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Nearly Relevant
Nonsense, Fiction, and Miscellaneous Things

A Tenet of Aesthetic
     Harold Bloom postulates a principal footing of aesthetic value.  I tend to agree.

    "The cardinal principle of the current School of Resentment can be stated with singular bluntness: what is called aesthetic value emanates from class struggle.  This principal is so broad that it cannot be wholly refuted.  I myself insist that the individual self is the only method and the whole standard for apprehending aesthetic value."1

     It seems to me the idea of class struggle creating the particulars of an aesthetic is a case of mistaken identity;  A block of agreement has been mistaken for an aesthetic.  More than one individual valuing an aesthetic does not bring into existence the aesthetic but rather produces an agreement.  Alternative aesthetics are not negated by a lack of agreement. The particulars of alternative aesthetics - whether held communally, individually, or by any other manner of modification distinguishing the aesthetic as alternative - still exist as an aesthetic.  The lack or presence of  a supporting mob whether that mob is elitist or high brow, common or low brow, popular or avant-garde, neither defines nor negates an aesthetic and its facets.  
     It's not unlike the admonition, 'Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.'  A grouping of baby with bathwater - no distinguishment between the 2 - leads to throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Likewise, group support of or aversion to an aesthetic
- which a group support seems endemical to aesthetics defined by class struggle - is not in and of itself the aesthetic.  Rather, group support or aversion relates to the idea of agreement or disagreement with aesthetic and not the aesthetic itself.

The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, Harold Bloom
Pg. 22  Riverhead Books 1995, New York, New York,

'The Road', Cormac McCarthy

     In Cormac McCarthy's The Road©1, a father and child negotiate a dystopic land in order to escape the coming winter.  Day by day, tin of food by tin of food, they travel southward. 
     The Road© was disappointing.  Plotwise, An occasional nihilist survivor appears only to seem more enervated than threatening.  Themewise, the protagonist's greedless integrity seems more a luck of the draw than a choice for he is stuck in an environment lacking  things of which to be greedy thus the non-covetous with it's embedded integrity becomes a default condition.  Stylewise,  the narratives melancholic pinings miss a sense of perspicaciousness.  The cumulative effect of the pinings is one of decoration. The desiderations seem as necessary to a post-apocalyptic land as decorative Santa Clauses and decorative snowflakes are necessary to Christmas.  The effect of these disappointments was to give the book the ill luck of seeming sentimental and something of a didactic fable.
     I had been looking forward  to the dystopic setting but it was less adventuresome than I'd hoped.  McCarthy's dystopia is characterized by the freely mobile, lack of enforcing authorities, and the negation of a status-quo.  Wandering,  hunger, exposure to the elements - none of which are necessarily boring or false - mark  the day to day existence.  Under this set of conditions, the mannered civility of the protagonists seems too far-fetched. To some degree, the characters - both major and minor - are portrayed as peons to a physical universe.  Their autonomy, as well as most of the qualities which are part of the living human condition, are dulled by suffering.  Admittedly, staying fed - and preferably warm - are understandable demands of a post-apocalyptic portrayal but the kinetic potential of the anarchical setting deflates with each grudging step of the the characters journey toward warmth.  Pampering the reader with a didactic saw of civilized melancholy as the means by which fearsome facts of a post-apocalyptic land can be successfully negotiated seems at best sentimental and almost certainly not literary.  The saw dowily pokes the readers' dire concerns with an heedless urging of civilized sensibleness in a time when civilized as a modification equates with disaster.  McCarthy's replacing aesthetics with a morality play doesn't seem to me as literary . . . except possibly as literary disaster. 
     Nor does McCarthy's tools and techniques for creating and enhancing a dystopic mood save the unfortunately weak story.  The Road becomes, at best, a story for courses about stories rather than a story for courses about the human condition.  The tools, the analytics, the skilled representation become the 'story' to be talked about. 
     In the end - what  I had expected would be an adventure novel with a literary bent - seemed, instead, a product by a contemporaneous author attempting a modern day fable written on, of all things, parchment paper.  Maybe the book started out as a writing prompt which got out of control. 
     Had the movie Mad Max©'s plot been as didactic and fortuitous as The Road, the whole of post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction, probably, would have ended before it had ever begun.

     1The Road, Cormac McCarthy,
Vintage Books, ©2006 M-71, Ltd.
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