The regular reader of feuilletonist Janan Ganesh is offered more book chat, as bookend to his essay of August 14,2017 ?
Headline: What the summer book choices of the elites reveal about politics
Sub-headline: Three titles dominate and, if you look closely enough, a single idea connects them
The tantalizing question that remains unanswered, who are these ‘elites’? Those ‘elites’ are rhetorically out of reach to the reader, but the framing hints at what? That Mr. Ganesh has access to communication with this ‘elite’. But the first book Ganesh ‘reviews’ is Graham Allison’s Destined for War and his ‘Thucydides trap’ thesis. That ‘elite’ loves nothing more than the windy overarching, not to speak of intellectually pretentious, and utterly pessimistic/nihilistic frame for the unraveling of the American Empire. And the concomitant rise of American Fascism, this line of argument anathema to that ‘elite’, who are the servants of that State. Recall the worship of Straussian Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man’ framed by a pretentious yet tantalizing bit of Hegel ? Or another Straussian’s contribution to this pessimism genre, Bloom’s ‘The Closing of the American Mind’ ?
The ‘Dog Days of Summer‘ have given Mr. Ganesh another opportunity to demonstrate his skill as ‘literary critic‘:
Headline: The two faces of the 1 per cent
Sub-headline: The public elite nurse constant material worries, the private elite worry that they are not very interesting
What the reader encounters in this August 18,2017 essay is more book chat: the golden opportunity to review Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. Mr. Wolfe was and is a transplanted Dixiecrat, playing the part of a Dandy, as conceived and realized by American kitsch meister Walt Disney! For some valuable insights, on the Dandy, read that great practitioner of the art of the feuilletonist, and an eminently readable literary critic, par excellence, Cyril Connolly’s ‘The Evening Colonnade’ titled The Dandy 1,2,&3.
Mr. Ganesh again demonstrates his ignorance of Mr. Wolfe’s American career: his attack on The New Yorker and its editor William Shawn in 1963. Read Nathan Schiller’s enlightening essay at Construction, for the particulars of the Wolf misogyny as aid of his self-promotion campaign. Even Wolfe’s eventual editorial ally/promoter Clay Felker joined the chorus of his critics.
In 1963, Tom Wolfe argued that The New Yorker was a dull magazine that existed to make suburban Americans (particularly women) feel as intellectually sound as their contre-personnes in France. His piece, a two-part, quasi-satire, written in Wolfe’s self-proclaimed “hyberbolic style” and entitled “Tiny Mummies!” was ostensibly a profile of the magazine’s editor William Shawn. In reality, it made fun of everything about The New Yorker, from its byzantine editing process to its syntactically-confused sentences to the dancing at its kind of awkward fortieth birthday party, which Wolfe reported on by walking into the function despite the fact that it was invite-only.
The result of his effort was a not-insignificant national literary controversy. Among the luminaries who yelled at him were J.D. Salinger, E.B. White, and Walter Lippmann, who wrote that Wolfe was an “incompetent ass.” Lengthy rebuttals were written, and even the White House called to complain—How little of you to criticize . . . The New Yorker!—(sorry, couldn’t resist)—only to be asked, by editor Clay Felker, to write down its grievances and submit them for publication in New York magazine, which had run Wolfe’s piece.
At the time, New York was the Sunday supplement to the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune, so if you are so inclined, you may choose to read Felker’s tongue-in-cheek response as epitomizing the stylistic contrast between the two magazines that continues to this day: the elegant, refined, and slightly uptight New Yorker versus the chic-populism (and sarcastic web headlines) of New York. And although New York’s success can be traced to Wolfe’s piece (which helped double the magazine’s ad space), the real winner in the controversy was neither of the institutions, but the writer himself, Tom Wolfe.
Mr. Ganesh fails to realize that some of his readership read the reports of this manufactured controversy in both Time and Newsweek , in that very year!
The important contemporary use of the Wolfe’s novel is that it is instructive in the political present, according to Mr. Ganesh’s narrative. As instructive of the divide between the 1% and the 99%, to use The Occupy Wall Street descriptive model. That is sure to raise the ire of Mr. Ganesh, as he uses Elite and Populist as reductive models descriptive of the political present. In which Ganesh acts as the ‘middle term’ the ‘rational centrist’ who can view the two poles of that political present. Ganesh as self-appointed political arbiter places his pose as Tory Hipster in doubt. The ‘Elite’ have more to fret about than their being uninteresting. Except to the feuilletonist with a deadline to meet!