Samir’s Selection 07/16/2014 (p.m.)
This Week in Fiction: Greg Jackson : The New Yorker
“Wagner in the Desert”I find it energizing when contradictory worlds come into close proximity, because it forces us to consider the choices we’ve made-or haven’t made but defaulted to-and the contingency of our lives. The more time you spend around people like you, of course, the less often you are compelled to ask tough questions of yourself and to justify your own decisions and values…. the bind in which I perceive a specific segment of my generation, caught between trying to remake the world we were born into and conspiring with that world to remain upper-middle-class. Ours is an era of unconscionable inequality, divergent pay scales, and stagnating wages. It seems increasingly hard to find jobs that speak to the spirit and validate a hugely expensive education andcontribute meaningfully to societyand grant the tokens of outward achievement through which, unfortunately, we often come to interpret our success. I have sympathy for those caught in this crucible. I may be one of them…. are we seeing the abilities of smart, enlightened young people be purchased by corporations that would otherwise lose this talent pool, at the price of one or two hundred thousand dollars a year? I have my own opinion, but I don’t pretend to know. The answer may hinge on whether we see business-the market-as the best (though imperfect) institution to mediate self-gratification and the public good…… about complicity and implication… I think art succeeds most fully when it engenders a sense of freedom in us, when it allows us to envision the world remade through our moral imagination.Who likes taking the true measure of one’s own implication?… we are virtually all implicated in the moral compromises of the status quo, whatever our choices…egotism-by-association…Gregor von Rezzori… Roberto Bolaño and Elena Ferrante … royalty has always been as much about performance as about the exercise of power… the daily business of manufacturing spectacle forces one to countenance the inseparability of power and the performance of power… Power is only ever other people’s belief in it… the appeal and threat of monarchy are very much alive. And this can only be a failure of democracy… a kind of relief at the idea of distinction independent of achievement. Achievement is difficult, unstable, ephemeral, often tainted by unacknowledged luck. It is also, always, comparative…one experience pretty common to many so-called upwardly mobile people in the early stages of their careers is that of being, in fact, something rather like a courtier. You attach yourself to people more powerful than you in your field or business, you assist them in often menial, sometimes substantive ways, and your own career and livelihood come to depend, to an extent, on your ability to buoy their egos and provide them with sympathetic and attentive company into which they can retreat from the “combat” of their high-powered jobs… the psychological degradation of ambitious urban work lives…therapy of any sort strikes me as the mediation of a schism between private, interior life and public, social life-how we want to feel and how the world makes us feel. Treating the symptoms always runs the risk of letting the deeper causes to go unaddressed.Moments of transcendence are bittersweet things. They can’t last and so are infused with a sense of their own impermanence. At the same time, the possibility of transcendental experience is something we spend much of our quotidian lives working to allow. power, money, and fame necessarily distance a person from authentic experience. People may pretend to care for you and perform all the outward manifestations of love, but you can no more command someone’s true feelings than that person can control them. The more one can compel or buy, the more valuable become those things that can only be freely given…the limits of power. The things most important to us in life, I’m convinced, depend on our getting them the right way. Love must be won, success earned. Friendship must be independent of position and fortune or else it’s just a quid pro quo, an arrangement of convenience…… the desire for personal success versus the allegiance to nobler, perhaps collective, values; the many competing notions of how to justify one’s own existence… the lure of bourgeois life versus the compromises and complicities of bourgeois life.The Parable of the Prodigal Son, as everyone knows, concerns wasteful living, extravagance, and the squandering of privilege… He wanted something more… driven by unanswerable longing and by an inability to fit neatly into the life that was limned for you at birth… the nagging sense that privilege and inheritance are unearned. The psychological effect of having or receiving more than one deserves may be guilt or repression, but it seems inevitably to involve an attenuation of one’s sense of self.The story of the prodigal son encourages us to aspire to a degree of compassion and forgiveness that is unnatural to us… Apartness in this reading is a kind of death; togetherness, life.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.