For lovers of the style, which includes myself, a big part of the attraction is that the imprint of the wood grain from the formwork of the concrete can be seen on the exterior concrete of brutalist structures.
Somehow his death did not appear on my radar back in 2013. These however: Junior Murvin, Lou Reed, JJ Cale, Bobby Bland, Ray Manzarek, Vincent Montana, Jr., Kevin Ayers, Donald Byrd and Cecil Womack, did.
I am a child of the Cold War and I can still remember where I was when the Berlin wall fell.
I used to be much more sympathetic to the left, growing older has made me lean more to the right. You know what they say:
“If at age 20 you are not a Communist then you have no heart. If at age 30 you are not a Capitalist then you have no brains.” […]
One of the greatest cognitive dissonances of the 20th century is the continuous attraction of communism, this dream of justice and equality (embodied by Sartre (Dirty Hands) , Che Guevara and the hippies) and the paradoxical contrast with the actual gruesome fiasco of the first communist system (and all subsequent communist systems). And yet, it’s not hard to see why communism, this Opium of the Intellectuals, holds such a powerful attraction at a time when the earth, a finite cake, is being greedily devoured which results in polluted air, polluted water and polluted nature, essential resources that should be common and free to everyone. That’s why I call myself a ‘commonist’ sometimes.
Back to the topic. The dissident Bukovsky, the man who wrote a pamphlet with the title Manual on Psychiatry for Dissidents (1974) at a time when thousands of dissidents were locked up in psychiatric hospitals all over the Soviet Union. This manual instructed potential victims of political psychiatry how to behave during interrogation to avoid being diagnosed as mentally ill
Bukovsky is interviewed prominently in the documentary film The Soviet Story (2008), featured on YouTube without subtitles for the parts in Russian language. The film has its flaws I’m sure, and it was financed by a right-leaning grouping of European political parties but it is nevertheless of interest.
He is perhaps best known for his book The Western Canon, to its supporters a work defending art for art’s sake, the absoluteness of aesthetic value and literary genius; to its detractors a defense of elitism and dead white males. This makes Bloom is a cultural critic in the tradition of Matthew Arnold who stated that “[culture is] the best that has been said and thought in the world” (Culture and Anarchy, 1869).
I discovered Bloom in the early 2000s in a period I was researching the nobrow concept.
His death has been a good occasion to dig into the university library and bring home The Western Canon and The Anxiety of Influence.
The bulk of today’s research went to The Western Canon, it is arguably Bloom’s best-known work and it has had relevance outside of the lit crit world.
The notion of a canon has also recently shown itself the object of a political debate in Flanders, the region I live and where the right (NVA) has managed to include it into to the policy of the Jambon Government The opposition (the left) was against it. The culture war fought in our region is one akin to the clash of civilizations of Huntington, more specifically the west and how it tries to come to to terms with the renewed religiosity in the form of Islam.
That Bloom’s canonization of 26 authors was an apolitical process can be read on page 4:
“I am not concerned with . . . the current debate between the right-wing defenders of the Canon, who wish to preserve it for its supposed (and nonexistent) moral values, and the academic-journalistic network I have dubbed the School of Resentment, who wish to overthrow the Canon in order to advance their supposed (and nonexistent) programs for social change.”
If you’re not familiar with Bloom and what to catch up quickly, you may want to check the interviews Bloom gave to Charlie Rose.
Here [above] is one in which he makes a couple of amusing and astute observations on the western canon and its detractors:
For me, Jencks’s death was a good occasion to score a copy of The Language of Post-Modern Architecture at my university library.
I got hold of a first edition, which is important because it features the introduction which is not part of subsequent editions (it’s not, for example, in the 2002 edition which I also lent).
This introduction is the one which reflects on the adequacy of the new term postmodernism in these words:
“The phrase ‘post-modern’ is not the most happy expression one can use concerning recent architecture. It is evasive, fashionable and worst of all negative – like defining women as ‘non-men’.”–p. 9
The second section of the book, titled “The death of modern architecture” has a poignant criticism on modern architecture, more particular a criticism of Purist ‘living machine‘ Corbusier style architecture. The critical analysis of this type of architecture, which reminds me of the progressivism-skeptic discourse of John Gray states:
“[The] Purist style, […] was meant to instil […] corresponding values in the inhabitants. Good form was to lead to good content, or at least good conduct; the intelligent planning of abstract space was to promote healthy behavior. Alas, such simplistic ideas, taken over from philosophic doctrines of Rationalism, Behaviourism and Pragmatism, proved as irrational as the philosophies themselves. Modern architecture, as the son of the Enlightenment, was an heir to its congenital naivities […] These shortcomings are now well known, thanks to the writings of Ivan Illich, Jacques Ellul, E. F. Schumacher, Michael Oakeshott and Hannah Arendt.”–p.10
This second section also contrasts the “not the most happy” genesis of the term postmodernism with the happiness of being able to determine the exact moment of the “death of modern architecture”:
“Modern architecture died in St. Louis, Missouri on July 15, 1972 at 3:32 p.m. (or thereabouts) when the infamous Pruitt–Igoe scheme, or rather several of its slab blocks, were given the final coup de grâce by dynamite.”–p.9
Jencks was not the first to criticize modern architecture and certainly not the last. “Machines for living” schemes such as the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, for various critics, including Tom Wolfe, illustrated both the essential unlivability of Bauhaus-inspired box architecture, and the hubris of central planning.