Nov 11, 2004

Sunday Comedown

Well I already typed this once on Monday and the draft didn't save, so we're back at it again.

Usually the day after a trade show, I have a bit of an emotional letdown. It isn't out of depression or disappointment; it's just that after an event in which your mind and body are required to be on optimum levels, you go through a psychical kind of collapse, where you just vegetate. Curiously, this particular Sunday, I was pleased to find my mind still humming along, reflecting on how to push this publication ever further, and about things unfolding within the next couple of weeks.

Sunday I read all of Gordon's "Counterblaste" chapbook. I can see why he wondered why I would purchase this, because I tremble before his knowledge of literature (which I guess is equivalent to mine on film history). To be sure, I didn't get all of the references in his work, but even so, in his energetic and learned prose, there is an abundance of universal truths that anyone could recognize.

The one that most stuck with me was a point he made in his lengthy attack on John Metcalf. He illustrated a truth which I've long held. Before the early part of the 20th century, most of what we colloquially consider to be high culture was exactly that- classical music, literature, etc., was only enjoyed by the marginalized upper crust.

Of course with the proliferation of technology and the stratification of culture, there really is no such thing as that entity called high culture anymore, no matter how vainly they attempt to hang onto it. On the flip side of the coin, I don't believe that people on any rung of the social ladder would have less likelihood of enjoying such a thing if they were exposed to it. There is no reason to assume that a ditch-digger wouldn't like grand opera, that a cashier wouldn't go home to read Proust, or that a janitor wouldn't like Criterion's boxset of Stan Brakhage. And in today's ease of technology and proliferation of entertainment, there has never been a better chance for them to do so if they chose.

Basically, Gordon alludes to the fact that author John Metcalf is trying to hold on to this archaic notion that high culture should go back to what it originally meant- that it should only belong to a privileged few. And incidentally, his own work is encompassed in his vision of high culture. This nonsensical idea of cultural snobbery may not be as shocking or obscure as one may think. Primarily why people like Metcalf think so backwards is because they fear for their own identity. They are afraid of sharing anything perhaps because they lose their identity with the knowledge that others can do or appreciate the same things. It boils down to the "Indie Snob" phenomenon in the 90s- "I can only be hip if no one else is doing what I'm doing."

Therefore, Metcalf's idea is to take this cultural snobbery to an absurd and primitive degree. Only the so-called privileged (that is, sycophants whom he deems worthy of reading his work) should be allowed to dwell in high culture. This deconstructive theory helps no one in the long run. The underground is full of reverse thinking like this- people forget that sharing culture is the only way it survives. If people want to keep their own creative work to themselves, that's their business. However, who gives them the right to say whether or not someone else is worthy enough to appreciate it?

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