What if we were to think of literature and the other arts as a kind of repository of habitus, a motley collection of practices and strategies? “Motley” because we can never adopt them simply and straightforwardly – we have to accept the inevitability of bricolage. But still: experiences not just to admire or appreciate but to use. Edward Mendelson’s idea of “literature as a special form of intimacy” seems relevant here – literature, and the other arts, as equipment for living, equipment shared by fallen mortals, thinking reeds, puzzled people in the process of being formed. An improvised sociology for wayfarers.equipment, Snakes and Ladders
Tag: Literature Page 1 of 8
It is hard to top the publisher’s description of A Visit to Vanity Fair:
These perceptive moral essays crackle with wit, intelligence, and a wide range of knowledge. A cultural hawk eye delivers relevant, down-to-earth meditations on the way we live now. “A Visit to Vanity Fair” blends personal reflection with cultural criticism to address such topics as reading with children, sitting with a dying friend, and watching TV documentaries.
I mean it really does “crackle with wit, intelligence, and a wide range of knowledge. and Jacobs is a “cultural hawk eye” who “delivers relevant, down-to-earth meditations” and “blends personal reflection with cultural criticism.
The sad thing is that I have had this book on my shelf for quite some time. I have long been enamored with Jacobs and his writing. I have read a number of his books and have followed his writing online for many, many years. But like so many of the authors and topics I collect and mean to dive into, I get distracted and end up just dipping into a book here or there. For the last year or so I have thought about trying to read as much of Jacobs catalog as I could but have mostly failed. So I recently girded my loins, so to speak, and grabbed this book of the shelf and forced myself to concentrate and spend time reading until I finished.
And it was worth it. It truly is a wonderful collection of thought provoking and well crafted essays. Published nearly 20 years ago, it nevertheless feels as engaging and relevant as ever. Whether dealing with Bob Dylan or Harry Potter, Jacobs gets at issues that remain not frothy debates of the minute. Instead, philosophy, literature, faith and writing are explored with verve and wit.
I’m still not above watching vapid reality shows about meth-addicted Tiger tamers. Nor am I dismissive of the compelling fare we find on streaming media — we are living in a golden age of middlebrow culture. Certainly the world doesn’t need another writer praising the virtues of Moby-Dick. And that’s not my point. Sitting here in isolation, I come to praise the elemental beauty and depth that can be found only in great works of literature. Moby-Dick demanded my attention, imagination, and time. — David Harsanyi on reading Moby Dick