Conservative Tastes

Conservative Tastes

Truth Wimps Out

By From the December 2013 issue

In the many obituaries of and accompanying tributes to Lou Reed, in the course of which he was often referred to as a poet of genius, I was struck by how little quotation there was from his allegedly poetic oeuvre. What makes poetry poetry and not prose is that the words are crucial to the meaning (or meanings), but most of the late Mr. Reed’s admirers seemed to have contented themselves with summaries of how he had sung of his addiction to heroin or people who engage in exotic sexual practices or who overdose or die of AIDS. The actual words seem not to have been important. For them, the poetry lay in the inarticulate: the supposed authenticity and (as they say) transgressiveness of such life-outcomes and “the raw, anarchic sound” with which they were hymned. One obituary quoted its subject’s reaction to the unsuccess of an album the obituarist describes as “morbid and pretentious.” “If people don’t like Berlin,” Reed told an interviewer in the 1970s, “it’s because it’s too real. It’s not like a TV program, where all the bad things that happen to people are tolerable.

Conservative Tastes


By From the November 2013 issue

AN ITEM HEADLINED “Wimping of America” in the Daily Caller a few weeks ago informed us that the intramural football program at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, allegedly the oldest in the nation, had been deemed by its (female) headmaster to be too dangerous to the participants and would henceforth be replaced by flag football. Like the article’s (female) author, I felt a pang of regret at the news, even though I am myself without any happy memories of playing intramural football—or doing anything else—at Lawrenceville. Like her, too, I am more than a little inclined to regard the move as further evidence (if any further evidence were needed) of the enforced wimpification of America’s youth. You cannot separate the thrill of football from the risk any more than you can that of boxing. These thrills were once considered to be among the legitimate pleasures of (male) youth. But then, as you might have guessed, they don’t do boxing at Lawrenceville either. 

Conservative Tastes

The Heartlessness of the Matter

By From the October 2013 issue

OVER THE SUMMER, the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences issued the report it had been tasked to produce when it was created in 2010. Titled The Heart of the Matter, it finds the state of the humanities and social sciences in American education less than satisfactory. Some might argue that we need no blue ribbon commission to tell us this. The social sciences are in a mess all their own, but reactions to the report showed that the state of the humanities is also causing concern among observers outside of officialdom, including some who think they deserve no better. In the Wall Street Journal, for example, Lee Siegel looked forward to the extinction of the English major, already apparently on its way out, under the impression that without the chance to read works of classic literature in college, kids will be all the more eager to read them out of college. Perhaps he is of such an academic eminence that he never has to meet any actual students.

Conservative Tastes

As She Likes It

By From the April 2013 issue

It seems the answer to Freud’s famous question—What do women want?—is to be not so much equal to men as indistinguishable from them.