separately to attain their own ends are too ignorant or too weak to attain these. Experience does not show that individuals, when they make up a social unit, are always less clear sighted than when they act separately.

The Collected Writings, Vol. IX, 1971-1989
John Maynard Keynes

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Left and Right

When someone asks me whether the split between parties of the right and parties of the left, between men of the right and men of the left still makes sense, the first idea that strikes me is that the man asking this question is certainly not a man of the left.

Qu'appelex-vous droite at gauche, Beau de Lomenie

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Modernism in Art, Literature, and Political Theory

Both avant-gardism and modernism responded to the increasing commodification of Western culture, the one by somehow decorrupting or extracting the otherness out of the commodified object to produce art, the other by fleeing the commodified object altogether in quest of art as 'pure form'.

"Modernism in Art, Literature, and Political Theory," Walter L. Adamson

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mao II

Beckett is the last major writer to shape the way we think and see. After him, the major works involve midair explosions and crumbling buildings. This is the new tragic narrative.

Mao II, Don DeLillo

Monday, June 9, 2008


The unbuilt is characteristic of those arts whose realization requires the renumerated work of many people, the purchase of materials, the use of expensive equipment, etc. Cinema is the paradigmatic case: anyone can have an idea for a film, but then you need expertise, finance, personnel, and these obstacles mean that ninety-nine times out of a hundred the film does not get made. Which might make you wonder if the prodigious bother of it all -- which technological advances have exacerbated if anything -- isn't actually part of cinema's charm, since it gives everyone access to moviemaking, in the form of pure daydreaming. It's the same in the other arts to a greater or lesser extent. And yet it is possible to imagine an art in which the limitations of reality woudl be minimized, in which the made and the unmade would be indistinct, and art that would be instantaneously real, without ghosts. And perhaps that art exists, under the name of literature.

Ghosts, Cesar Aira