The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

punctuated equilibria

It is another round of desultory reading, a sort of weak waving of the hand at sturdy piles of thoughtful books that do not at the moment appeal. I’ve been in the sort of reading mood that cannot ignore failures of proofreading – the inconsistent use of straight and typographer’s quotation marks in the last quarter of a book, spaced ellipses breaking at the end of a line, the appearance of ‘fussiily’ on page twelve of a book I’d been eagerly anticipating.

Or there is the lure of picking at dangling ideas, even (especially) when they are neatly woven into the argument. So in trying to read Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism (otherwise appealing), the didactic introduction and the choice of artworks discussed (which all seem to have a sort of godawful ‘artiness’ to them) grate, as does the echo of a capabilities approach clanging uncited in the next chapter over. Or Judith Butler’s Antigone’s Claim, haunted by the specter of Hegel. Or the next chapter in Reading and Not Reading The Faerie Queene, which I cannot currently do justice to because I cannot face the idea of children reading Spenser (and, well, ditto Spenser).

This has sent me back to mysteries from the library, which has got me thinking about genre. Not very deeply, as there is a temptation to pursue a structuralist approach that is perhaps not very helpful.1 The element of the puzzle and the order: what is hidden and revealed. It is not that mysteries necessarily have a moral clarity in themselves, but that they are driven by a belief in the possibility of such a thing – of a perfect ethical system – even if does not exist within the world described.2 The platonism of the cozy.

Still, it’s a bad habit of mine to read almost everything as though it were fiction; or, on the contrary, to read everything as though it were not. Hard to tell things apart. Perhaps that is why I have less problem with fictionalized accounts of real people than some – though there is always the unnecessary annoyance of including ‘real’ people where they are not needed, as a shorthand indicating creative laziness, rather than creative economy.3

Where the devil do phrases like ‘creative economy’ (as in a clever husbanding of resources for artistic or rhetorical purpose) come from? What is it doing here? A spinning of wheels.

  1. Also, as an aside, why is it that the main difference between young adult and general fiction seems to be a belief in the efficacy (or interest) of meetings? Have I said this before? I think I’ve said this before. []
  2. Even when the broader societal causes of ‘whodunnit’ are considered, there is usually the sense that if things were other than they are (depicted), that injustice (or the injudicious) would be a problem that could be solved. []
  3. For example, the fad to feature famous dead authors as detectives in a certain sort of murder mystery – although I find that about equivalent to (and abhorrent as) the idea of a ‘new’ and updated Philip Marlowe mystery with a contemporary setting. []


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