Vegetarianism has not gone the way of the cravat…
|November 20, 2012|
From The New Republic:
American history is the history of fitful enthusiasms. “On canal boats” in the nineteenth century, Gilbert Seldes records mysteriously in the history of American fanaticism that he published in 1928, which has been reissued by NYRB Classics, “bed-linen was promiscuous.” There were fads in fashion: “Men … wore the enormous cravats which had been introduced by George the Third to hide the swelling on his neck.” Fads in food: “Carrots were scarcely used and the tomato was known as the ‘love apple’ and considered poisonous”; and a little later, “[b]roccoli had been introduced and the tomato accepted.” Fads in propriety: “At Long Branch it was correct for two girls to go into the water accompanied by one man.” Even fads in perception: “Broadway, in New York, was considered more attractive by night than by day.” The litany continues: “The beard was an object of mockery.” “The rocking-chair was in.”
Lists of such fragmentary observations, which suggest the output of a hand-cranked steampunk search engine, are salted through The Stammering Century. Seldes’s book deals primarily with the slightly narrower—but nonetheless extremely diverse—fields of religious enthusiasm and political reform. The book’s intention, he writes, “is to connect these secondary movements and figures with the primary forces of the century.” Seldes wanted to show that there was a greater logic to the apparent cacophony of nineteenth-century enthusiasms—a figure in the carpet, to paraphrase that famous American stammerer Henry James. “The voices of the century seem at first a clamor of discords,” he writes early on, “but, if we listen carefully, we discover a certain relation between the major voice of progress and the minor voice of radicalism.” Moreover, the fringes of the nineteenth century “supply a background in American history for the cults and manias of our own time.”
In plenty of cases, though—and this, perhaps, was Seldes’s point—it is hard to separate the mainstream crazes from the “cults and manias”; previously commonplace items (like those “promiscuous” bed-linens) now appear as bizarre as the supposed oddities, or even more so. The nineteenth century’s most reviled “fanaticisms and eccentricities” included women’s suffrage, vegetarianism, and the abolition of slavery: those are not ideas that have gone the way of the cravat. In intellectual history, the relationship between figure and ground is always shifting, and what seems like madness or drollery to one decade will be the next one’s dogma or good sense.
Merleau-Ponty’s Child Psychology
As much as death signals the end of the self, birth is just as mysterious. Both extend out to infinity and signal the brevity and contingency of our lives. As mysterious are those first few years of life that one does not have access to as an adult, I know I existed before my earliest memories. I know I interacted with others, I learned to walk and talk. I was willful from my parent’s tales.
William Pope.L: Reader Friendly
William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists.
10 Things the NSA Has Seen Me Do
One winter in my early twenties myself and some good friends — a merging of art, music and literary ladies of New York, full-grown girls aspiring to be women — got together, had a lovely dinner, some wine and delightful chat. Then we decided to spend an hour practicing “Teach Me How To Dougie”. NSA — can you teach me how to Dougie? You know why? “Because all my bitches love me.”
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