August 15, 2010
Gazing Inward

There’s no “we” in memoir, but there’s an “I” and a “me.” Here’s Walter Benn Michaels in The Baffler, explaining how our literature got where it is. He doesn’t mention that other philosopher queen, Ayn Rand, but I will:

…It was also in 1987 that Margaret Thatcher, as canny a cultural critic as Toni Morrison, pronounced herself tired of hearing about society’s problems and, in the wake of her triumph over the National Union of Mineworkers, took a stand against the idea of society itself, proclaiming: “There is no such thing! There are individual men and women, and there are families…” Anybody looking to explain the appeal of the memoir in contemporary writing need look no further. Every sentence in every one of them, true or false, literary or non-, tells us that there are only individuals and their families. Thus, for example, the proper way for workers to see themselves is not as workers or union members, but as entrepreneurs or husbands and fathers…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at August 15, 2010 12:02 PM
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Re-reading those infamous words about the non-existence of the common good makes me think of the everyday-reality of an idea: That cited entrepreneur, husband and father (?no females?) is the banal reality of the Übermensch whom Rand and Nietzsche so joyously described as future and necessary destiny.
Hopefully that future is fast becoming the past and the infestation with the übermensch-syndrom a past and distant shame...

Posted by: otherguy overby on August 16, 2010 6:02 AM
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