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Sunday Stories: P, R, S, T &, of course, B

Vampires, mutants, dragons and some occasional time travel: it is high time to introduce some high culture to This Weblog. Not that I am as expert in high culture as others here are on food, film or episodic fiction, but I am driven by the will to bring culture to the masses. Chances are that one day I will be confronted by those masses and I would strongly prefer you to be a well-cultivated bunch. For instance, when I’m fed to the lions I would like to be not only well seasoned but I would like such a feeding to be accompanied by good music and an exquisite going-to-hell story.

It is annoying to see something announced instead of just seeing that something done. Announcements are crap. So is this one. I know, but I can’t avoid doing it. It has to do with my limited literary skills. Limited literary skills will also be the theme of the first real Sunday Stories which I predict will be about Bolaño’s Sensini and/or his Enrique Martin. That is Bolaño with a B, and B is a letter that is dear to me. This dearness has to do with my father. I will explain no further the dearness the letter B has to me as I hope you will be as uninterested in my biography as I am in that of the writers writing the stories to be touched upon in this column.

In fact, this lack of interest in biographical & other extra-literary details is what compels me to announce doing something before actually doing it. For how do you select your sources of high culture if you cannot base yourself on such data? I  have an answer. I doubt it is a good answer but it works for me.

The answer consists of two rules (and I’ll assume you know what they say about rules):

  • Rule n° 1: death.
  • Rule n° 2: P, R, S, T &, obviously, B.

When an artist is dead and she is still talked about, it is safe to assume that she is responsible of something worth reading, looking at or listening to. This rule may look somewhat unfair to those of us still living but it is an unfairness that will quite likely be remedied at one point in time. You may also challenge this rule on account of death being an excellent example of a biographical detail. I have no answer to this challenge except for the fact that it is not so much death I’m going on but rather the absence of any signs of life. Let me say it this way: I was not unhappy J. D. Salinger died because it increased  to some extent the internal consistency of my reasoning. His death did not however make a real difference to his readers.

The other rule is more important and somewhat harder to explain (meaning that I have no explanation at all). Rule n° 2 is based on experience and more specifically on my experience. I do not read reviews, I get bored with art history & I have never had anyone to discuss high culture with. Also, it is uncommon for dead artists to refer to living artists (certainly if it is your preference, like it is mine, to prefer the artist’s death to have happened a significant while ago). This presented me with the challenge of selection. As I do not like to spend too much time in libraries, music or book stores I had to adopt a heuristic. The death-thing was unhelpful as it is hard to glance from a book or some such whether the author is actually in a state of advanced decomposition or not. So I limited myself to the above letters: P, R, S & T. It worked. I’m not saying it’s a fail-safe heuristic (and I don’t care as I know there is much more out there than I can ever digest) but it works (adding B for instance).

Rule n°2 works to the extent of making Rule n° 1 superfluous over time. Over time I say because like any heuristic it needs a start-up condition. There are too many artists whose name begins with P, R, S, T & B and also, my R maybe your W (or K, or McF or whatever). Let’s not get stressed out with accuracy.

[I say I will do this and I really plan to do this but I can only start doing this in August so there is an abundance of time in which to tell me it’s a really bad idea. Or even that it is an excellent idea if only it is not to be executed by me. I’m not dead yet after all and neither the G nor the N are remotely near any letter that has potential of meaning anything to anybody.]


July 17, 2011 - Posted by | academia, Sunday Stories


  1. I approve, to the extent I understand. Kierkegaard, with help from Chesterton and Joyce, proved to my satisfaction that the transformative power of an affect is inversely proportional to its plausible justification. Thus we love out families and natal homes. This is also an argument for arranged marriages.

    Perhaps I can help by suggesting that you expand your use of letters to the countries of the artist’s birth, as in only ‘P’ artists from Paraguay.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | July 17, 2011

  2. Is this a book club? Cool.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | July 17, 2011

  3. bob, as in anything worthwhile there is nothing to understand. I would be thrice throuché if it were not for the fact that it’s not the letter’s letter but the spirit of the letter that counts. Kierkegaard starts with an S & if you add James to Joyce my result is a T. Chesterton is home work, I’m not familiar enough with the Chesterton’s. But C is close to B & I like Church (Alonzo, that is). Anyway, no rule could exclude Monk but luckily he went by Thelonious as well; having safely included him, it is only obvious that Mingus is in as well.

    You see, flexibility reigns without need of birth places or other biographical details.

    I certainly do not love my natal home and I never did. I do love The Wife and The Kids but there is abundant justification for that. Finally, it is a risky thing to take your Kierkegaard too seriously.

    Comment by Guido Nius | July 18, 2011

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