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RIP Richard Hoggart, 95, British academic and author (The Uses of Literacy).
My interest in Hoggart?
There was a time I was obsessed by the overlapping areas of high culture and low culture (nobrow!) and the notion of cultural pessimism, commodity fetishism and commodification (think Cocacolonization, Disneyfication, McDonaldization, Walmarting) and false consciousness and whathaveyounot (all essentially notions of Marxist cultural criticism).
I think this was due to my interest in sexual fetishism (hence the link to commodity fetishism) and my reading of Dick Hebdige and being into popular music and against state funding of the arts and being affectionate of the beautiful loser.
Things have changed, my interests have become less fanatical. But I’m still against drab intellectualism and in favor of the best of the body genres.
When a friend of a friend recommended The Barbarians by Italian writer Alessandro Baricco a year ago I dismissed it as yet another instance of much resented cultural pessimism.
I was wrong.
It is the most refreshing cultural criticism books of the last twenty years. The discourse on the Chinese wall alone — “an idea written in stone,” Baricco calls it — is worth the price of the book.
The book is held together by four mottoes, one of which is “Zu Micky-Maus,” a fragment by personal poulain Walter Benjamin. Benjamin is also quoted with the dictum (new to me) “Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.”
In the first part “plunder” the author takes us on a tour around the pillaged villages of wine, soccer and books to inspect the ravages that the barbarians have inflicted.
The second part is about Google and honors Google with the title “new Gutenberg”. This part also speaks of us humans becoming fish, breathing through gills, becoming mutants.
The third part is about loosing’s one’s soul, a common complaint of cultural elitists.
Part IV is dedicated to some keywords of barbarism. I especially remember spectacle, and I could not help being reminded of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle.
10/10 for this nobrow masterpiece.
The following authors and their works are in the public domain as of January 1 of this year according the 70 years rule:
Robert Musil, Austrian author of The Man Without Qualities; Bruno Schulz, Polish author of The Street of Crocodiles, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, draughtsman of The Book of Idolatry; Franz Boas, German-born American anthropologist, author of Anthropology and Modern Life, The Mind of Primitive Man and Primitive Art; Stefan Zweig, Austrian author of Letter from an Unknown Woman, Fear and World of Yesterday; Germaine Dulac French director of The Seashell and the Clergyman; Jindřich Štyrský , Czech artist, author-photographer of Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream; Grant Wood, an American painter, best known for his painting American Gothic; Bronisław Malinowski, Polish anthropologist, author of The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia; Léon Daudet, French journalist, writer, often called the French Dickens and Walter Sickert, painter known for his The Camden Town Murder.
Illustration: American Gothic (1930) by American painter Grant Wood. This is the best-known work of Wood, up to the point that it is one of the most famous works of art. But in his oeuvre you will also find Rousseau-esque discursions such as Young Corn.