Kathe Kollwitz, The March of the Weavers. Engraving. 1897. Stadtmuseum, Munich, Germany.
Though the brutal winter appears to be retreating with its last snows, and the malchicks buzz with Lydia Davis, Renata Adler, and David Ohle, I must admit that things do not look as bright as they might. A Bernhardtian hangover? Eh? A lack of indulgence for the Prousts, Musils, Knausgaards, and Ferrantes? Or perhaps I just want things to be simpler and more narrative. Springtime, when the dogwood blossoms remind me of a certain some would say too dearly departed. Another Easter having failed even in my sham Catholicism, motivated primarily by an unread affection for the medieval logicians, and for whoever wanted to keep Aristotle alive in the west, and for that Plotinus, experiencing his revival in some whirlpools of the academy, and this Passover Seder is late.
But, for the very first time I have gone sugaring this weekend, utterly by accident. Lo and it was a good maple boil all around, in a dark wood shed at the top of a hill, replete with winding mud drive, Gus, the dumb doe-eyed black lab lumbering, an old timer hard-of-hearing in the corner, and a tall Vermonter as master-of-ceremonies, tossing wood into the fire and shoving the cast-iron door shut with a scuffed boot. We had cans of beer, snacks, crullers–“crawlers”–and whisky to mix with the sap. And there I was expecting my first time would be all cretons and tire a l’erable. Alas there was even a laconic dairy farmer of my acquaintance and his earnest paramour smiling on the works. I spent the weekend between them and WASPs hashing over which Caribbean Island was the breeziest. On the other hand Grandma is a real gem of the Romantic tradition, staunchly Country Mouse. Come back soon, dear.
But back at the ranch things have been, well, mixed. While yours truly sees little of the outside world, as a working dame, it seems The Word has had its 40th anniversary party, Adrian King-Edwards presiding. The venerable QDM has a reading with Robert imminently, Mr. Wells & Ms. Sarah also en-billed. The last hide or hair of old Argo crew I ran into, he porting all black, was outside the Notre Dame laundromat. And I’m sorry to report that the Coen Brothers’ own Canadian Poet Norm Sibum has been down-for-the-count in a certain Jewish General, news of which must be saved for his own telling, perhaps another day.
We have been watching a certain rather outmoded Slovenian cultural critic-cum-superstar, he of the sweaty black t-shirt, he of the strained Lacan exegesis, he of the supermodel wives, exhort that perhaps ours is a time to not act, only think. About some way for the overturn of capitalism in its two predominant flavors– authoritarian and neoliberal–to be in favor of something that includes genuine pluralism and individual rights. Which we will not have at the hands of demagogues, Christian or otherwise. Forgive me if the time to get out in the streets against Bill C-51, or more cutbacks, or tear-gas-cannisters-to-the-face seems altogether too short for getting one’s Hegel, Marx, Feuerbach, and Adorno down.
Maybe the failure of American dreaming isn’t as robust as old world cynicism, where politics are concerned, and Sibum and I are just immigrant fire & brimstoners. Though our communal politico-aesthetic natter is falling short of something. The us & them stock narratives, resistance to it, or ArtNews, while I suspect that postmodernism is convenient for oligarchy: there are some nice haps among the young writers of the city, capturing a zeitgeist, enjoying the boons of CSS3 on the World Wide Web. Preoccupation with jadedness is a timeless form. And politics of reform will remain in mired in the symbolic, the stock in trade of critique.
I think the Roman analogy falters. Where their cultural heritage was of mythic, Homeric, and tragic Greece, fueled by character, our collective struggle may be more Rommel in the Reich or The Wire–attempts to stick our collective fingers in a broken dyke. It could be the spring again, but methinks on the Black Block…