Could you, or anyone, post the part of Ben's book that
mentions Christopher Ricks? It seems to me likely that
Ben *would* dismiss Ricks in an offhand "this part of
the thinking is disagreeable therefore it's all wrong"
as he can be vitriolic and he can be very ad hominem.
I think the reviewer may have a point, not about style,
but about easily personal dismissals that don't separate
the writing from the writer and allow that some of Ricks'
writing, or his use of his public fame as a critic to start
discussions of Beckett's prose or Bob Dylan in English
departments, is ok. Seems to me the 70's crit sticks
there, and Ben could have avoided an easy hostage to
people anti his arguments by a little tact.
On Thu, 15 Jan 1998 17:04:05 +0000 (GMT) Karlien van den Beukel wrote:
> From: Karlien van den Beukel <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Thu, 15 Jan 1998 17:04:05 +0000 (GMT)
> Subject: Re: your mail
> To: Peter Riley <[log in to unmask]>
> Cc: [log in to unmask]
> Today, I read a review in The Guardian of Ben Watson's "Art, Class and
> Cleavage" which, according to the reviewer, Nicholas Lezard is "a mixture
> of (proper) Marxism, outrage, poetry (he's a disciple of J H Prynne, which
> probably means he went to Caius, Cambridge, and acounts for the grievous
> misrepresentation of Christopher Ricks on p. 209), punk rock, Finnegans
> Wake and Horace".
> This sentence (!) to me exemplifies some of the aspects that
> Peter Riley mentions in his contribution on 'the mess we are now in' (are
> "we"?) 'because of the 1970s'. Lezard seems to display insider knowledge
> of some kind of struggle for cultural hegemony that went on in the
> confines of, as Raymond Williams puts it, Cambridge English (which memory
> sharply reminds the reviewer of scholarly attribution: quote the page
> number on which the slight occured). It seems clear who, in superficial
> terms, won that small struggle for the mind of Lezard, at least. Prynne's
> opinions could only be taken seriously by a former ghetto-inhabitant of
> Caius, whereas Ricks (and by implication Geoffrey Hill) are by 'public
> consensus' the normative standard. All this really has the old boy whiff
> about it. No effort is made to articulate how Watson's writing itself
> (which Lezard clearly admires) may be conditional him having read Prynne's
> poetry, thus closing off the possibility of Prynne's poetry as a
> publically accessible source of imaginative energy.
> In other words, Peter, I don't think closed ciruits are always,
> historically speaking, self-engineered.
> Lezard is preoccupied with 'advertisement' or 'supermarketing' too,
> and why the very form of Watson's book would resist it. He writes "And I
> suspect that its madness is a matter not so much of self-advertisement, as
> *anti*-self-advertisement; he does not want to become a cult, like
> Baudrillard or Deleuze/Guattari."
> The reviewer's remarkable claim is that Watson could become an
> international cult intellectual, but *chooses* not to! It seems to vindicate
> 'self-ghettoisation' and 1970s rejoicing in the failure of not achieving
> some form of public status (which Peter Riley finds so deeply enervating)
> if only because a (Cambridge-educated?) journalist must invent the term
> 'anti-self-advertisement' as an accolade to what is perceived as a
> profoundly authentic public gesture.
> The crux of Peter Riley's argument, however, is of course, not what a good
> choice all that 'wilful alienation' will turn out to be, but rather what
> a bad choice it has turned out to be for a category of poets which
> includes himself, 'the real lost generation of poets':
> > Anyway, for me at least the 1970s laid the foundations of the mess we're
> > in. It"s not a problem for young poets, who were raised in this splintered
> > context and are able to make something of it; it's a lost hope which feeds
> > on those now in their 40s and 50s, including "mainstream" poets, breeding
> > pessimism, detachment, resentment and solipsistic yearnings.
> As the lost generation is still alive, the weltanschauung their
> experience has led them to, is surely no bar to continuing to write
> (even greater) poetry? To compare careless 'young poets' to those 'poets
> in their 40s and 50s' seems part of the youth/age conflict. Was this
> conflict not the same one gone through by these very poets in the mid/late
> 1970s, when they were in their early 20s and 30s, and cannot their current
> weltanschauung be described, quite simply, as 'sadder but wiser'? The
> worst aspect of this is not: 'look how easy it's for them young ones' (as
> if each generation does not shape and contend its own agenda of
> difficulties), but that there is so much regret.