23 August 2010

Landscape, Blurred in Passing




Rereading Jean Baudrillard's America for the first time in about 20 years and am a bit aghast at how it now strikes me as thoroughly, overwhelmingly trite. Fleeting and cosmetic (and often inaccurate) observations, innumerable socio-historical misapprehensions, numbing redundancies and a barrage of slapdash abstractions that ring like instant clichés. At times it rivals Dave Hickey's rhapsodics on the ersatz wonderments of Las Vegas for sheer inanity.

There's the occasional glimmer of insight. "Americans believe in facts, but not in facticity." Fair enough, until the aphorism devolves into near gibberish:

"It is in this belief in facts, in the total credibility of what is done or seen, in this pragmatic evidence of things and an accompanying contempt for what may be called appearances ... that the Americans are a true utopian society in their religion of the fait accompli, in the naivety of their deductions, in their ignorance of the evil genius of things. ... All other societies contain within them some heresy or other, some dissidence, some kind of suspicion of reality, ... Here, there is no dissidence, no suspicion. The emperor has no clothes; the facts are there before us."

How many ways to unpack that one? Not worth the bother, really. Nevermind that it wildly contradicts a observation he may have made a few pages earlier, and yet another just a few pages after. Bloody tourists.

But it's not a complete wash-out. A few fairly strong passages here and there. About which, more on the alternate channel.

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