W. Kandinsky: "There are no 'musts' in art." T.S. Eliot: "There is no freedom in art." Dostoievski character, after the ancient Middle East epigram: "Everything is permitted."
(R-rated weblog. Since one has been advised there is no Literature anymore, or even literature, only writing, one proceeds on the premise that this weblog qualifies as not-meaningless, since it is, or appears to be, a form of "writing." Image: Banksy.)
I am waiting patiently for it to dawn
on your copy editor that the appropriate method for your magazine to deal with
the near-ubiquity of gutter language throughout contemporary culture and
written discourse is to use the * to show that The New Yorker has some sensitivity to the fact that there was a
time when profanity was perhaps the arch symbol of gauche people and that there
is no obligation to let that time go down the drain. Yes, a word of profanity
with an asterisk (F*ck that!) is an artificiality, a pointless disguise, a sign
of being uptight and out of touch with today’s world and the relentless
evolution of the English language, a mark of repression, a violation of the
First Amendment, and on and on, etc., etc., etc., but you know what? It is the
only reasonable way to prevent the soiling of children who read this magazine,
(a publication that in almost every other way is the best there is, in my
opinion), and the irritation of geezers who believe words should be chosen with
care, that decorum and delicacy are not reprehensible, that one should not walk
into someone’s living room with sh*t on one’s shoes, or one’s tongue.
Or at least use the asterisk in every
other issue, or every other story, or once in a blue moon if that’s all that
can be managed, anything
countervailing would be welcome. What is gained by abject and total surrender
to the current vogue of giving Joe Sixpack language, dive bar language, prison
language, complete access to the printing press? Shouldn’t some resistance be
shown, some objection? Words matter, no? Obscenity in a novel is no problem;
but in a magazine representing the zenith of American culture? You are
condoning the free use of obscenities in the midst of refined and important
thinking, and the thought of this grates. I’m probably the six thousandth
person to write to you about this and have a sunken feeling I am not going to
accomplish anything by sending you this letter, but I look forward, at least,
to hearing your response, or someone’s there. All the budding Burroughs out
there should not be allowed to dominate, to lead the way, to set the tone.
Separately, I sometimes feel a law
should be passed to prohibit the cartoons—they are so potent a form of
communication they almost put the articles to shame, often conveying more in
one glance, one instant, than a writer does in half an hour, or longer. It’s
not fair! But were the cartoons to disappear, life would no longer be worth
living, so forget I mentioned it.
Keep up the good work!
With kind regards,
Mr. David Remnick, Editor, The New Yorker
1 World Trade Center, New York NY 10007 *************************************************************************** NO REPLY, (naturally)
Over and over and over and over again, and again, book reviewers tell us such-and-such a title by Author Whoever is "hilarious." Over and over. Apparently the world is crawling with hilarious writers. I'm weary of it. I'm weary of reading this adjective over and over and over again. As even the stone-cold dead-serious-stupid know, humor is a primary means by which depressives cope with their intolerable lives. So the next time you read a puff-quote about an author's "hilarity," remember--often, they're miserable people. So you are not required to feel inadequate when comparing yourself to them, as you will unavoidably do, saying to yourself, "Where's the hilarity in my writing? Where's the hilarity in my life?" Hilarity has an underside, and you can live without it.