digging a nice hole for myself

Posted on January 9, 2010


Well, I know what happens when you try to explain why you loathe stupid things that other people think are fun(ny), and yet, I’m going to try to do it anyway. God help me. At least I’ll try to be brief.

I tried to write something a long while ago that encapsulated my ill will towards the blog Stuff White People Like and failed. The reason I failed is that SWPL knocks itself down before you can even get near it. Trying to take it down is impossible, because it lives on the floor of the subbasement. You just wind up down there with a shovel trying to dig through the cement in order to bury it a little further down, which naturally makes you look like a lunatic. Still, there’s something about the attitude represented by that blog (but also very much present in other popular ones like Hipster Runoff and some things that are not quite blogs like Texts From Last Night) that makes me see red, and I think it is not the unwillingness to take even a single thing seriously, but the self-congratulatory air that accompanies the not taking anything seriously. It is a completely riskless position and as such it is hard for me to understand how anyone winds up being proud of it.

For example, this post by a woman named Lauren Leto who turns out to be the co-creator of TFLN (I did not know this when I was linked to it by a friend), tells you how to pretend to have read Dostoevsky and Salinger. The fact that it’s not funny is not a big deal (let’s just throw words like “yo” and “motherfucker” and “homeboy” in there, that’ll make it clever and relevant), but the fact that the concept behind the post is just basically “let’s mock people who like to a) read books and b) talk about them,” is. Not because this blog post is of earth-shattering importance (I mean, let’s be honest, what blog post is? And yet here we are…) but because it represents an attitude that is just everywhere. Note how the tone of the post (D1 implies that people who want to talk about FD don’t even know what his first name is, meaning they’re full of it; D3 refers to Poe as a goth, which relegates a great American writer to a culture that even 15 year olds are embarrassed to be a part of; S2 implies that anyone talking about Salinger wouldn’t already know that he is not secretly Thomas Pynchon) seems to indicate some kind of noble crusade against pretension, but who are these people who are accosting everyone at parties with their incessant need to talk about Notes From the Underground or Raise High The Roofbeams…? The last time books came up at a party I was at, I found myself uncomfortably trying to explain to five spooked looking people that Emily Dickinson and Charles Dickens were two different people. As someone who has clearly read both Dostoevsky and Salinger (at least some) and claims to love books and reading, it bothers me that Leto would adopt this weird anti-snob posture. The day I go to a party and, instead of getting the lyrics to ‘Party in the USA’ shrieked in my ear, get a neverending, slurred commentary on the themes of innocence and corruption in The Idiot, that’s the day when I will join the anti-pretension brigade. In the meantime, I’d rather not shame people out of potentially becoming more interesting.

The other notable thing in all these blogs, even underpinning the anti-pretension tone, is the violent cynicism. There’s the blatant cynicism of the basic concept, but even more revealing, the underlying meaning of this post is that anyone who wants to talk about these books either hasn’t really read them well enough to understand them or (more likely) is also lying about having read them in order to seem smart because no one really reads books anyway, amirite?? ha ha ha! It also basically says that you can trick a girl Salinger fan into sleeping with you and a guy into being your friend by referencing one very small aspect of the writing, implying again that these book reading people are secretly stupid like us normal people and don’t really have anything to say about these books or why they find meaning in them.

Anyway Dostoevsky was right. Depravity does breed depravity. Hopelessness will lead to hopelessness. Cynicism and posturing only creates more cynicism and more posturing, and I think we can probably all agree that we don’t need more of those things right now.

Okay, now that I’ve probably spent more time deconstructing that blog post than she’s spent writing her last ten, you can all call me pretentious and tell me to stop caring about things.

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