Essays On Entertainment And Society

Essays On Entertainment And Society-14
That group or class proceeds to exercise its idea of culture on society as a whole, with the elites — the educated and artists, in Eliot’s ideal arrangement — ­leveraging their access to the media and academia to influence the tastes of the average citizen, and of the next ­generation too.

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, a popular Spanish magazine, for a large amount of money.

After the review was published, Vargas Llosa contacted The Times to say that none of these assertions were true.

I call it the newspaper problem: About a decade ago I wrote an essay on contemporary poetry for a newspaper that will remain nameless, and had the occasion to quote a line by “Eliot.” The editor sent back many changes, the most telling of which was that the quotation was now attributed to “the English poet T. Eliot.” Vaguely piqued, I asked what the editor was trying to clarify: Was he afraid readers wouldn’t realize the quotation came from a poem?

Or was he afraid readers might confuse the Eliot who wrote it with, say, George Eliot, the pseudonymous author of “Middlemarch”?

This commendable philosophy has had the undesired effect of trivializing and cheapening cultural life, justifying superficial form and content in works on the grounds of fulfilling a civic duty to reach the greatest number.”But Vargas Llosa doesn’t stop at that. people usually play sports at the expense of, and instead of, intellectual pursuits”; “Today, the mass consumption of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, crack, heroin, etc., is a response to a social environment that pushes men and women towards quick and easy pleasure.”Even if Vargas Llosa is correct, there’s a difference between being correct and being stylish. I take no joy in kicking an old man when he’s down.

Later in this essay he notes: “It is not ­surprising therefore that the most representative literature of our times is ‘light,’ easy literature, which, without any sense of shame, sets out to be — as its ­primary and almost exclusive objective — entertaining.” And if you need more to file under the Grumpy Old Novelists rubric: “Chefs and fashion designers now enjoy the prominence that before was given to scientists”; “The vacuum left by the disappearance of criticism has been filled, imperceptibly, by advertising”; “Today . The psychology’s too obvious, applicable equally to a novelist as to a reader: To complain about the death of culture is to complain about dying ­yourself. I’d rather reread his earlier books, and remember how his character Zavalita expressed rage — expressed Vargas Llosa’s previously productive rage — in “Conversation in the Cathedral”: “He was like Peru, Zavalita was,” Vargas Llosa wrote there, because Peru and Zavalita had both screwed up (though he uses a stronger expression) “somewhere along the line.”But where? Vargas Llosa’s novels have never hesitated to traffic in the same high-low blend he now bemoans.

The subject of this one is “our” lack: of common culture, or common context, common sets of referents and allusions, and a common understanding of who or what that pronoun “our” might refer to anymore, now that even papers of record have ­capitulated to individually curated channels and algorithmicized feeds.

“Notes” begins with a survey of the literature of cultural decline, focusing on Eliot’s “Notes Toward the Definition of Culture,” before degenerating into a series of squibs — on Islam, the Internet, the pre-eminence of sex over eroticism and the spread of the yellow press — most of which began as columns in the Spanish newspaper El País.

It’s impossible to think of the way the narration is split among cadets at a military school in “The Time of the Hero,” or the way the teeming jungle causes timelines to mix in “The Green House,” without thinking of film; it’s impossible to recall Vargas Llosa’s stint as a TV talk-show host without finding its fictionalization in “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter,” later adapted for the screen itself; “Who Killed Palomino Molero?

” and “Death in the Andes” owe much of their plotting to noir. Vargas Llosa, abjuring the inevitable ­socialism of his youth, ran unsuccessfully as a pro-American candidate for the Peruvian presidency in 1990; “The Feast of the Goat” and “The Dream of the Celt” are rife with intellectuals who deign the compromises of diplomacy, and dine out on the laden tables of neoliberalism.


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