690

5, 1982.

BOOKS &
adjustment was the loss of its heroic’
of Warhol’s
status.Theconsequences
cynicism-a cynicism so profound it
looked like innocefice-€or the content
the light of the esthetic decisions of inMENAND
of modern art wererealty notasfardividual artists; but it would not be in- reaching as its consequences for the imhe publication last fall of
Aldulging in more than the usual
critical age of the modern artist.
threw the
bertGoldman’sbiography
of hyperbole to saythatwhenWarhol
Elvis Presley was an important threw out the canvas wlth the drips and bottle-rack and th,e urinal in their faces
for a challenge,”complained the unevent, not so much because of
hash
marks,
a majorphase
in the
willing godfather of Pop Art,
Marcel
Goldman’s cruelties as because of
history of modern culture came,to an
the enormous response the book proDuchamp, “and now they admire them
end.Those painterlyeffects were the
voked. When serious wqiters in journals
for their artistic beauty.” The modern
srgnature of the special sensibility that
.
artist
had
always
been the heroic
ranging from The Vdlage Voice to the guaranteed Art. They were the traces
of challenger
ofofficialculture-ofits
Times Lrterary Strpplernent rose to de- the painter’sheroicstruggle
to transcommodity fetishism,its
marketplace
fend Presley’s culturalsignificance,it
form the everyday into art, to make a
morality, its bourgeois notions of art.
wasclear that Elvis hadidentified a
statement about hisspecialrelation
to Withthearrival
of Popismandthe
substantialaudience
of intellectuals
the world of ordinary experience.
emergence of the big money art world
with an interest In popular entertainers.
It is perhaps easier to acceptthe
ofthe 1960s and 1970s, though,the
We are surely gomg to get more books
significance of Warhol’s decision if we avant-gardesuddenlyseemed
tojoin
for this audience-Goldmanhimself,
remember that it was no[ in the ordinary
forces with that part of modern life it
when he gets his contracts straightened
sense an artistic decision but primarily a had traditionally been understoodto
out, will be writing one on John
Lencommercial one (this aspect
of Warhol’s
despise.
non-and it is tempting to speculate on
art is made quite clear In Calvin TomBut the need for the culture hero that
the reasons for this fascination with the
kins’s account of the episodeof the two modern high culture had always filledheroes of popular culture.
Coke bottlesin
De Antonio the artist whose life and
work are the
The Interest can be attributed in great
may have thought he saw
a
work of art; heroic testimony of the modern world’s
part to thechange theimage of the
Warhol realized he had something that
hostility to genius-did notdisappear
modern artist has undergone in the past
would make him famous.
with the
institutionalization
of the
fifteen or twenty years. Once the symWhat Warhol had done was to turn avant-garde. The culture hero
simbol
of
heroic
a alternative
to
the
avant-garde
voracious
commercialism
of modern one of the oldest -of
ply rediscovered in another part of the
strategies on the avant-garde itself, incultural spectrum-in
the
world
of
life, theavant-gardeartlsthascorn&
conventional
relationship
popular
culture.
Since
the
spirit
of
since the 1960s to look like just another verting the
modernartandliteiaturehadalways
entrepreneur in the business of culture. between high art and the marketplace
been in direct conflict with the notion of
An episode recounted in Andy Warhol’s andtransforming the high cultureart
provides work into a commodity. Or to put it in art as a form of popular entertainment,
memoir of the
esthetic fterms-well, here is Warhol’s this relocation of the culture hero from
a neatillustrationofwhathappened.
own
gee-whiz prose:
painting
and
poetry
to rock
music
One day In 1960, Warhol, at the time a
makes
for
one
of
the
lovelier
ironies
successful commercial artist who made
Pop
the inside and
It
generated by the collapse of the cultural
his living drawing shoes, decoratlng the
side, took the outside and
inside. The Pop artists did images that
hierarchy.
windows of fashionable
department
anyone walkmg down
Broadway
Looking back, we can see the kindof
stores and, on a few occasions, drawing
would recognize in a second-comlcs.
attractionsomeone like ElvisPresley
little suns
and
ram
clouds
for
TV
picnic
men’s trousers, celebfor intellectuals in the
would
have
weathermaps,showed
/his friendand
rities,
shower
curtam, refrigerators.
modernist version of the myth of the artmentor Emile de Antonio two paintings
Coke bottles-allthe
greatmodern
ist as culture hero. Presley’s career can
he had made. Both were of Coca-Cola
Lhmgs that the Abstract Expresslomsts
be read as the embodiment of one of
bottles:in one,theimage
was embelhad tried so hard not to notice at ali.
modern culture’s two
strategies
for
lished with Abstract Expressionist drips
and hash marks; in the other, the bottle
“All thegreatmodern
things”: the dealingwiththephenomenaofmass
The , two
was unadorned. De Antonio told Warhol collapse of the distinction between hlgh society andmassculture.
andsubmisthat one of the paintings was worthless, andpopularculturethat
this phrase strategieswereresistance
but, he said, “The otheris remarkablesums up has seemed to, many-people to sion, and both were understood to be
it’s our society, it’s who’we are, it’s ab- be the defeat of culture. But I t is really heroic because both were understood to
solutely beautiful and naked, and
you culture’s triumph: it has always been the entail suffering. The notion thatPresley
ought to destroy the first one and show secret and mastering desire of modern submitted his talent totheinhuman
culture to enter into our lives, to be ex- machinery of commercial exploitation,
the other.”
It 1s ofcoursethefondestsort
of perienced as more than simply collec- and that he paid in consequence a terrihlspresent
romanticism t o read cultural history In tion of estheticartifacts,andnow,
by bleprice, 1s thebasisfor
someextraordinarybut- inevitable ad- peculiar stature as both the hero andthe
leaches i n !he Engid? justment of its self-image, it has done so. victim-the heroic victim-of modern
The price paid by high culture in this mass culture.
deparltnenl at
University.

All Shook Up

9

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691

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“Get’inside the whale,” was GeorgeOrwell’s advice to writers in his famous
essay on Miller, “or rather, admit you
are inside thewhale(for
you are, of
course).
Give
yourself
over
to the
world-process, stop fightingagainst it
or pretending you can control it; simply
accept it, endure it,record it.” One way
forthemodernartistto
representthe
experience
of
life
inside
the
whale
without recourse t o the alien language
of high culture was to appropriate the
forms of popular and commercial art:
the proseof journalism, the structure of
the detectivenovel, the typography of
advertising,the
“found ObJect” from
which presage a
for
the detritus of the consumer society, the
Europe . . . must these be taken as
lyrics or the tune. of a popular song.
absolute decisions of fate? Or have we
some freedom
this threatening
Though thesethings were intended t o
conspiracy of thmgs?
de-estheticjze the
theirpresence
Perhaps in seeking that freedom we
had the,effect of endowing the famihar
, may create it. But in order to seek it,
obJects of popular culture with a kind
we must for a time give up cons~den~~g ofartisticresonance.
The notion that
groups,andstudy
the thinking Inreadily
attaches
to
this
“higher” view of
dividual
his struggle for a personal
popular
art
is
that
the
popular
artist is
llfe against his life society.
.
the purest embodiment of the expense
personal life
his life in of spirit in thewasteland of modern
is thebasis for
massculture;andthis
society”:, t h ~ sis the heroism of modero
u
r
present-day
inclination
to elevate
nist formalism, of
and Pale
the status of popular artists and enterand
tainers, andto see some of them as
a
AbstractExpressionism. The beauty of formal structure culture heroes.
Often it is the popular musician who
is a direct response to the disorder and
anti-estheticism of modern life. The seems best able to fulfillour requirements for the culture hero.This is in
spiritualpowerandpathosofMark
Rothko’s abstractions are more valued part because the corruption of talent is
by us as the world in which they were so much more fascinating to us than its
painted is understood tomilitate against cultivation. It strikes us, in the case of
them: these paintings’ powerto move us thepopuIar musicianespecially, as an
is generated precisely by their resistance authentic expression of and response to
thepredatory commercialism that we
to the
pressures
of “all the
great
like to think of as the peculiar bane of
modern things” that they exclude.
But the modern artist might also sub- contemporary hfe. The origins of rock
mit himself tothe experienceof the in theefforts of whiteworking-class
kids tosound like blacksingershave
modernworld,and
thisresponsewas
justas
heroic asthe
resistance ad- made it an especially attractive ground
for the generation of culture heroes.
vocated by
VaICry.
For manyreaders-Edmund
Wllson was one-T. S.
John Lennon IS aperfectexample:
Eliot’s
was the record facing a future as a member of the inof such a submission. As Delmore dustrial working class in Liverpool, he
Schwartz put it: “Modern life may be applied his special talents to the formof
most
readiIy available to
compared toa foreign country in which expression
a foreign language1s spoken. Eliotis the him, both as a mode of protest and as a
ladderout of the depths of his social
international hero because he made the
position.This was, of course,aconjourney to the foreigncountry.”In
John Dos Passos’s
tradictorymotivation,andone
of the
and
in Henry Miller’s
of reasons Lennon is admired is because he
Cancer, in KurtSchwitters’s
“Merz” tried to live out that contradiction even
in thecircumstances of his ~ncredible
works, in CCline’s novels, theartist
transmits directly the sensations of the commercial success-and because he apwas
peared to knowthattheattempt
modernworld,andthe
experienceof
wllling at
modern life is presented without the me- bound to be a failure, appeared
times to be the victim of hls own success;
diation of elaborate formal structures.
The history of twentieth-century culture might accurately be written as the
history of the-tensions between high and
popular culture. The more familiar
of
high culture’s two strategies for dealing
with themajorityculture
was that of
resistance; its argument was expressed
succinctly in 1919 in Paul Valkry’s essay
“The Crisisof Mind,” which laments
‘‘thediffusion of culture, and itsacquisition by ever larger categories of individuals”:
such phenomena as democracy,
the exploltatlon of the globe, and the
generalspread of technology, all of

~-

~~

L

AND
of
A menculous anthology of
contmnm g all of IChomem’s malor Ideas Translaannotanom, and Introduction
Hamld A@,
professor of
studies
at the University of Cahfornla,
and an outstandrng authority
religon in

- Khomeini’s
work, dated 1970
- 28 pubhc statements.
- Held December 29, 1978
and December 29, 1979 wlth H a m d Algar
A
scholarly plece on splr~tualonentanon
Wntten
a 1979 televlslon serles about the
Qur’an
“Algar,
work greatly enhasces
flow of Khomeml’s teachings, underscores
the mterrelatlonshpof Islam as both a reha soc~olegal framework for
life.” (July 1981)
0-933782-04-7
464 pages. Hard cover.
Price $19.95 (add S .70 postage)

-

-

P.O. Box 4065

Dept. N
Berkeley, CA 94704
9

692

5, 1982

--

With Elvis Presley, willingness was
not an issue. Histalent was madeto
undergo every form of commercial exploitation his manager could invent and
his publiccouldconsume.Hisgenius
!.vas natural,powerfuland
extremely
limlted:hewasagreatinterpreter
of
other people’s
songs.
His
eventual
disappearance into the saddest depravitles of contemporary life is precisely
what has given hls reputation among intellectuals its heroic cast. He traveled to
that foreign land, and it killed him.

This ideaof the artist-hero, and even
and especially the entertainer-hero, is
one of modernculture’smyths.
We
know, 1 think, that it a myth, but we
still subscribe to it because it allows us
to cling to the notion that art is pure
and society is coprupt and corrupting.
But this is a notion which, as contemporary culture continues to cash in on
all the myths of modern high culture
withever-increasingspeed
and assurance, will come toseem more and more
a delusion.
0

- .

dangerms”and

~

..

wherebythe

oc?)mes
literation

of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

can be simply forgotten. -Many people
on the left become embarrassed by talk
of morality; they prefer to insist that it
is policies and
institutions,
not
individualsandpersonalities,
that really
count.” Now, it is probably true that
the policies Kissinger followed and the
leaders he served demanded a robotic
and ruthless
operative.
But
on
the
evidence of this
horrlble
book,the
suecific character of HAK did make a
life-and-deathdifference tothousands
of people.
The thing is so badly written that the
,
eye often slides over the atrocities (how
on earthcould Stanley Hoffmann praise
the style?). Take this small but useful.
example.DuringtheOctober
1973 war
in theMiddleEast,thePortuguese
government was reluctant to let its airfields be used for the resupply of Israel: _ _ _ _
1~

SlmoekValx-e
CHRISTOPHER

he calls himself in photograph captions)
would have us believe that he was conOF UPHEAVAL.
structing an intelligent and imaginative
foreign policy, which was haltered and
1,283 pp. $100
$24.95.
finally crippled by an extraneous force.
‘hen had finished digest- It’s as if HAK were.plowing a harmless
0 a
House furrow andwas hit by lightning out :
ing
was so replete clear sky. Hersh’smaterialshowsthat
Kissinger was implicated not only in the
with itsmendacityand
conceit that took a vow. I swore that I actual violations that became known as
would never read another work by Henry Watergate but in the power plays overKissinger untilthepublicationof
hls seas that made the illegaI lnvigilations
“0 “necessary.” Q.E.D. Kissinger hes.
prisonletters. But theoldprayer
Lord, Please Let Mine Enemy Write
a Whatdoes this prove except that we
Book’” has proved too strong not to be have credulous book cntics?
-So we need not waste time exploding
answered once again.
Howdoesone
review abook
like HAK’s apologia. It is, like the policy on
of
for a magazine like which it wasbased,autodestructive.
Nalion? After all,
readers have The volume repays study all the same. It
Instance,
the
following
been battered by a revelation
two in contains,for
theirtlme.Itwould
be lnsultlng to
I
“reveal” to themthat
Kissinger lies
Hanoi and Washington had Inflicted
about his part
the Nixonbugging
grievous wounds on each other; theirs
scandal, and otiose to inform them that
were physlcal, ours psychologlcal and
he still cannot face the truth about the
thus perhaps harder to heal.
bombing of Cambodia and the subver- And this:
slonofChlle.
I supposeonemight
Our lmmedlate task was to stop the
resort, In the light of Seymour Hersh’s
war; to remove nuclear weapons from
to some
excellent forensic
material,
whlle Turkey Invaded Cyprus
dlscussion of Kissinger’s compllclty
would elammate all restraints on
wlth Nlxon’s anti-Semitism. If interTurklsh rnllltary actlon. I also feared
wewed the Klng of Saudi Arabla, and . lhat if we once wltlldrew nuclear
he droned on about “Jewish traitors,”,
weapons we mght never be able to
and
replied,
“Well,
yourmajesty,
return them-setting dangerous
a
there are Jews and Jews,”. would 1 get
precedelit .
respectful reviews frompeoplenamed
And this:
Max Frankel and Stanley Hoffmann?
No nuclear weapon
ever been used
So let’s get theobviousout
of the
in modern wartlme condltlons. . . .
,
way, and the power-worshiping reviewersalong with it. Thisentlre book is
What have we here? What we have is
predicated o n anenormousandconan appalling moral deafness.And
a
scious falsehood. Klssinger (or HAK, as species of doublethink whereby the
“wounds” of Washington and,Hanoi
can be equated, whereby the country that
a ~.
ceases toharbor. nuclearweaponsbeeditor of The Nation.

w

~

+

1 had therefore drafted a Presidential
letter of unusual abruptness to Portuguese Prlme Minlster Marcelo
Caetano that refused rnllitary equipment and threatened to leave Portugal
to Its fate in a hostile world. By the
rnlddle of Saturday afternoon, the
Portuguese gave us unconditional
transit rights at Lajes airbase.

,

There you have it-the relish in bullying
and the implication, always present
in
the book, thatyou have to play hardball
in thisworld if you want results.But
there is no mention of the client status
of the
Portuguese
dictatorship
else- where, no-mentFon of the colonial wars
it was fighting with HAK’s support and
no mention at all ofthePortuguese
revolution that took place the following
year. So that, when he comes to describe his tussle with Congress over intervention in Angola,
has abolished
all the complexity of recent history by
slmple elision.
There is only one occasionwhen
HAKadmitstheprimeimportance
of .
local factors andallows that the internal
life of a nation is more than the sumof
itslinks to theUnitedStates.That
when he seeks to wriggle off the hook
aboutChile.Hewould
prefer us to
thinkofthecoupassomethingspontaneously
generated
by
endogenous
conditions. (He also asks us to believe
that Allendecommittedsuicide.)
usual, he achieves his effect by a combinationof omission-there’s nothing
onthefamous“makethe
economy
scream” meeting-andspecialpleading. He also Stretches -the definition of .

.

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