irony, etc.

Steve Perry sperry at
Wed Nov 17 11:24:15 PST 1999

touche, doug--it's been 15 years or so since i've done serious time in the cells of academe, so upon reflection i must admit that i can't vouch for the existence of *any* bright, lively minds therein. as for journalism, i have known many very bright writers and editors through the years whose work would give you no reason to suspect them of more-than-typical intelligence. now maybe it was just a matter of the age-old problem that smart people don't necessarily communicate well in writing, but i actually attempted to encourage/work with a fair number of these people--i could cite names, but they wouldn't mean anything to you--and, when pushed, they usually balked for one of two express reasons: the paper/mag i work for is too dumb and conservative, or the readers are too dumb and conservative.

now that's a cynical attitude, not an ironic one, but i did note what seemed to me a correlation between this kind of cynicism and the tendency toward reflexive irony-- i.e., a tendency to highlight the ironic aspect of any situation that was not an occasional matter of literary choice, but a routinized facet of worldview.

well, that's a fairly stilted enunciation of a fairly banal point. dylan said it better--there are many here among us who think that life is but a joke...

-----Original Message----- From: owner-lbo-talk at [mailto:owner-lbo-talk at]On Behalf Of Doug Henwood Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 12:52 PM To: lbo-talk at Subject: RE: irony, etc.

Steve Perry wrote:

>well, what i have in mind at this very moment is that
>you ought to read the rest of the sentence, and the paragraph.

...which is:

>(and its longtime companion, paralytic
>cynicism) in the livelier minds round journalism and
>academe. they've essentially ceded "serious" writing to
>the dullards.

...and leaves me none the wiser. I'm at a loss to name the "livelier minds round journalism and academe" who are paralyzed by cynicism (which is very different from irony: irony is a longstanding though nonmonagamous companion of critique, while cynicism, as Horkheimer said, is the worst kind of conformity). Most academic writing is deadly earnest, and most American journalism is either just-the-facts empiricism or dumbshit cheerleading. I guess these are the dullards who've been ceded "serious" writing, but I'm still wondering who these bright & lively minds are.


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