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AmLit Zombie Art

March 9, 2014

In NYTimes: “Don’t Quote Me on This” by Maria Konnikova:

it’s too easy to get sucked into the very sort of vortex Emerson warned against, to drift from fragment to fragment without pausing to consider the whole that any of them imply. I become a link zombie, mindlessly hungry for more: The lure of quotation wears me down. The problem is one of limited time and energy meeting limitless content: knowledge being elbowed out by sheer information, context be damned.

Hey, that sounds like the zombie-style of this blog! But seriously,

I don’t know much about public art but I know what I like” by Lavanya Malhotra in the National, is about campus art and refers to the Wellesleyan zombie statue controversy, and remarks on art at colleges, admitting:

When it comes to art, I simply don’t see the appeal of the grotesque.

These zombie references to Emerson and grotesque, remind me of another great American writer, Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small Town Life” (1919), beginning with chapter: “The Book of the Grotesque“:

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

Why is that in my head? Well, as the Wendy Liebman joke goes:

It was like, ‘Go, Mr. Jameson!”

OMG, was I abused by my high school English class too? Are these AmLit meme sets useful or destructive? Reconsidering education as a form of child abuse might help explain a lot, and not just about testing, but reading lists too. (Query: Did I only go to law school because of repressed inadequacies from high school English?)

In his memoirs, “By My Own Hand“, the attorney Rulan T. Burton wrote:

While Sherwood Anderson moved me to creative undertakings, Ralph Waldo Emerson taught me to stick with a task until it warmed to a fire heat.

Recall also, the relationship of “zombie” to truth and fiction, magical realism, zombie lies, false dichotomies and categorical labels applied to a multiplicity of verisimilitude.

Considering that the world ends not with a bang, but a whisper, here in sleepy hollow, there is some solace in being so perfectly American to be misunderstood out of context.

To bookend this post, Konnikova wrote:

this is not a new problem. It’s endemic instead to a certain approach: the laziness of not really knowing what you’re looking for but hoping to find something that fits, the intellectual equivalent of mindlessly yanking open the fridge. I’m not sure what I think about immortality, so I’ll borrow from someone who’s done the heavy lifting and hope I find a ready match.


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