Voyou Désœuvré

Quentin Skinner rejects the idea of "understanding authors as they understood themselves," because how could we ever know? I never really paid much attention to how I read things when I was an undergraduate; rather, I picked up the strange form of telepathy practiced by analytic philosophers, where the text is merely some kind of mediating fetish object in the transfer of ideas from mind to mind (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Then I got beaten about the head by Quentin Skinner (figuratively; he’s actually a perfect gentleman, of course), and encouraged to think about how to read as it were self-consciously, paying attention to what it might mean that certain words and turns of phrase were chosen instead of others. But what I’d really like is to learn how to misread. Read more↴

 I’ve been reading Dorothy L. Sayers’s Murder Must Advertise. Above all, it makes me want to live in the twenties, when it would have been possible to call oneself a “Bolshevist,” but it is a fine book for many reasons, including this description of early Fordism: Read more↴

Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are said to be becoming "like sisters" Well, this can hardly be bad news. Read more↴

An 8 year old girl takes the Dawkins line on religion, enraging Bill O’Reilly.

Talking to a friend a while ago, he expressed surprise when I said that I found, in sad music, not tears and catharsis, but an odd sort of strength, or even cheer. “But listen to Miles Davis playing Concierto de Aranjuez,” he said; “how can you not feel the bleakness, the absolute despair in that record?” But what stops it short of being absolute despair is precisely the fact that it is a record. It’s not simply the bleak fact of despair, but a representation of despair; hence proof that something can be done with sadness. This kind of sublimation is not a theodicy, at least not in the traditional sense. The brute fact of suffering is not justified by the brute fact of redemption, rather, redemption, or the closest we can get to it, comes through the fact that suffering can be interpreted, that the fact that we suffer never determines what we then do with that suffering.

I was reminded of this by two things this week. Read more↴