Sunday, March 16, 2014

1970's McGuane Soliloquy # 2

A few old fans have been waiting patiently for this one, from 92 in the Shade.

Though not as exhilaratingly visionary  or all- inclusive or flat- out FUNNY as the "what I believe in" speech from Bushwhacked Piano, it still rejects the mechanized, overly "rational", controlling- for- your- own- good* aspects of modern society ( using rational in the Michael Oakeshott or John Gray sense), in a way that any philosopher of the small ways, from  Lao Tse to  Chesterton to Gary Snyder, might well understand...

(Though the only reaction I ever got from reading this passage aloud at a dinner in the seventies was from an unemployed Marxist sociologist in Belmont MA, who shook his head and said "I wouldn't have thought that anybody in Montana knew who Bakunin was.") **

The passage, presented utterly without context, is as good a piece on rejection of planned perfection & so forth I have ever seen, a compressed comic epigram that might stand as a symbol of, among other things, the works of Dostoyevski (see the inquisitor in Crime and Punishment), encoded for those who might find it in a satirical and often lyrical fishing book. Take it away!

"When the shining city is at hand, a special slum will be built for me and my meanness. I will be the person, if that's what I am, in the slum; there will be one of everything; one rat, one tin can. The shining city will beckon in the distance. The shadow of the Bakunin monument will not quite stretch to my door. In the evening, the sound of happy syndicalist badminton finals will be borne to me on a wind that sours as it as it enters my slum. I will behave badly."

What other way could you choose? To quote my other favorite T McG speech: "Anyway, you get the drift. I hate to flop the old philosophy on the table like so much pig's guts. And I left out a lot. But, well, there she is."

* Google "Shower adjuster".

**  Obviously he had never been in, say, Butte, where they quote Kropotkin- a superior anarchist. Mutual aid!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that...

Jim Cornelius

Anonymous said...

Is this guy a slave to the civilization he is lamenting? Why a "slum" in the shining city? I just don't get that at all. I'd tell him to put one foot in front of the other repeatedly until he was OUT of the city! Or at least find a neglected patch of brush, perhaps in a traffic island, and settle in there as so many other forms of "urban wildlife" do! "Artistes" can sure be impractical for the sake of "Art"......L. B.

Steve Bodio said...

Lane: The thoughts are those of a fictional fishing guide in the Florida Keys, lamenting that IF the perfect Utopian society were ever achieved ("The Shining City", symbolic not real) he would still be his unregenerate human self, living by choice and perhaps exile in the "slum" where he would be jealous and ornery and human ("behave badly").

Anonymous said...

Ha! Thanks for the translation! Obviously(ahem!) I was unfamiliar with this work(to make an understatement). But that's still what I'd tell the guy, fictional er not!....L.B.