Friday, April 18, 2003

I see that Norman Mailer has a new book out called The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing. You can find some reviews here and here, if interested.

I gave up reading Mailer years ago. I found his writing too macho, pugilistic, sexist and too much of a traditional conservative baroom brawler. I recall that I stopped reading his work about the time that I sort of decided that Anglo-American literary culture was in decline.

I do appreciate Mailer as the political being and his ability to decode those American flag conservatives (neo-cons) who desire an Empire as a way to prevent the country from going down the drain. Mailer reads the subtexts of that political scene very well; understands the flag conservatives (ie., the neo-cons) deep hate for Bill Clinton when he was US President; and he is able to clue right into an American political unconscious that is marked by a great guilt that it has meant the Americans have lost their compassion.

Mailer also has a sense of the tragic. He understands that Israel has now become one more powerhouse in the world; that they treat the Palestinians as if the Palestinians were ghetto Jews; and that Sharon is a brute, a powerhouse general, whose defense would be that “I am what fate has made me.”

To his credit Mailer understands that Anglo-American literary culture was in decline. He grasps that the new media of television, radio, and substandard cinema----the culture industry----has caused literature as art to wither into a literary journalism. And journalism has withered into entertainment ass they became cogs in the production machine of the culture industry. Something went badly wrong with an Anglo-American literary culture in the last quarter of the 20th century---writers are no longer taken seriously anymore----but Mailer is unsure what to do about it.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

wog sterotypes

The server was down last night. I could not post a weblog in Victor Harbor after giving a talk on the Murray River to the local Marine Society. It was a good socratic question and answer session. I will post the talk on sometime next week.

We have two days of rest and recuperation on the coast before we go back to Adelaide to finish the painting. We need it as the stress of shifting household is starting to tell. Suzanne has had a migraine for three days straight and is completely out of action. Ari has not eaten for 4 days though he was chasing rabbits this morning.

And renting the electronic cottage has become a hassle.The person selected highly groomed 20's passive something who works in a bank, has a bright, confident, independent persona, and who gaily signed the lease contract last Monday with the flourish of a merchant banker. Lebanese, but definitely not wog glam. Nor a wog sterotype who did not make a radical distinction between wog heritage and Aussie nationality.

The aspiring mechant banker was a bundle of neuroses. We had two phones a day haggling then saying no then yes, then no then yes then no. Family troubles you see. Lebanese immigrant culture. The parents will not allow a mid-20s single woman to live on her own. Wog culture really is anti-urban and anti-liberal. No doubt the 20's something was full of shame because of her foreignness.

Once the shift to the urban townhouse has been made, then we are off for a holiday in Mallacoota; well, more specifically it's the Inlet in East Gippsland, Victoria via the Great Alphine Road A week there to get to know the place.

Will there be an internet cafe in Mallacoota? There is a community weblog but, if there is such a cafe, then I reckon that internet will be a problem. But I don't want no Victorian cultural tourism

Then back home to Adelaide through Melbourne, that great melting pot of wog culture----(Sydney says it is the
multicultural capital
), then along the Great Ocean Road yet again.

Aaah, being a tourist in my own land seek a range of cultural experiences on the road by passing the signs that celebrate white settlement and refuse to offer any kind of critical account of Australian history. Driving through the country towns will be stepping into the pioneer idea of the past as a set of signs, or a set of icons that sit there for easy consumption.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

making it plain

If you to want to see support for the view that the war on Iraq has really been about the cultural wars in Australia, then this piece by Andrew Bolt makes it very plain. It's pay back time for the 1968ers and those who opposed Australia's involvement in Vietnam.

The political unconscious here is one which represents the left as supporting evil (terror, tyranny and genocide); the left driven by the dark passions of resentment and loathing and a left that sneers. Resisting the bad forces are the forces of goodness.

Bolt says it plainly:

"The war in Iraq has been won well. Let's move on to the next war -- a war for our culture. A war for truth, rationality, humanity, democracy and wisdom. Let the accountability begin."

In this war scenario the left is held to be against truth, rationality, humanity democracy and wisdom. The left is the Counter-Enlightenment. Its against the heritage of the West. It is opposed to liberty.

The tone of the conservative attack is harsh. Blood is required for atonement for the past attacks on the West. Sacrifices need to be made. Retribution is necessary. Its a culture war.
Nice quote and .....

"...high culture ... is no longer the dominant culture but is rather a pocket within commodity culture'

(John Frow, Cultural Studies and Cultural Value, Oxford, Clarendon 1995, p. 86).

And the moment of high literary culture? It still stands for the old narrative stories of the intellectual as outsider – the 'maverick' who preserves or redeems the space of rational public discourse from the ravages of the marketplace, the mass media or culture industry and politics. This high literary culture is an aesthetic one that is disdainful of academic life and the plodding dreary academic scholar or researcher for their lack of taste in a lifestyle sense. They come across as monkish hermits who have no sense of romance, joy, flirtation and the pleasures of desire.

I know. They were the very people Suzanne rejected as tenants for the electronic cottage. They were beyond the pale by definition.

Now a single working class female psychiatric nurse who was also a writer of literature -----aah that was a very different story.

The space of the aesthetic in public life is the space that stands in for “unalienated labor”, the whole person. Sorry Chutney and Invisible Adjunct; you got the wrong institution. It ain't the academy, the realm of cold hard theory. Its the literary institution that centres around immediacy, individual experience, sensousness, the unique and sensibility.

It is a literary culture that refers back to European culture and instinctively repudiates philosophy (theory) and criticism (negative harping) whilst emphasising good literary writing. It is an art or a writing that fulfills the hunger for the humane, the spiritual and the remembrance of things past.

Outsiders and mavericks? Well hardly. In a world emptied of meaning these literary voices wearing the mantle of cultural authority are filling the void whilst continuing to distance themselves from the common life.

Its easy to imagine their moral sensibility. Romantic love gone wrong. Boy betrays girl. Young girl hangs herself with the blue ribbon of her lost childhood. The style is effusive with a serious moral undergone. Its all very literary and hastily put together. Standard photo of moody literay type on back cover.

And me? I'm just searching for a way to make melancholy cultural criticism sexy.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Its still the eyes

Blogger was down last night so I could not post at the end of another long day of painting the electronic cottage and dealing with possible tenants.

How do you decide between those interested? A single woman who works in a bank; a young professional couple; a working class nurse just arrived from Sydney; a male academic just arrived from Brisbane on a research contract; a young Korean couple in American street wear who are overseas students and can't speak a word of English; a young lower middle class guy returned from overseas who has a dog; Australian student couple with a hippie/grunge dress style; a young couple planning to live inner city even though the women is terrified of all the nasties that stalk the city streets at all hours etc etc.

What I did notice was that eye contact was still a part of human interaction in establishing trust as one human being to another. It was embodied in the negotiations around 'expressons of interest' that lead to a market contract and to the exchange of money for a service.

Eyes are still the more intimate place of connection betweenone human being and another; the place where human beings continue to express our trust in another being and to the world of convention that joins us.The light of free and generous eyes is most openly expressed in terms of romantic encounters---though not those on the Internet and is what is most cherished.

Of course when the romance goes right, convention is flouted and we are betrayed by naked self-interest we seek revenge by wishing to blind those who have betrayed us and weep false tears. American's miss this, as the deep wish for revenge in American movies shown on TV is usually expressed in terms of killing the other; or mutilating their genitals. Much better to return to the Greeks (eg; Hecuba) and mutilate their vision. They abused 'the look of the eyes', the promise with trustworthy look, and so blind to romantic convention. We turn away from them in disgust.

In such situations why not set the world to rights by bringing to light what is really between the romantic couple? Mutilate the vision of the betrayer because they are blind to convention?

Does that not capture the tragic moment of romantic love?