To jump-start your thinking

I’ve been thinking about something meaningful to say about the negative stir caused by Camille Paglia’s return to on-line writing at Scott McLemee at Quick Study introduced her comeback with the lines “Is Anybody Out There Eagerly Waiting for Volume Two of “Sexual Personae”? No, I Didn’t Think So….” When I read the actual piece, I found more than 400 comments, more than 90% negative. Today, as I check the backward links to her, I see more than hundred blog entries mentioning her comeback. I haven’t checked the positive/negative in those yet.I was enormously intrigued when I read my first interview with Paglia in Belgian magazine HUMO; I was increasingly intrigued when I read her in techno-utopian Wired magazine; I was rewarded when I finally read Sexual Personae (1990); she introduced me to the Lovecraftian Chthonic, to the Nietzschean Dionysian and Apollonian, she said strange things on date rape, her quotes were funny, she compared Meryl Streep (who I disliked at the time, I’ve since seen Adaptation and changed my mind, which reminds me that I have to re-watch Sophie’s Choice.) to I believe a horse and mentioned her nasal tone. I liked it. I had been raised on a Freudo-Marxist diet and her biased politics were refreshing. In short, I loved her, and I still do; my page on her is even referenced at the Camille Paglia checklist:

Camille Paglia , another dictionary entry in a network of illustrated cultural references, with quotes illustrating various points Paglia is known to occasionally make.”

Over the last few years, I’ve come to understand what her limits are, that she is indeed often only a provocateur (but what a flattering ToA), this sentiment was best described by Lee Siegel who wrote two years ago:

To invoke two other writers from the past, Paglia used to come on like Byron; now she is like some cynical version of Dickens’s Oliver Twist, trampling on her very own standards, stooping as low as she can go in order to get a second helping of attention from the public that has forgotten her. But bullies always end up being reduced to their inner weakling. It’s called poetic justice. –Lee Siegel in Look at Me [June 13, 2005 ]

So there I was, trying to defend someone and not knowing how. Until today when Scott Mclemee, in a fascinating post paralleling Zizek and McLuhan, provides the vocabulary I was looking for: “to jump start your thinking”. According to the American Heritage Dictionary to jump-start means to “start or reinvigorate (an activity, system, or process).”

Jump-start my thinking is exactly what Paglia did. Philosophers who are quotable. Philosophers who read like poets. Philosophers who write prose poetry. Philosophy as eternal recurrence repackaged in beautiful words.

And now for the Marshall McLuhan / Slavoj Žižek parallel:

By coincidence, I see that Jonathan Goodwin has noticed an interesting parallel that certainly squares with my own impression:

Žižek reminds me much of McLuhan. Facts don’t matter for either. In the space of a few pages, Žižek has claimed that Martin Luther King made a radical anti-capitalist turn in the last few weeks before his death and that the Japanese Army relied on a Zen mantra similar to “the sword that kills is the sword that saves” to justify their actions in Korea and Manchuria. These are not even the kinds of claims that can be checked. As with McLuhan, Žižek just wants to make as many connective gestures as possible. That’s what make both, generally speaking, fun to read but dangerous to the untutored.

This is exactly right. McLuhan liked to refer to some of his writing as “probes” — a very space race-era locution (let’s not even get into the Legmanian implications) meaning, in effect, “I am totally making this up as I go along.” —Scott Mc Lemee via Legman and McLuhan With Zizek Along the Way.

Speaking of Adaptation and eternal return, I caught Eternal Sunshine on TV, and I was slightly amused but not impressed. In the category experiment in cinematic time it did not strike a chord as much La Jetée or Back to the Future. As Charlie Kaufman script I was more impressed with Adaptation and Being John Malkovitch.

One last word on film, I got to see Destricted, and was only slightly taken by Matthew Barney’s opening vignette, and found the rest of the film quite literally masturbatingly boring. I was especially bored with Noé’s ‘strobed’ entry. Larry Clark had put up an ad for young men to apply to perform with an adult actress. After Clark and his team had chosen the male candidate, the male candidate interviewed the actresses and made his pick. He then proceeded to ‘get it on’. Very sad, just as sad as the Lasse Braun documentary I watched a while back. Final verdict for Destricted: to be avoided, try catching the Matthew Barney ‘s Hoist (and here) at Youtube and you’ve had the best.

3 thoughts on “To jump-start your thinking

  1. Scott McLemee

    There is something to Paglia that you also find in, say, Henry Miller or Dale Peck — not that either resembles the other that much, except insofar as each will, at times, write in a way that can beexhilarating because of the total lack of restraint. Pure exhibitionism , raw aggression, the internal censor is off duty….I liked that quality in some of Paglia’s early polemics. But a lot of it was really just demagogic ranting, and now it’s just turned into a lame schtick.

  2. HarryTuttle

    The Gaspard Noé segment was useless I agree. But I liked what Matthew Barney and Larry Clark did. The Marina Abramovic folk culture overview was interesting too. Though overall it wasn’t insightful or new about porn, nor exceptionally creative. But I wouldn’t say it was totally worthless.

  3. Pingback: Camille Paglia and black music « Jahsonic

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