Saturday, May 30, 2009

Love song for Judith Warner

One thing the NYT gets: the op ed page should be opened up to a much wider variety of comment on a much wider variety of subject than is normal for a big paper. The Washington Post not only fields a mostly rancid old crew of farts, but a rancid old crew of farts who write in the most tiresomely predictable ways about the most tiresomely predictable subjects. Admittedly, it is fun that the internet version of WAPO has a comments section where you can hurl baseballs at the clowns, but basically, Hiatt is not only another rancid old fart, but a terrible editor, a coddler of just those writers the second audience – the country club audience – likes, but who have no appeal beyond that. True, the regular columnists at the NYT do the same thing – witness the NYT’s search for a “conservative’ to balance the liberals that ended up foisting Douthat upon us –but the marginal columnists, the occasional ones, the subsection on drinking, for instance – has been a brilliant use of op ed space. That they have Olivia Judson doing a science/environmental column is brilliant – and really, that is the space they should be filling in the regular columnist spot, conservationist, not conservative. Rebecca Solnit should be begged, offered big bucks, whatever to get her to write a twice weekly column for the paper.

But this is a love song for Judith Warner.

In my head, I have several pictures, Van Gogh once wrote his bro’. No shit! And in my head too! My pictures are of the impossibly limo liberal society of the late sixties, which I have read about not only in the satires of Tom Wolfe, but in the novels of Paula Fox, the stories of John Cheever, the essays/fictions of Norman Mailer – where they function as the appalled onlooker. Moneyed people, who all went to the Ivies and all came out to make more money while, at the same time, retaining a certain large interest in the culture at large. The kind of bourgeoisie that the artist was made to slug – until they disappeared into the black hole of the “business school’, and came out with zero sense of culture – not even a middle brow sense of culture – and an incredibly childish worldview shaped by Ayn Rand and business inspiration books. One has to be lucky in one’s enemies. These enemies, though, were simply pod people. The urge felt by liberals to compare everything bad to the Nazis is a way of covering up for the tissue of terror and mass murder that make up our own history, which contains villainy enough. But the advent of the Nazis in Germany, setting aside the other crimes, was the advent of a new type, something the artist had never seen before. The bourgeoisie was vulgar, selfish, vain, and wanted sentimental trash to wallow in and platitudes to feed the kids. But their was a certain community of interest that made fighting with them worth while. The Nazi generation, though, could care less. The cut through the sentimentality about culture by, indeed, ‘drawing their guns’ when they heard a whisper of it and killing it.

Similarly, the Rand generation wasn’t just politically sick, but proposed to bring about a word in which poetry would simply not exist, replaced by consumer reports.

Judith Warner gives me faith that the Randian tide is receding. In one of the bright spots in this zona, she simply wrote the graduates of the Ivy biz schools out of the party – she wrote a column that destroyed the notion that the “best and brightest” went to work at Wall Street. It was the most beautiful act of class snobbery I’ve ever seen committed in an American paper, a tremendous, beautiful, multi-tasking snub. I had been wavering about her before – but that column did it for me. I fell in love.

Every one of her columns seems to emanate from a haute bourgeois liberal sector that I long thought I had merely dreamed. These people, it turns out, do exist!

This makes me very very happy.

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