Today, a little break from ideology. Now and again, readers send in or I stumble across passages of prose so affected in their self-regard and pretension that they merit a Poseur Alert. The whole idea is shamelessly cribbed from the British satirical magazine, Private Eye, which regularly cites such passages in a feature called “Pseuds Corner.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the envelopes, please …

POSEUR OF THE YEAR HONORABLE MENTION 2005: “‘The truth, whatever it is, is strange.’ I can still hear Saul’s voice, for a few moments absent its gaiety and its wickedness, gently pronouncing those emancipating words. It was a summer afternoon in 1977. We were sunk in Adirondack chairs on the grass behind the shed of a house that he was renting in Vermont, and sunk also in a sympathetic discussion of Owen Barfield’s theories of consciousness. Chopped wood was piled nearby like old folios, dry and combustible. When I met Bellow, he was in his theosophical enthusiasm. The legend of his worldliness went before him, obviously, not least in his all-observing, wised-up books, which proclaimed the profane charisma of common experience. Since I have a happy weakness for metaphysical speculation, a cellular certainty that what we see is not all there is, I thought I detected in some of his writings signs of the old hunt for a knowledge beyond knowingness, for an understanding that is more than merely brilliant. I was not altogether surprised when our first meeting moved swiftly toward an unembarrassed conversation about spirituality. (This was preceded by complaints about Hannah Arendt. We had to get comfortable.)” – Leon Wieseltier, on Saul Bellow, in The New Republic.

POSEUR OF THE YEAR RUNNER UP 2005: “Guilty pleasure: A dancer in my company who is from Mexico turned me on to Rompope, a lovely liqueur that tastes of almonds and dairy. It’s sinful.

Favorite pastime: We always light candles here. Most nights that we’re home, Bjorn will cook, and I will read to him. We’re currently reading a collection of writings about Paris.” – Bill T. Jones, in the New York Times Magazine.

POSEUR OF THE YEAR 2005: “For every American feeling compassion for Schiavo, there are at least several more who feel a consolation and satisfaction, maybe even a sense of triumph. Events have complicated, peculiar resonances in the mind. As the instincts seem to be set loose to an unimaginable degree in American society and overseas, Schiavo’s unfathomably suffering face, with its strange beatific-seeming smile, is like a justification for all the carnage. This vale of woe is what life is, it seems to say–at least to those who want to keep her face just as it is, forever. It’s a chilling complement to “The Contender,” whose fixation on pummeling seems to say that this is what society is … So for the Christian right, Schiavo has become something like a human antidepressant. Her plight, perhaps, makes them feel better about themselves and not Left Behind by Hollywood, or by sophisticated Northeastern elites, or by urban decadence, or urban mores, or urban wealth. And by arguing, no, insisting that her story have a happy ending, they can cheer themselves up about the society they are helping to create every day, a society in which being able to celebrate the spectacle of the weak getting pummeled, and the weak wasting away from within in a vegetative state, is the measure of one’s strength. Nietzsche and Christ, together at last.” – Lee Siegel, The New Republic.

– posted by Andrew.


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