Crumps’ latest scene report contains a section in which I argue about America with another attendee of the Mars Review of Books launch party. I was trying, and perhaps failing, to persuade my interlocutor that there are ways to think about America that fall neither under the umbrella of self-hatred nor of self-exaltation.
America is a 3rd world shithole full of Christian fundamentalists and everyone is 1 medical bill away from financial ruin. Screw this place. I'm out. Maybe don't build your entire culture around money.
Have you considered that at least some of us who have not fled to Europe in search of such necessities as café society and the agreeably bohemian lifestyle that permits one to muse in wicker chairs with an interlocutor or two over a white marble table and cups of espresso, al fresco, about the legacy of Adorno or the latest rumblings raised by an article in one of the tabloids (LRB, NYRB: perhaps the title would give too much dignity to TNY)—have you considered that some of us have declined to do so not because New York is the place where “it” happens, but rather, perhaps, because of our cognizance of the duties we owe to this republic? To the support of our republic, in which the fate and fortunes of mankind are so deeply bound up? That, I think, is a perfectly good reason to tolerate the indignities of the American city. I half wonder whether you, like a Copley or a Henry James, would have fled with waving handkerchief to London when it was the preeminent fount of cultural production;—oh, what SOCIETY is to be had in the Athenaeum Club, what scrumptious repartee to be consumed at the table of Monckton Milnes—oh how thrilling it is for one to find oneself at the summit of that Parnassus from the snowy caps of which issue forth the great river of Culture, flowing slowly down to grace the gaping and parched mouths of the profanum vulgus—insert further tedium. James, at least, was justly rebuked by many of his American peers; Wharton observed tartly, and quite rightly, that “all for a mouthful of drivel he left us”. You, on the other hand, would face no such rebuke from the avowedly detached and aloof classes of today, who are much too good, too wise, too knowing for such quaint and small-minded attachments. Were the center for “all that” to go back to the other side of the Atlantic, and were you to consequently abandon America for Berlin, or some such other putatively hip place congenial to the urbane personality—who would even think twice? After all, WE know better now than to believe in such bumptious things as duties—as shared lives, shared fortunes, and shared and sacred honor—instead, a smirk, a look down into the cocktail glass, and “the world is very complicated, you know, and…” Surely one may expatriate oneself for a time without being a turncoat, and indeed one may do so in the service of one’s country. But you of course are thinking only of pleasure. In any case: Europe is a cultural backwater to be sure; but our glory is not our comparative sophistication. It is the fact that the basis of our whole society is a shared belief in certain principles, which many other societies may avow; but in no other society do such beliefs constitute the very foundation of their collective identity and sense of a shared destiny. Beware the murky radiance of “culture”.
I just can't leave, don't know why. I can't help but feel the creation of this country is some historic mishap, created from unparalleled will and equally-unparalleled suffering, something I can't get my head around still. I'll take my front-row seat, not going to exalt or hate it excessively.
Three paragraphs down into you piece in the New Statesman the editor added a break:
"[see also: A farewell to Enid’s, Greenpoint’s iconic “hipster” hangout]"
I walked into Enid's right after it opened and all I thought was that it felt like the Midwest, with slackers from suburban Illinois and junkie ex-cheerleaders. That was about the time I realized the only NY left that interested me, other than the street, was the world of immigrants. I was at a birthday party for one half of a couple from Malaga, with people from a dozen countries, and I realized I was the only native-born American. A few years later the first people to move out of my neighborhood in Queens not by necessity but choice, were the French. As a friend from Amsterdam put it: "The Americans are moving in". When I found out that Lorentzen was at the LRB I thought they must be slumming for the US audience.
"Even the pointless endless squabbling of the American culture war—which I have called an engine of unfreedom—is also a machine that originates new doctrines quickly copied from Brazil to Bessarabia, that generates entirely new lifestyles, physical-medical-cultural modes of life hitherto unknown."
A pretentious way to describe the Americanization of the world. Tragic, isn't it. And your description, and the names, of the the downtown Manhattan scene make it clear it began in LA. LA was an option for American NYers years ago, like Hongkongers in 97: get out altogether or move to Beijing; never mind art, just go to Hollywood. I know immigrants who came here for the same reason, for money at the center of the rot. Revenge is lording it in secret over Americans who think they run things, while taking their money. LA felt like dystopia with a beach. I loved it. I loved the Euros slumming. I loved the smog. There was no one to blame but ourselves. But I hate driving.
You make me imagine the spoiled children of Whit Stillman and Andrew Exum (but I doubt you even know the second name): kinky Alden Pyle. You think you're worldly, but you're not; barbarism to decadence, etc.
Jacobin, The Brooklyn Institute and the Brooklyn Rail were all founded by members of the Asian immigrant bourgeois with a nostalgia for the lost world of the "NY Intellectuals." The originals went to Brooklyn college and moved to Manhattan. The suburban fantasists, feeding the fantasies of their immigrant leaders, went to Harvard and moved to the boroughs.
"The American middle class committed two great crimes against American cities. First they left. Then they came back" It's not my line.
The woke crew are liberals who call themselves leftists. They're hypocrites but they mean well. The Brooklyn buppies are what they are: the new black middle class. And the NYT now gives them the luxury it once granted only to Jews: a potted history in celebration of oxymoronic liberal ethnic nationalism. And what hardened cynic is going to remind the black members of the editorial board that they meet under an autographed portrait of Theodor Herzl, who had a man-crush on Cecil Rhodes, as "a visionary" fellow colonialist. You? I don't think so. That would get in the way of your moralism.
You should read the new piece on the LRB blog on the NYT and Haiti. Ouch. https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2022/may/hello-columbus Again, that's not anything you'd be capable of writing.
Fascism is nothing more or less than high moralism combined with vulgar materialism, a knot of contradiction that ties itself tighter and tighter. Libertarian Integralism is a thing these days. I told one Catholic faggot all he wanted was for liberals to hate themselves as much as he hates himself. And he said "yes".
Lorentzen is wrong. American politics isn't boring. It's interesting.