Hello all! Welcome to my self-loathing newsletter, A Fête Worse Than Death, the name of which is an homage to a chapter from Norman Rush’s luminous Mating. Sincere thanks to all of you—except the ones whom I added to the subscription list, possibly against your will, in which case, sorry—for following me off the dungheap that is Twitter and into the brave new world of Substack. I hope that I can recover some intellectual integrity and purity of mind here. Nonetheless, it will probably take me a while to silence what I call, in conversations with myself, “the Twitter voice”—the screech of the internet’s collective outrage, which I have assimilated, despite myself, into my habits of thought.
"Thinking without a template" is a wonderful aspiration. Look forward to your future dispatches.
Hello! How trilling to read something not on Twitter, and incidentally, Trilling himself wrote a letter to a student from Oxford in 1953 on the same day you published this, addressing related themes. After reflecting on what he thinks an 'intellectual' is, as well as remarking on the general cultural malaise (with some probably racist jabs at Puerto Ricans), he ends on a more upbeat note: “You say that you find my description of the American situation depressing. I could easily find it so myself if I chose to. I think one makes a conscious choice how one is going to respond. My decision not to be depressed by the general situation is based on my feeling that all modern cultures must be unsatisfactory to the people who are conscious of them: maybe that peculiarly modern idea of a “culture” implies dissatisfaction with the object of our consideration. I find myself full of rejections and angers and sorrows and contempts, but now that I am old enough to look back over a significant chunk of cultural life, I don’t despair.”*
Sorry for the bad joke, long comment and good luck with all your future thinking and writing!
*Excerpt From Lionel Trilling. “Life in Culture”.
"You know, the first time you [quote a neocon] it’s hard. You feel like you’ve been forced to kneel before the cross. But the second time it’s pretty easy. So what the hell." - Benjamin Ginsberg
Thanks for sharing your best re/read books of 2020. Also that great Trilling quote “Between....” Happy holidays!