Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Diary

I was dragged into a household distraction regarding the midterm elections, and now that they're over it will be easier for me to think about other things. I am hoping that the demise of Donald Trump has begun, and that the day is coming when I won't have to hear his name so often. It is absurd that such an ignorant and self-centered person has been elected to the presidency: one wonders how anyone can believe in democracy. Of course, this all comes down to the fact, which a friend often reminds us of, that fifty percent of the people are below average. Now, finally, if Trump gets sufficiently out of hand he can be impeached by the House of Representatives, and there will be nothing that he can do to prevent it.

I have been pondering my split interest in literature and science. Occasionally I revisit the literary sites in which I participated a few years ago, and, after nearly five years of writing on my own blog, the quality of discussion on those sites now seems remarkably low. If you had been looking for substantive comments, you would have been going to the wrong places. They are either like support sites for introverted people who don't have real friends or like sites for more extroverted literary people who can only handle the most superficial interactions. There is also one literary blog that I used to read sporadically, but I have concluded that the reviews written there are shallow for the most part; the purpose of the blog seems to be to perpetuate the illusion that the blogger is a literary person; I don't think that he does real literary criticism, or, for that matter, anything of literary interest. On all of these sites it boils down to whether the writer likes something or not, and there is little useful information about particular works or why or why not someone should bother to read them. At least on this blog I summarize the works and explain what I like or dislike about them. To be fair, I haven't looked at comparable scientific sites, which might have similar weaknesses, but I wouldn't be surprised if the discussions there were a little more focused in terms of making distinct points.

Although I continue to admire a few literary works, the conclusion that I am arriving at more often than not is that in some sense literary people as a group are a little stupid. Science seems comparatively harsh and abstract, but its practitioners are usually more fearless about looking at things that might be unsettling or scary. If scientific people sometimes seem aesthetically challenged, literary people seem like escapists – the kind of people who wouldn't be of much use in an emergency. Since I believe that we may always be on the verge of some crisis, I am tending to lump in literary culture with people who can't face facts and would rather play video games all day. It is easy to justify much scientific work on the basis of its usefulness, and the same can't be said of literature. Many of the great works of literature derive their significance partly from the specific social and historical contexts in which they were written, and in my opinion there is a surprising paucity of masterpieces that have been written in the last hundred or so years, especially when you consider how much higher the volume of publication is today. This leads me to think that literature and poetry may be going the way of dinosaurs – subjects studied mainly by antiquarians or people who just can't cope with the modern world. Thus arises my reluctance to read much contemporary fiction.

I have ordered a new book, which will take a while to arrive from New Delhi – so I'm a little short on topics at the moment.

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