March 8th, 2011

breaking bad

Clay Shirkey on the death of culture

This comment from Clay Shirkey (author of Here Comes Everybody among things) has caused consternation on Crooked Timber today.
Although the actual number of people reading Tolstoy (and similar writers) is probably not falling much (as documented elsewhere on CT, Humanities majors, as a precent of college graduates, fell to something like 8% some time ago, and is now actually pretty steady), it is increasingly less the case that the people not reading Tolstoy can be convinced that they should feel bad about not reading Tolstoy et al., or that they should be impressed with people who do.

Put another way, appreciation of High European culture is becoming something like Civil War re-enactment—it’s enjoyable for the people who do it, but does not seem to be creating much curiosity or envy in the people who prefer doing other things with their free time.

This doesn’t much bother me (and I’m a card-carrying member of the affected group, in a “My beach reading is Richard Rorty” kind of way), and if it bothers you, I’ve got a feeling you’re going to be in for a pretty big disappointment as the actual behaviors of American citizens becomes increasingly visible online.

I disagree with him. I'll give you an example: the title of his book (above) is from Finnegans Wake, as are the term 'quark' and the concept of monomyth which influenced the composition of Star Wars (for example).

I have said in a comment on Crooked Timber: Artefacts like Finnegan's Wake are the boiler-rooms. You don't have to go down to the boiler room to enjoy central heating. But some people have to go and service the boiler, and people would notice if the boiler went off.
breaking bad

census meme

In 2011 I live in Coventry with H. My kids are at University, and I am trying to restart my writing career.
In 2001 I was living in Coventry. I had been working as a writer for seven years, but I had recently taken a full time job at Becta. I had two children aged 11 and 8. H was working in Sheffield during the week at the University for Industry.
In 1991 I had just left my ex to move in with H, and I had an 18 month old baby. I lived in a rented house in Hanwell in West London and worked as Lecturer in Further Education.
In 1981 I was studying Philosophy at the University of Warwick. I was living near anarchy bridge in central Coventry. Strange days indeed.
In 1971 I was living in a council house in Sutton Coldfield. My father was disabled, and we were poor.
In 1961 I was in my mummy's tummy. She was living in the back bedroom of my grandma's house, in Birmingham, and my dad was doing National Service.