Friday, April 15, 2005

Camille Paglia just can't resist...

In a recent salon.com interview to promote her latest book, Camille Paglia slams blogs (among other targets):

The blogs, for example, are becoming so self-referential. If people want to be better writers, they can't just read the blogs! You've got to look at something that's outside this rushing world of evanescent words. Nowhere in blog pages does anyone pay attention to the individual word -- things are moving too fast. Someone like Emily Dickinson was working with the dictionary and looking at the etymology of the word, so that you have all this tremendous stuff going on within a single word!
I for one don't read blogs with the sole purpose of becoming a better writer -- that's what I write for. Blog reading is for entertainment, information, a feeling of community.

About Emily Dickinson: Her talent was huge but her life was limited, circumscribed to her protected domestic sphere. She was a reclusive woman obsessed with words.

And for every writer who feels too old or too rejected, heres a little Paglia trivia, straight from the source: "You have to remember, my first book wasn't published until I was 43, and that book had been rejected by seven publishersand five agents. I came on the scene without any publicity. "

Mmm... There's hope for me yet. I'm only 35!

New word for the day (the month, year, decade...): flibbertigibbet
Use it in a sentence, Ms. Paglia, please: "Some people think I must be some sort of a flibbertigibbet, running around the world in front of cameras."
Definition: A silly, flighty, or scatterbrained person, especially a pert young woman with such qualities. Ms. Paglia as pert young woman...interesting...

Oh, the power of self-promotion: In this salon.com interview, Paglia finds occasion to mention the 60 Minutes profile, the Vanity Fair photo turned cartoon, the New York Magazine cover story...and then, proclaiming herself the impetus behind Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World (a book which of course sucks), and a phenomenon parallel to Cornel West... Yes, we get it, you're a self-made media star!

It must be nice to be Paglia the writer who needs little editing:
My work is never edited in that sense. My excellent editor will make a suggestion or a request here and there, but there is never wholesale rewriting or reorganization of my prose or alteration of my voice. What you're getting from me is entirely my work.
Perhaps her editor is afraid of her?

As well as the researcher who needs little documentation:
And what gets me is when a reviewer says in awe, "This is a very erudite person -- there are so many pages of footnotes!" I want to laugh! Well, pages and pages of footnotes in the back of a general interest humanities book usually indicates weakness. You don't need all that if your scholarship is solid. And the idea that the trendy professors of the elite schools have actually read all those books is usually false. Not only haven't they read them, they haven't even gone to the library to get them.
Would the very act of picking books up at the library confer knowledge, wisdom, transcendence? Is that a process of literary osmosis which transmits erudition through the physical labor of checking out one's own library books?

I was also under the apparently mistaken impression that references meant depth and breadth of research, as well as accountability and an acknowledgement of intellectual indebtedness...

And hail Paglia the great communicator:
I've won a very wide audience in that way. I listen to or monitor a huge range of opinion, including on talk radio, which I love. I want to understand how most people think! That's why I can communicate with large numbers of people. What's the secret? The secret is I cannot stand the coterie mentality, whether it's in downtown Manhattan or in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or in L.A. I cannot stand the cool in-group -- "We are the special people, we are the best people, everyone else is just rubes and hayseeds." Get over that!
But isn't Paglia herself guilty of this? Perhaps the difference is that she is a clique of one. I get a sense she doesn't need anyone else to proclaim her queen bee.

This interview just makes Camille Paglia seem utterly detestable: cantankerous, arrogant, self-serving, overbearing. I wonder if she really is like that or if it's a side effect of having her words transcribed; maybe in person, her voice, her mannerisms, and the force of her personality make her charming?

I don't expect I'll ever find out.

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