David Brooks allows a made-up reader to address him as “Mr. Kierkegaard” today in his column. Here is what “Existential in Exeter” asks Søren Kierkegaard, who is David Brooks, about Culture: “All my life I’ve been a successful pseudo-intellectual, sprinkling quotations from Kafka, Epictetus and Derrida into my conversations, impressing dates and making my friends feel mentally inferior. But over the last few years, it’s stopped working. People just look at me blankly. My artificially inflated self-esteem is on the wane. What happened?” David Brooks gets high and then answers — oh man, does he ANSWER — this question (which he actually wrote to himself after getting high, too).
- “You must remember that there have been three epochs of intellectual affectation. The first, lasting from approximately 1400 to 1965, was the great age of snobbery. Cultural artifacts existed in a hierarchy, with opera and fine art at the top, and stripping at the bottom. The social climbing pseud merely had to familiarize himself with the forms at the top of the hierarchy and febrile acolytes would perch at his feet.” And by “perch at his feet,” does he mean “kill them in guillotines and have Communism”?
- “In 1960, for example, he merely had to follow the code of high modernism. He would master some impenetrably difficult work of art from T.S. Eliot or Ezra Pound and then brood contemplatively at parties about Lionel Trilling’s misinterpretation of it. A successful date might consist of going to a reading of ‘The Waste Land,’ contemplating the hollowness of the human condition and then going home to drink Russian vodka and suck on the gas pipe.” Damn that elitist Russian vodka. Also, what is this about sucking cock?
- “But on or about June 29, 2007, human character changed. That, of course, was the release date of the first iPhone.” Oh Jesus. We forgot that everyone owns and/or cares about a new kind of telephone that plays music.
- “This transition has produced some new status rules. In the first place, prestige has shifted from the producer of art to the aggregator and the appraiser. Inventors, artists and writers come and go, but buzz is forever. Maximum status goes to the Gladwellian heroes who occupy the convergence points of the Internet infosystem — Web sites like Pitchfork for music, Gizmodo for gadgets, Bookforum for ideas, etc.” People still read Pitchfork?
- “When you first come across some obscure cultural artifact — an unknown indie band, organic skate sneakers or wireless headphones from Finland — you will want to erupt with ecstatic enthusiasm. This will highlight the importance of your cultural discovery, the fineness of your discerning taste, and your early adopter insiderness for having found it before anyone else.” KILL ME.
Why are folks like David Brooks and Richard Cohen so transfixed on the idea that there cannot be any intelligent young people in our world who read books and aren’t, generally speaking, complete douchebags?
Lord of the Memes [New York Times]