The international adventures of a singing, dancing zombie queen.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"The Metaphysics of Authenticity"

I have this Angela Carter book in the bathroom, and I only ever get to read a paragraph or two at a time. It's just as well, because Angela Carter's witty columns often take days of delight-filled mastication. Sometimes I wonder - 'did I really just read that?' or, 'when was this written; yesterday or thirty years ago?' or, 'OMG thank god someone has explained that nagging feeling I've been having!' This last one happens frequently, as Carter has an extraordinary talent for recognizing fads, hypocrisy of class, and falseness. I love it. Don't get me wrong; I love living in the Bay Area, and I'm supportive of openness and love paying my taxes (really!), but my god; sometimes I just want to call bullshit!
Angela Carter must be the queen of bullshit-calling, and she did it long in advance of most trends' popularity (see the NYTimes review at the bottom). I love that she identifies falseness without making the argument that her own ideas are true based on the false rationale of her subject matter. Carter just says, "fuck, people, get over yourselves."

At the moment, I'm reading through a series of articles that she wrote about culinary books, before "foodies" even existed; before Julia. I love foodie magazines, but I love it even more when I can have a chuckle with Carter about how ridiculous some of these idealizations are. She pries the dramatics (a.k.a. snobbery) off of these books and points at wider trends, without disrespecting their sensuality or the prose.


"This combination of material asceticism and passionate enthusiasm of the sensuality of the everyday is at the core of the tradition from which Mrs Gray springs, with its obvious affinities to the style of Bloomsbury, where it was a moral imperative that the beautiful should always take precedence over the comfortable. Though 'beautiful' is not quite the right word -- it is a kind of authenticity which is invoked here, as though water is more authentic, more real, wetter, draw from a open-air cistern than from a city tap.

"The metaphysics of authenticity are a dangerous area. When Mrs Gray opines, 'Poverty rather than wealth gives the good things of life their true significance', it is tempting to suggest it is other people's poverty, always a source of the picturesque, that does that. Even if mrs Gray and her companion live in exactly the same circumstances as their neighbours in the Greek islands or southern Italy, and have just as little ready money, their relation to their circumstances is the result of the greatest of all luxuries, aesthetic choice. 'Poverty', here, is sloppy language -- a rare example of it. Mrs gray isn't talking about a pavement dweller in Calcutta, or a member of the long-term unemployed in an advanced, industrialized country; nor about poverty as such, but about a way of life which has a dignity imposed upon it by its stoicism in the face of a nature on which it is entirely dependent. The Japanese created an entire aesthetic, and a moral philosophy, out of this stoicism and this intimate relation with natural forces; as soon as they had a bob or two in their pockets, of course, they binged on consumerism, but the hard core is still there."

~Angela Carter's Book Review, "Patience Gray: Honey from a Weed," from the book Shaking a Leg.
Carter, Angela. Shaking a Leg: Collected Journalism and Writings. New York: Penguin Group, 1998. 102. Print.

This isn't the only article where she talks about the upper class idealizing the diets of working class people in foreign countries. And it's not just about learning to cook; she talks about the cult of the whole-grain bread folks, the vegetarians and vegans who have made their food preferences nearly evangelical cult activities. Not that there is anything crappy about eating no meat or baking your own bread. But Carter has a way of walking in and calling a duck a duck, and a cult a cult.
It's refreshing.

From a NYTimes Review on Shaking a Leg:
"But to adopt Angela's own kind of terminology for a moment, what emerges most powerfully from Shaking A Leg is her ability to detect bullshit at two hundred paces. Years before the term `foodie' had been invented, she was mocking the pretensions of the cookery writer who insists on recherche ingredients not because of their qualities but their snob value. And it is a delight to find her, years before the porn star Linda Lovelace came out as a victim of the sex industry, deconstructing the actress's sexual braggadocio as a species of false consciousness -- and discerning a profound rage behind Lovelace's notorious skill at fellatio. The permissive societies of which Lovelace is a product, Carter points out more than once, are actually deeply repressed: why else do people need permission to explore their sexuality? Only someone with an appreciation of the sweaty, earthy pleasures of sex could create this kind of critique, outspoken and completely unprudish..."

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Dance & Fitness Faculty member at San Francisco Peninsula Community Colleges, Director, Choreographer & Featured Dancer, Founder of the Living Dead Girlz, and Owner of the Steele Dance Company, which provides entertainment for festivals, corporate events, conventions and private events. Teaching private dance lessons and creating choreography since 1997, Steele graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Double Major in Dance and Comparative Literature and completed her Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography at Mills College. She has toured all the major cities in Germany and performed at the Cannes Film Festival as the featured dancer in TRIP -- Remix Your Experience, a multimedia exhibition of film, live music and art. Steele has also performed as a featured dancer for RJ Reynolds (CAMEL) promotional events. Steele currently manages the go-go dancers of "Poor Impulse Control," who perform frequently in San Francisco's industrial, alternative, and rock venues.