Cultural Cholesterol [short fiction]

Why would any critic worth his intelligence, his aptitude, his acumen, want to belong to a school of criticism that would have him as one of its shining star members?

How you receive personal criticism from another, let us say, a friend, or a colleague, perhaps a supervisor–this latter one you must always be wary of, supervisors always using what you do well against you–and anyway, how you receive criticism has little to do with the Criticism we spell with a capital ‘C,’ or at least the kind we should spell with a Capital ‘C’ because it is this Criticism that was once an art, or so say we who are of the mind that there is such a thing as criticism that is literary and not only Literary Criticism far too un-literary, perhaps too dense not because of intellectual heights gained, but because of what we used to call bad writing, that is, before we decided in our pedagogy that that was too elitist, and by being too elitist, utmost have also been too male and too white, but this white we talk about in America has too little to do with persons like myself, who could call himself, as I do, a Non-White Caucasian (and that will be explained later, perhaps sooner or not) . . . what other questions are there belying our fate as people too systematically undereducated to understand that semi-literacy is never literate enough to manage civilization, never a Democratic one, if education is going be pervasively less than what most could achieve, mainstreaming the idiots only lessened what the cram at the top would think, a hope against hope whereby we tried to democratize the literary or what should be (yes, should be) called literature, as if that could opened to any Tom, Dick or Henrietta? Yes, Criticism was once a literary endeavoring both ways we could mean that. It has since become more . . . what some would like to think is scientific, but it remains more likely that it has become more scientized, which certainly is not the same thing, not even similar, if you will as I do, desire is the thing now? Another question yet follows another question and so on in perpetuity–answers are required, but all we do is respond beside the point, tangents always lead us infinitely far from the circle. The delusions about science, the received ideas, the dogmas of what should from now on be called criticism with a smaller case ‘c,’ yes, what is it about it or from it that we can hold onto–what is it about the critique of literature that differs from your mother’s criticism of how you conduct yourself, how you dress, how late you stay put on a Saturday, and we are talking when you are an adult, not an open toothed teenager? Is it really as different as we would like to say, at least those of us in the Academy–or should that be Academies, yes, those of us in the Academies of Higher Learning–is that what we have, what we engage, what we get at in University–hierarchies are everywhere omnipresent, the metaphysical collateral in some ways of existence with the physical, but then that should not lead us further into our attempts to disband with metaphysical thinking because higher learning is higher when up is good and down is bad, not a Marxist critique, but simply an extension of the metaphors we live by minute to minute, more folk than people, more personal than tribal . . . or is what I am trying to say just a deference to an older outdated notion of hierarchy?

Questions do beget questions–the emphatic mood is useful in conveying what I mean to say that might find resistance when said–I used to say, have said before, will say again and again, herein, of course, my hypocrite reader–you imagine yourself otherwise? Yes, and there is no difference between the two kinds of criticismI have mentioned above, the one off the lips of another interpersonally communicating something meant to help, or cut, as so often we assume when the personal is aimed interpersonally, no? What do we say when we are not ready for hearing something less than flattering, I say, and I have a tendency to almost respond in kind to flattery, although self-flattery is willingly accepted, I have no aversion, but then I am measured, I say, yes, I am precise and accurate and void of all hyperbole when I do, and of course hubris never enters my self-criticism, no. Self criticism to be self critical is criticism in the truest sense of performing critique–no? Yes? Maybe? What then should I say in face of there being dissent against my opinions–nothing. I must assess what we might call positive and negative aspects, traits, manners–and the matter of our manners, of my manners–not just when or if I say please or thank you  . . . manner in art and manners in a person are not the same, so let me say that I am using manners in both senses or either, here and now, then and there . . . I do not want to continue this tract, but let me say that Susan Sontag was correct in her diary entry–how long ago, now? Decades ago? Yes! Correct was she when she said that most literary criticism is “cultural cholesterol.” Oh! Yes, cultural cholesterol. Fabulous, no? Pithy, yes. Clogged arteries of thinking, a kind of heart disease of the mind? Yes, of course–but what is a matter of course in this–is there a map to trace the coming and going of such imaginary existence?

She said that criticism was a “reactive indignation,” and I had to suffer much of that when I was in graduate school–toomany critics writing beside the point, if we can say that literature has a point, that the literary is a mode of observation, a mode of understanding, a mode of being critical, thus of articulating responses and answers to questions raised, perhaps themselves arising out of the endeavor we would have called literary, should still call literary, although not as it is practiced today . . . meaning? Well, meaning, yes, that most critique is only reactive, and especially so when the subject is literature, which for too long has been absented from criticism, literary criticism, the latter phrase having more than one meaning, yes, criticism that is literary has also waned, faded, disappeared from the scene, what scene, this skena that is the world . . . but how? All the world is a stage, and all the world of criticism is a stage, what scenes are made, are put in place, every action staged? Yes, merely players, all of us wearing how many masks, and I am talking of the one’s outside and nothing of the one’s inside, the Self of many selves, you could say as I have said as Milton did say; the scene now skena, a stage.

Yes, of course, we have come to say a lot about how criticism should be, some of us, at least, that is we who are still concerned for literature, the literary; however, just as many and just as often those who disagree completely to partly with whatI am saying. Yet, as I have said now for decades, who does not know that literature is a branch of Epistemology, a way of knowing, a way of determining what is known, what could be known, what knowledge is, the limits therein of knowledge, of knowing–but the, I should begin with I know nothing to be able to determine all of that; yes, I should not end with I know nothing. And we do, with the latter, and parade around proudly proclaiming, I know nothing.

I am not going to get into how we have abandoned Knowledge or the inquiry of knowing. Where was this going? A thousand words, or toward an understanding of Sontag’s remarks about the criticism of literature–everything is autobiography, of a kind, of a sort–what then are the differences between kind and sort, is an ‘assortment’ equal with an ‘akindment?’

I am not specifically referring to book reviews, although they at times can be called literary criticism because they fulfill the criteria necessary to be called thus, but also because there are themes when the review is teething to capture the appropriate conscience for everything literary . . . it does become an example of literary art . . .that opens another can of beetles.

As Sontag said, “Most notions about literature are reactive — in the hands of lesser talents, merely reactive”; and as I must add, “especially Post Structuralist critique.” The latter was born of a seething resentment of everything literary by those who loathe anything related to what too many, in their minds, have called Western Civilization. Yes, that mouthful is worth the chew. Hard to swallow? It seems that it is not too difficult to get around a thousand words to say something about something, and not what we are supposed to do when we see something on our subway platforms . . . a kind of persistence of paranoia, keeping us ever perpetually alarmed, no? Yes? Maybe? Otherwise? What would it take for us to imagine how all of these are correct? But back to literature and the literary not necessarily the same . . . only in the United States can we call what we call literature be thought to be literature . . . a brochure explaining an exhibit is literature, here, and we wonder why we have such a degraded sense of what literature is and what literary energy is, then we could say, literary power . . . what is literary study, literary criticism, for a couple of instances in inquiry that must arise in this greater line of questioning, no?

Something like Deconstruction becomes a dog whistle for those who feel they can no longer be a part of a tradition that they imagine would have marginalized them if they had not rested intellectual and academic hegemony from the previous bearers of a tradition all Post-Structuralists then had to lambast as fake, or so the individual psychologies go into the mentality that has bred a hatred of literature, a hatred of the literary, a dismantling of all that has ever gone into literacy, being literate; thus creating systems of under-education–entrenched at all levels as it is, leaving paths clear for Power to become even more Powerful and Money even more monied, each trading in the other with the other . . . in is interesting to note well that Trump is not the originator of calling previous hegemonies fake.

We have become like the fool who chases the devil in the forrest of Truth and Law and cuts down all the trees of Law and Truth to get at Him, the Devil, only to find that the devil turns to face this fool who no longer has a stick of Truth or Law between him and the devil. Good luck, my hypocrite readers, fools and their folly follow one after the other, another foolish enterprise, we could say, as do I, often–one thing I do know is that many times, whatever it is that seems agreed upon by many, by more than simply a general consensus adding into a majority is this, I’m against it.

I hope in this–by this–you have gained something we might have called at one time in a past now under a scrutiny handled by lesser investigative talents, imbeciles with a magnifying glass, yet only after destroying all the charts and tables and categories of investigation and learning that have gone before and no longer bear any accumulation? What then am I saying here? Everything is both fiction and autobiography while still fulfilling generic requirements of genre, which is kind of gender, if you understand what I am driving at with that analogy? I don’t find dismay in what is asserted unless or until it becomes iconoclastic, the latter always more and more savage in proportion to the degree (the depth) of ignorance of those who have assumed they are smart enough, learned enough, educated in a way that would allow them to add to the body of knowledge and not perpetuate a mood where Doubt becomes the highest wisdom and anyone who knows anything is as suspect as anyone intelligent must become in any Totalitarian society, especially one like ours–the Soviet Union had only its ideology to protect and keep pure, we have ever increasing profits engendered by greed and contempt, a reforming of Power Oligarchies in the image of Democracy. Fools and their folly.




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