September 13, 2011

way it is

Masscult and Midcult is not without its words of praise, though these surface with difficulty and often with qualification?as when Macdonald tells us that Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a masterpiece only after declaring that his friend James Agee led a ?wasted, and wasteful, life.? The objects of Macdonald?s admiration are no less revealing than the targets of his scorn. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men manages to draw ?poetry from journalistic description?; that is, the work transcends the facts out of which it is shaped. In its largeness of scope, Famous Men resembles Moby-Dick, which Macdonald had praised for its ability to build fact into art, ?a happy Triumph of the Fact: from an intense concern with the exact ?way it is,? a concentration on the minutiae of whaling that reminds one of a mystic centering his whole consciousness on one object, Melville draws a noble poetry.? This is how facts rise above trivia; a knowing voice makes something of them. Without the voice to give shape to the thought, you might as well be reading the undersides of bottle caps, or that tightly packaged collection of bottle-cap-worthy facts, Time.
From Cult Hero, How Dwight Macdonald became a Macdonaldist by KERRY HOWLEY Posted by Dennis at September 13, 2011 4:09 AM

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