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Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I once had a friend in a former university, in the social sciences, let's say economics. She's quite a big deal in his field, but I noticed her level of cultural capital was bit spotty. I mentioned Picasso one day in a group conversation and she said "the painter?" This is the sort of person who might think of Nietzsche just as some precursor of Hitler. He reads Pérez Reverte, and told me she had never re-read a book of literature. I kind of reacted with shock sometimes, when she said Miles Davis bored her, or had never heard of Zukofsky or barely knew who Gertrude Stein is.

So I'm wondering, is this normal? Not the person, I mean my reaction. I really shouldn't look down on someone who seems otherwise very smart.


Anonymous said...

People outside humanities just are like that, a lot of them. People in business - medicine - education, even moreso.

What has always shocked me is not that in itself -- it's the non alternative desires of most faculty. The suburban house + tv + cruise ship for vacation type of taste. I was really not aware of this before becoming faculty myself and it has taken me a long time to get used to it.

Thomas said...

I run into ignorance of this kind in myself all the time. I think of myself as knowledgeable about American poetry, and then I find myself, in my forties, reading Spring and All for the first time.

I react much as you do. For a moment, I wonder how I've been able to get through all this time. How I've been able to form any opinion about literature. Just as you wonder how such a mind is even possible.

But of course it is.

Your reaction is normal. But it's the way you think it through ("I really shouldn't...") that makes it bearable.