". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Incidental Reading

Beran, Michale Knox. (2021) Wasps: The Splendors and Miseries of An American Aristocracy

Why have book covers become so ugly, all across the board, whatever genre?

     . . . . Beran does bludgeon us with his theme that this class felt de-centered and emasculated somehow post the War of the Rebellion, and indeed were, and that the 1960's finished the job.  I don't necessarily swallow all this, as not everyone was Henry Adams, but nevermind. It's engaging partly due my attempts to figure out what it is that makes sorts like Beran obsessed with these media-declared aristoi all their lives, even building their careers around investigating and  writing about them, and, like Dominick Dunne, even to covering others like them such as Truman Capote. The ilks such as Babe Paley, the Astors, Vanderbilts, etc. who in the 50's and 60's got labeled "the beautiful people" by the ilks who hung around in their entourages.

For myself, however, the earlier figures out of Gilded Age New England* who happily get the most text, including even William James, etc., are often fascinating, though usually for what they did, even sometimes in spite of themselves, like Isabella Gardner, not their failures. Santayana is among them, though one doesn't feel he really belongs, as neither a Bhramin nor a WASP, and because he left the US all together for Italy, where he softly voiced his ingrained anti-semitism and sympathy for fascism.  IOW, no better than the ones of the 20th C, for whom one cannot at times feel the tumbrils should have come, useless arrogant jerkwaddies of self-importance founded upon nothing, that they were.  There. My own class roots show.  Ha!

Beran adopts that slightly mocking, self conscious tone reconizable among both the Brits and the USians of both birth and non-birth poshie membership when writing about these classes. (see Brit Simon Winder, who wrote three books of German history, in which he claims to love Germany,  in which he does nothing but mock them, for their food, their cutesy pie imitation middle ages villages, etc. -- he a Brit, from the land of bring the tourists to our manufactured village fetes and terrible food, mocking another country for terrible food and tourist attracting non-authenticity??????? -- and he's much nastier, btw, in that supremely nasty manner that is the signature of the post colonial Brit asshole superiority**) which further irritates me. Beran even snidely references Dominick Dunne, while coyly refusing to type the man's name, so one speculates then, that Beran is rather envious of Dunne, who now, of course, is dead and gone, like the world, and the scandal ridden jerkwaddies who populated it, whom Dunne devastatingly described in journalism, television, films and fiction.

I do admit to liking Dunne to a degree, since he doesn't project that personal petty meanness, in his writing at least.  Or maybe it's that Dunne was the first informer about these 20th C types I met, in Vanity Fair, which I bought every month, with many other magazines and books, across the street when bookstores were a thing here.

Regarding books and bookstores, btw, two weeks ago, their absence broke my heart again.  Walking along Our Street, here was an empty storefront in the process of becoming a rare and used book store, with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled, comfy chairs and everything else one could want in such a place! I hadn’t seen or been inside such a one since my last visit to Royal Street in New Orleans! Brimming with indescribable happiness and excitement I pulled out my phone to so inform el V and B -- and then was told this was a movie set, not real. My spirits plunged.  Again, I cannot tell you how happy I was at the very idea of a bookstore! in our neighborhood that has nothing of use in it at all. Only horrible restaurants filled with mannikans, whose only thought in head is “SELFIE!”

*Why does Beran insist upon including Theodore Roosevelt and the other Roosevelts among these New Englanders, when their fortunes and defining characteristics are hereditary membership in the NEW YORK ruling class, not New England's, despite having attended Harvard?

** Winder, Simon (2010) Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History (US) / A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern.

Author an editor at UK Penguin.

This is confusing as the subtitle differs, I think, in the US from the subtitle in the UK. There are two other books as well, in the same vein, Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe (2013) , and Lotharingia: A Personal History of Europe’s Lost Country (2019).

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