Based on the written works of a formidable tradition of writers like James Agee, Shakespiere, Moliere, Flaubert, Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift, J.R.R. Tolkein and Miguel Cervantes, what would you say distinguishes men from Rowling’s muggles or Tolkein’s hobbits?
I’ve felt that the most damaging event in American cultural development was the censure of Al Capp related to the popularity of his character, the shmoo, which caricatured the cupidity of a culture of people who derive their core values from mass media, a description that fits the psychological conditioning of nearly all Americans since the 1940s.
Because Capp’s caricature so perfectly revealed the imbecility of the compliant creatures we become as consumers and willing participants in the infantile military orientation of our society, rendering us hilarious in our absurd willingness to be ourselves consumed, living to be consumed by dint of our worship of consuming products, Capp was considered “bad for business”. He was told by his publishers to cut the shmoo or lose his contract, this despite that the shmoo made Capp’s comic strip the most successful cartoon in history.
Nathaniel West’s Day of The Locust, Woody Guthrie‘s and Bob Dylan’s songs, like those of Patty Smith and Pete Sieger, and the monologues of Lenny Bruce and Richard Lord Buckley attacked the tattered fabric of our cupidic values and resonated with something deeper in our souls: our aspiration to feel and express life, no less than the does the flower of the field aspire to bloom. This was the message of William Blake, Wordsworth, Byron and all the romantic poets and composers.
As a culture, what we have become in our worship of cupidic values might at first glance appear to be a race of idiots but at birth, we are no different now than in Whitman‘s time, with the exception that the muggles of the 19th century at least were made aware, ironically by their religious institutions, that they are muggles and so they knew and supported Whitman, Blake and Poe and their spirit surmounted ignorance. We live in a culture that disdains the enterprise of art like Blake’s because its not good for business.
Read. By all means, read. Read the subversives of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Russians, French and Italians; read Dinesen, McCullers, Garcia Marquez, Mann, Faulkner, West, Ionesco, Stendahl, Cummings… Alternatively, shut up and eat your Disney.