Facebook has only pushed the ball farther down the field (away from me, that is): every few minutes someone is touting something to watch or read (I am more guilty of this than anyone -- I even touted the New York magazine cover story about unhappy parenting this week before I finished reading it myself). Like a cable-news channel, I feel more and more deluged with crap-of-the-moment (BP, LeBron, Mel Gibson, the spy swap) and less and less able to see the long view.
So I was amazed today to find myself following a link to a LONG article about Pickup Artists Vs. Lovers
in a new Chicago-based journal called The Point, which had been recommended on Facebook by an acquaintance I haven't seen in person in years. Written by someone named SG Belknap -- a Google search turned up no other citations -- it set my brain synapses firing in a way that I realized, shamefully, was all too rare these days.
Like a good pickup artist, the article seduced me by starting out the discussion with a contemporary pop-culture hook (Neil Strauss's controversial book about the art of seduction) and then, like a lover, it lead me deep into the history of romance....and into an analysis of Stendahl! It took the best New York Review of Books-style erudition and made it alive to today's sexual mores and politics.
A half-century ago there was a baseline of education and culture that allowed opera singers to appear on variety shows, authors to be on late night talk shows. Now serious guests are relegated to Charlie Rose snoozeathons or enduring some (smart) teasing by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
I'm always a little sad that the top DVD rentals are whatever crap has most recently been released, as opposed to, say, Annie Hall or The Last Picture Show. When I hear people wish they were back in school, I usually laugh. Who wants to return to the days of deadlines and forced readings?
But every now and then, something makes me want to stop reading blogs, magazines, newspapers, to stop waiting for Mad Men's next season, and read the classics I somehow avoided in college, to learn more about life than the passing craze. Thanks, SG Belknap & co., for reminding me of this point.