Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Lecture for Nathan Zuckerman

Beating up on the(p)resident has become so mainstream that the scribe is stricken with a sense of inertia and purposelessness. Of course, this Web blog promises some poetry and prose mixed in with its politics so tonight highwayscribery mixes some politics with some prose. Whether it rises to the level of poetry depends on the estimation each individual reader has of Philip Roth.

the scribe likes him. And apparently Bret Easton Ellis likes him (“Rich Man, Regular Man,” August 28), which is not the same thing.

Tonight’s piece is pulled from the scribe’s notebooks, from the time when he worked as a reader at the Creative Artists Agency and enjoyed the honor of being screwed for his efforts in a really cool looking building.

It’s from Roth’s “I Married a Communist,” and involves a conversation between the sappling Nathan Zuckerman, (Roth’s alter-ego in a number of works) and a professor who has the hots for him and lets his frustrations out in a literary way about the relationship between politics and art:

“Who taught you art is in the service of THE PEOPLE? Art is in the service of Art – otherwise there is no art worthy of anyone’s attention. What is the reason for writing serious literature, Mr. Zuckerman? To disarm the enemies of price controls? The motive for writing serious literature is to write serious literature. You want to rebel against society? I’ll tell you how to do it – write well. You want to embrace a lost cause? Then don’t fight in behalf of the laboring class. They’re going to make out fine. They’re going to fill up on Plymouths to their hearts’ content. The workingman will conquer us all – out of his mindlessness will flow the slop that is this philistine country’s cultural destiny. We’ll soon have something in this country far worse than the government of the peasants and the workers – we will have CULTURE of the peasants and the workers. You want a lost cause to fight for? Then fight for the word. Not the high-flown word, not the pro-this and anti-that word, not the word that advertises to the respectable that you are wonderful, admirable, compassionate person on the side of the downtrodden and the oppressed. No, for the word that tells the literate few condemned to live in America that you are on the side of the word.”

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