Eagleton on Hitchens.


Oh man, this is tasty.

“Hypocritchens”, as he was known at Balliol, was suave, bright, fearless, loquacious, self-admiring and grotesquely ambitious.

[…]

This blend of self-vaunting and perfunctory self-deprecation is a common device in his prose, as he recounts some self-aggrandising moment from his career as a war journalist while insisting that he was shaking with fear at the time, or professes to be knocked back by discovering that the great Isaiah Berlin should prefer his humble company while he is still an Oxford student to that of “much more distinguished figures”.

[…]

What others would see as squalid social climbing, gross opportunism and a greedy desire to have it every possible way, he himself seems to regard as both clever and amusing.

[…]

It is as though he sees his own double-dealing as a rather agreeable versatility – as testimony to his myriad-mindedness rather than as a privileged, spoilt-brat desire (among other things) to hog it all. One is reminded of the scatty socialite in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies who had heard talk of an Independent Labour Party and was furious that she had not been invited.

Terry Eagleton Fights New Atheists.


Tragic hero: Laurie Taylor interviews Terry Eagleton.

Reading the first sentence of Terry Eagleton’s review of The God Delusion in the October 2006 edition of the London Review of Books was not unlike watching a gunfighter kicking over a table of cards in an otherwise well-ordered saloon. “Imagine,” fired Eagleton, “someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

And that was only the opening volley. Further down the page Eagleton proceeds to shoot up Dawkins’s failure to do justice to the complexity of the God he sought to rout (“He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap”), his literality and lack of imagination (“Dawkins occasionally writes as though ‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness’ is a mighty funny way to describe a Grecian urn”) and his belief in the progressive nature of history (“We have it from the mouth of Mr Public Science himself that aside from a few local, temporary hiccups like ecological disasters, famine, ethnic wars and nuclear wastelands, History is perpetually on the up”).

Elitism Is Bad (Unless, Of Course, It Is Good)


So all the talk about elitism and arugula (which I am yet to try) in the media, especially when it comes to a kind of dismissal of elitism from the supposedly non-elitist pundits, made me think about my own high appreciation of everything elitist: I mean, let’s face it, if everyone likes their coffee with a carefully mixed combination of soy milk, a touch of cinnamon, and a pinch of crushed roasted almonds waved in the close vicinity of a burning pink Japanese dogwood branches, then why would I go through the painful process of making my magic mix every morning? The very satisfaction of being an elitist is precisely this very being of an elitist – it’s not about the actual position of belonging to the elite of any kind, it is the attitude, we are told, of regarding others as not-so-worthy of our elitist level. This, of course, is suppose to make all of us educated elitists feel bad about our societal position and think twice before we decide to express our opinions and distribute our wisdom – “who do you think you are, elitist, to teach me about politics?” Yet it is difficult not to laugh and be all mean and unfairly intrusive when something like this comes out:

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attended five colleges in six years before graduating from the University of Idaho in 1987.

Federal privacy laws prohibit the schools from disclosing her grades, and none of the schools contacted by The Associated Press could say why she transferred. There was no indication any of them were contacted as part of the background investigation of Palin by presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign.

Ok, my first assumption is that she was not very serious about her education, Continue reading

Žižek’s New Book: In Defense Of Lost Causes.


Terry Eagleton reviews Žižek’s new book:

The self-consciously outrageous case the book has to argue is that there is a “redemptive” moment to be plucked from such failed revolutionary ventures as Jacobinism, Leninism, Stalinism and Maoism. Žižek is by no means a champion of political terror: the Mao he offers us here, for example, is the mass murderer who mused that “half of China may have to die” in the Great Leap Forward, and who remarked that though a nuclear war might blow a hole in the planet, it would leave the cosmos largely untouched. His aim is not to justify such demented views, but to make things harder for the typical liberal middle-class dismissal of them. In pursuing this goal, the book offers us a wealth of political and philosophical insight; but it is not at all clear that it validates its central thesis. […]

It is not the nave of its central thesis which makes this book so compelling, but its side chapels. Slavoj Žižek, as usual, seems gratifyingly unable to remember what case he has just been pursuing, and there are some splendid digressions, including an account of the changing role of the scherzo in Shostakovich, a disquisition on Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, and reflections on Eisenstein’s lost masterpieces. In Defense of Lost Causes is a frenetic, eclectic parody of intellectual scholarship, by one so assured in his grasp of the finer points of Kafka or John le Carré that he can afford to ham it up a little. Read the whole thing.

I did buy Parallax View when it came out, but I think I only used it as a reference guide to see what Žižek had to say about certain subjects – I’m not sure if I could read it all the way through. Should I buy this new one or is Žižek’s fame slowly fading away and I no longer need to familiarize myself with his ever-increasing body of work to stay “hip”?