I read that one philosopher-blogger declared that everything he says is a joke. A declaration which would itself be a fairly predictable self-cancelling philosophical joke, no sooner made than evaporating in a question mark. Regardless, the remark reminded me of the empty, faux-ludic nihilism of contemporary ‘irony’ – serving no purpose, devoid of critical or satirical intent, endlessly putting its own speech in quotation marks and the world in brackets. Sometimes it poses as a Deconstructive provisionality, a radicalism so subtle & subjunctive as to leave things exactly as they were before; other times it is a paralysed mockery, its suspicion of seriousness, commitment or Causes merely the alibi of political compliance and withdrawal.
Steve Augustine on On Chesil Beach, middlebrow chivalry, and the dangers of premature beatification of the author:
McEwan’s schematic stacks the deck with the force of stereotypes so entrenched they feel like empirical laws of a natural science. Making the upper class female love-object in this novel superior in almost every way may feel like an expression of the author’s (unconscious? Self-hating?) class prejudice, but it’s also the de rigeur chivalry of the post-feminist celebrity, as it would be difficult to imagine a writer with McEwan’s following getting away with making any of the males in his couples more intelligent than their invariably attractive wives or lovers. Hewing obediently to this unspoken stricture is a minor failure of nerve that doesn’t, on its own, threaten the integrity of the work. But as McEwan ages and his stature grows and he devolves towards the artistic cul-de-sac of Elder Statesmanship, other strictures … other obediences to the sensibilities of his auditors … undermine his mastery. A certain squeamishness sets in.
Nathan Whitlock on the dangers of excessive artistic conservatism:
I'm not sure the world has gone so conservative – culturally, morally, and economically, things can get fairly frontier-town out there, and that's not such a good thing – but it's true that Canadian publishing seems to represent a virtual (and occasionally literal) de-linking of a huge chunk of society from the rest the rest of the world, a perpetual High Tea held on a floating barge that's slowly taking on water. I've watched a lot of people in books – writers, editors, publicists, booksellers, myself – voluntarily and somewhat subconsciously adopt a kind of narrowed cultural vision in order to survive/thrive in the business.