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July 14, 2005

Comments

Not everyone who acts as it pleases them is an eccentric, but I think eccentric people are true only to their own pleasure, not the expectations of an audience. The person who behaves in an affected way cannot banish the judgment of an audience even when they're alone.

I think if there is some element of compulsion or obsession it is not affected. The source seems deeper, less conscious, in that case.

I think the difference is that affectation is performance, rather than self-consciousness per se.

Or, alternately, affectation is eccentricity that we find annoying, and eccentricity is affectation that we find charming.

What does one do when it becomes apparent that conforming to conventional expectations is an affectation? Maybe you could go through a period of conventionality, become convinced of its falseness for you, then return to eccentricity as "just the way you are."

Such a course of action would ultimately be a performative refutation of essentialism -- in the naive sense in which ignorant literary scholars pretensiously use the word.

Not everyone who acts as it pleases them is an eccentric,

Yeah, but only eccentrics (more or less) get the credit for it.

Well, if you mean that only eccentric people get credit for behaving as they please, I think you're wrong, only because people with relatively normal interests and ways can certainly be recognized for their uninterest in other people's opinions; if you mean that only eccentric people get credit for being eccentric, I'm not sure what the problem is.

It's an honor to be nominated, but didn't Kotsko come up with that law?

I also think you're conflating pretension with the affected/eccentric question at the end, when it is neither. (And I am the founder of the Proudly Pretentious movement.) Reading Joyce on the train is pretentious, but if you like Joyce so what?

Perhaps the distinction between affected and eccentric is that eccentrics actually like what they're doing and would do the same even if they weren't eccentric. The affected are being affected for the sake of being affected and for no other sake. That's bad.

It's not a conflation so much as a structurally similar example? It's not necessarily pretentious to read Joyce on the train.

I think I like the performance idea better than the liking-it aspect.

Yeah, come on, if you like Joyce it isn't pretentious to read him on the train or anywhere. If you don't understand him but think it will make you look cool to pretend that you do, then that's pretentious. There's a little hypersensitivity underlying all this. There's actually more, and it merits investigation. Literacy itself (or art, or philosophy, whatever) has somehow culturally become pretense.

Matt, I'm glad I didn't have to be the one to bring that up.

I am somewhat confused -- when did particular acts become intrinsically pretensious? I thought there was a certain level of intentionality involved. YET that intentionality cannot be fully conscious -- no one aims directly at pretensiousness; they hit it while aiming for something else.

I think I decided that certain acts are intrinsically pretentious, and that we're deluding ourselves if we claim otherwise. It is pretentious that I spend all day listening to recorded sound that others might mistake for the sound of dishes being washed in the next room or low-flying aircraft, even though I genuinely enjoy it. One cannot arrive at that state without having at some point deliberately sought out the difficult and avant-garde. Similarly, if you're reading Ulysses you're at least in part getting off on the difficulty. No way not. And that's pretentious, but there isn't anything wrong with it.

I claim that I am not redefining the word 'pretentious', but bringing into the open what it has always meant even though we have been ashamed to admit it.

But what if you're reading Ulysses and, sometime after the middle part around lunch hour you become disillusioned with the novel - or rather the collection of words, carefully arranged - and then finish only because you don't want to be forever stuck in the section that reads like a play?

Is it still pretentious to read even after you've tired of the difficulty? Suppose you, to your surprise, found yourself later enjoying the catechism section? Is it pretentious to think that?

This whole comment is pretentious.

This whole conversation is hopeless immured in the pretentious, freeing me to use words like "immured", or "nitwit".

One cannot arrive at that state without having at some point deliberately sought out the difficult and avant-garde.

Let's grant, ad arguendo (heh), that you could only have arrived at your present state by seeking out the difficult for its own sake, and that this is inevitably pretentious. Does that mean that now your listening Merzbow or whatever is pretentious? My baa-like assessment: no. (There's a quotation that I like to drag out when confronted with anything of the form x -> ~x -> x, but I omit it here, as it's terribly pretentious.)

Craig, who sometimes comments here, has pretenses to common-manhood, and read Ulysses; I wonder what his take on your severity is.

Ben--possibly not, on the Merzbow. Maybe at some point one attains Buddha-nature or something.

eb--I don't know if it's pretentious--shouldn't you just give up? That's what I do. No wait, the question is what if you enjoy the catechism section. I think that's still kind of pretentious. I mean, the catechism section is not exactly "A pint of plain is your only man" either.

I'm thinking of writing up part of the Proudly Pretentious Manifesto about this (Kotsko's law, I know). Sneak preview: The discourse of pretension as it here stands presupposes the discourse of authenticity.

I mean, the catechism section is not exactly "A pint of plain is your only man" either.

Yeah, and neither is At Swim-Two-Birds, but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. I find your assertions that enjoying something difficult is ipso facto pretentious, and that you're not using a new definition of pretentious, hard to reconcile.

Sneak preview: The discourse of pretension as it here stands presupposes the discourse of authenticity.

Well duh.

Well duh? But the discourse of authenticity is notoriously rife with problems! You're building your castle on a foundation of sand!

And it's not enjoying something difficult, necessarily, it's enjoying the difficulty itself. Enjoying the fact of its difficulty. I'm not really very committed to the idea that I'm not using a new definition of 'pretentious'. And At Swim-Two Birds is clearly pretentious as hell, if we can get past the idea that that's a bad thing. I mean, you've already let go without challenge my assertion that @Sw2B is bullshit, intended purely descriptively or in fact as a compliment, and is it so far to the idea that it's pretentious in the same way?

And don't you dare omit that quotation.

We aren't talking about the book but its reader, though.

Well duh? But the discourse of authenticity is notoriously rife with problems! You're building your castle on a foundation of sand!

Yes duh; the "motivation" link should suffice to convince you that authenticity wasn't entirely absent from my mind in the main post, at least. And they may be foundations of sand, but they're my foundations of sand, which I officially reject but with which I actually have a vexed relationship. And, you know, I don't know what those problems officially are.

Enjoying the fact of its difficulty.

So ... rock climbers are pretentious?

And don't you dare omit that quotation.

Er, what quotation? WAKEY WAKEY MATT WEINER! CARCK DON'T SMORK ITS ELF!

The catechism section is just fun and funny, that's all. I think pretension would involve liking it out of some belief that it's saying something deep or profound about one of those huge concepts like The Human Condition under the pressures of Modernity. Or something.

How close are we to adding "mw-pretentious" to "o-earnest"?

There's a quotation that I like to drag out when confronted with anything of the form x -> ~x -> x, but I omit it here, as it's terribly pretentious.

The aforesaid quortation. Consider your elf smorked.

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains and waters are not waters. But now I have got to the very substance I am at rest. For it is just that I saw mountains again as mountains and waters once again as waters

I would say the first x and the last x are not the same x, but rather some x and x'; and the intermediate process, provocatively denoted "-> ~x ->", is a homomorphism that relates them. (This homomorphism may be ineffable.) Imagine if the word for phlogiston had been, in fact "oxygen".

eb--pretentiously enough, I've never got to the catechism section. So perhaps I can't discuss it as such. It looks as though the previous chapter is written more or less normally--I have this fantasy that that chapter explains everything that's been going on, in a mild, straightforward fashion. Don't disillusion me.

Go ahead with 'mw-pretentious' I guess, though I promise not to look all confused whenever anyone uses 'pretentious' the normal way.

So ... rock climbers are pretentious?

Rock-climbing isn't utterly incomprehensible to people who can't do it. It's not quite a mental/physical divide, because doing crossword puzzles isn't pretentious in my sense, but 'difficult' here doesn't mean 'difficult to accomplish', but 'difficult to understand'.

eb,

The catechism section is easily the best section.

1. It is easy to understand
2. It is funny
3. It is the last chapter in the book not extensively quoted in a Rodney Dangerfield movie.

Ben,

You are misquoting the Bruce Lee .

Here is my favorite.

>Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.


Joe O,

Am not.

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