October 18th, 2018

(no subject)

Listening to a brief piece on BBC, called The Point of View (and described as "a weekly reflection on a topical issue") reminded me how strongly I dislike the genre of essay (as I assume that piece might be categorized). It is as if the rules of the game are constantly changing: it lures the reader/listener by the promise of a thoughtful analysis, but turns out to be hardly an analysis at all; and the thoughtfulness turns out to be an illusion created by the author’s rich vocabulary, literary allusions and poetic techniques such as alliteration. The author seems to be about to make a point, but is too distracted by his memories, emotions, and associations to get down to it.

Prompted by Kavanaugh’s nomination, its message, if distilled into a short paragraph, would be that regardless of whether the man was guilty or not, he surely showed himself to be not a kind of a person one would normally want to be a judge (although, after watching John Oliver’s episode on elected judges, I am not sure what to think of them anymore).

Of course this simple message would not have made much of an essay; so the writer spins his yarn around this central core producing such sentences as "It's one thing giving up on one's gender; it's another giving up on one's profession", or "So don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Throw out the baby; keep the bathwater" (whatever the f that means). Or "What rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem, said the poet Yeats in his poem The Second Coming". Or "Why choose the frying pan as the only alternative to the fire; why leap from one instance of masculinist thuggery into the embrace of another? For they are still, almost without exception, these jesting, somehow or other democratically elected ruffians, men. And they must answer to something voters of both sexes should be ashamed to crave." And so on, and so forth, until he finally gets to Kavanaugh — and boom, "One could only too easily imagine how, even as a boy, a man so belligerent, thin-skinned, possessed of so grand a sense of entitlement, and so accustomed to getting his own way, might have brushed aside any attempt to deny him."

I mean, yuck! Ugh! This is a kind of style, so oversaturated with technique, so reeking of artsy refinement, that I can barely stomach.

(I remember being unable to read Mandelstam's essays for much the same reason)