Friday, July 31, 2015

Sign of the times …

 Dying art by Malcolm Forbes — The New Criterion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

“I see no reason why the decay of culture should not proceed much further,” Eliot wrote, adding that we may anticipate a period “of which it will be possible to say that it will have no culture.” For Vargas Llosa that time is now. His first essay, “The Civilization of the Spectacle,” explores how culture—once a vital, stimulating, edifying force—has been reduced to nothing more than light entertainment. Light literature, light art, and light cinema preponderate; reader and viewer can consume any or all with little intellectual effort. Critics are a dying breed. Fifty years ago Edmund Wilson would make or break a book in The New Yorker: “Now The Oprah Winfrey Show makes these decisions.” Comparisons between the golden past and the tawdry present continue: quality journalism has given way to lifestyle magazines; books are being eclipsed by television and the Internet; and while the Ancient Greeks saw the cultivation of the body and the spirit as mutually beneficial, nowadays we usually play sports “at the expense of, and instead of, intellectual pursuits.”


  1. Once again, the notion of a golden past fails to convince me. Untimely Meditations, Culture and Anarchy, the essays of Pound, Eliot, etc. suggest that the past was not 24 karat.

  2. I don't think it is a question of a golden past so much as a sense of a leaden present.