It’s not just because she’s an Italian-American from a rusted-out industrial town and happens to live an hour down the road in Philadelphia. It’s always been because her missives are so full of things I agree with, things I don’t, and things I’ve never really thought of before.
Matt Drudge linked to Paglia’s new WSJ piece today with a pull-quote about the iPhone’s dearth of spiritual import. But the ever-awesome first lady of Libertarian Democrats was also talking about a million other things. She nails the intellectual-political orthodoxy of the upper-middle class liberal establishment. She doesn’t go this far, but that’s the stuff that allows people who called George Bush a war criminal to gloss over Barack Obama’s illegal, indiscriminate drone campaigns abroad. She’s too easy on capitalism (it has more than “weaknesses”), but she’s right about some of the social goods it has helped produce, and she’s right that we artists need to continue developing ways to move or supplement our work. If I’d learned the skill of book-binding in college, I’d handcraft a story collection myself instead of outsourcing. Everyone my age and social-ethnic caste (we Clinton teens*) was made to believe being smart + working hard in college = everything. We should have spent more time doing art. Yes, they taught us how to silk screen in junior high, but none of us were old or poor enough to see the revolutionary potential in things like that. I wish we had.
Paglia is the best kind of contrarian: supremely intelligent, obsessively thoughtful, naturally eloquent. When I get a little smarter, I’d sure love to meet her.
* (white, lower-middle class, benefiting, at least for a while, from the economic upswing of the 90s.)
- Camille Paglia on how capitalism can save art; artists should learn to see themselves as entrepreneurs. (baileyalexander.typepad.com)