Thursday, December 25, 2003

Un-lit: It's more or less clear where in the blogdom Manhattan Transfer stands--in the hurly burly realm of "hard-partying Manhattanites" dedicated to chronicling our complete, total and wholly unapologetic embrace of decadence.

If I needed further confirmation of my role of the dark side, Cup of Chicha provided one by recently describing Manhattan Transfer as "un-lit." But I have to admit to being slightly surprised at finding myself among the unlit. My formal education consisted of reading literature and philosophy almost to the exclusion of everything else.

"I am so fucking lit," I told Maccers.

"You are not lit," she said. "And you wouldn't want to be."

On further consideration, I've decided that Maccers is right on both counts. The question is why? Or rather, what happened to turn this bookish lad unlit?

I think what happened didn't just happen to me. I think it happened to the world and to literature, and roughly in that order. It goes by various names so I'll just call it This Modern Life, or TML. Here's the short version. The best English language literature of the twentieth-century was written by Christians, often Catholics, who rejected or, once rejection became futile, despaired of TML. (The possible exception to this is Saul Bellow, who stands between the ancien regime and TML as Leo Strauss's Machiavelli does between classical and modern natural right.) But TML won, of course, and now the best books are written by mad French anarchist hedonists.

It seems to me that writing about books these days is a bit like--no, not a bit, more than a bit, or even exactly like--the situation in which the protagonist of Evelyn Waugh's Handful of Dust: reading Dickens aloud to a canibal who is holding him captive.

I'm not confident that my response--internal exile, or as it says on the marquee, reactionary counter-decadence--is really my last, best hope. But its the one I've got.

Or, as Maccers might put it, we're all stuck alone in an apartment after drinking too much wine, with a child who is not our own, and our best hope is exposing ourselves to the man with the Christmas Tree.