Once again: it’s not the “snobs” who close doors and forbid some kinds of art; it’s the anti-snobs. It’s not the “snobs” who go on and on about the illegitimacy of the art they don’t like; it’s the anti-snobs. It’s not the “snobs” who try to legislate their own taste, it’s the anti-snobs. It’s the anti-snobs who are conservative, smarmy, closed-minded, arrogant, and rude. It’s the anti-snobs. They’re the ones who shrink the world of what art can be and can do. They’re the ones living in caves, sniveling about how disrespected they are, trying with all their might to forbid the possibility that other people might like other things than they do. It’s just like I’ve been saying.
I dunno; you can read the Grantland piece Freddie links to, and then you can compare it to this from William Giraldi in TNR, which almost approaches moral panic-mongering over what it means about us as a culture that we tolerate so many philistines in our midst. (Speaking of which, despite the lack of top hats and monocles among the staff at that execrable magazine, this seems to be a recurring theme with them.) In Giraldi’s furious rant, note especially how the critical judgment of the art itself is inseparable from the scornful, snobbish assumptions about the intelligence and moral character of the people who willingly consume it. I don’t see any sense in being invested in the idea that one “side” of the great brow divide is worse about this than the other; it seems evident to me that humans, as social apes, are naturally obsessed with monitoring, judging, policing and condemning the thoughts and actions of the rest of the troop. Hermits are the only ones too removed or too crazy to care about the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is “doing X wrong” and having the audacity to be happy about it.
I mean, look, even a casual reader here should know how important books are to me, what a burning passion I have for reading. Take a moment, if you would, to contemplate just how often I talk about what I’m reading, how often I use a passage from a book as a springboard for my own musings. So, then, imagine what a massive, throbbing, gaping hemorrhoidal asshole you have to be to make me feel sympathy for non-readers. To wit:
Tell me the books you read and I’ll tell you who you are; tell me you read no books and I’ll tell you there is no you.
This is so breathtakingly stupid, so gratuitously obnoxious, that I am nearly struck dumb with amazement. This kind of assertion doesn’t deserve a counter-argument so much as a pillow held firmly over its face. And oh, sweet Lord, the irony; even as Leon Wieseltier leans over the battlements to bellow at Steven Pinker, it turns out the reductionist barbarians were inside the gates of the humanities all along!
May 22, 2014 @ 3:49 pm
The class snobbery in the last quote is awe inspiring.
I'll be honest. I read a lot…but 90% on line. So I guess there is no "me" because I really don't read all that many "books" anymore. Which may indeed be a "problem" as far as depth of thinking, etc.
As a connoiseur of black metal, I can stand outside the great popular culture debate and smirk, though. To a Troo Kult Metalhead, it ALL sucks, be it Justin Bieber, Macklemore, or The Strokes. (just kidding, just kidding. I even like Radiohead!)
May 22, 2014 @ 8:56 pm
Yeah, this is what happens when all those stupid "A study says reading literature makes you a better person!" stories turn malignant and metastasize.
Keep in mind, too, that it's not like book reading is a zero-sum game. It's not like for every copy of 50 Shades sold, that means one fewer copy of Henry James being read. It's not like, if only 50 Shades didn't exist, all those people would pick up a work of classic literature or history instead. The fact that people read trashy novels doesn't present the slightest threat to him or his ability to live in an elite intellectual world. This is just petty snobbery at its most pure, an asshole indulging in the joy of hating the fuck out of people for giving off the wrong signals.