A perpetual round of giddy innovation and restless vanity…


Chopin, Albert von Keller, 1873

From Lapham’s Quarterly:

The Beat Generation’s undergraduate auxiliaries at Yale in the 1950s—edgy, bad boy, unafraid—had neither love nor money for leather, but they grasped the idea that fashion was the placement of the product of self. Which, as I soon learned once outside the perimeter of superior sensibility, was also the great work in progress everywhere else in a society devout in its worship of graven images.

About the relative values of appearance and reality they had been seriously wrong, the old masters in sackcloth. Out there in the void existential, appearances were simple and straightforward, long-abiding lights in the darkness. Reality was short-lived and deceptive, most likely unknowable. Finding employment as a newspaper reporter in San Francisco and then in New York, I discovered the business at hand to be the parading of appearances, not the searching for reality. What was true was a matter of record, seldom of fact. What seemed to be true, from the camera angle, or with the placing of an adjective. What was said to be true, by the senator from the great state of Ohio or the Goodyear blimp.

“Product Placement”, Lewis H. Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly