February 09, 2004

Epstein v. Steiner

Score one, maybe two, for Joseph Epstein. His hostile takedown of George Steiner is wonderfully, gleefully brutal and long overdue. Nothing against Steiner, of course. Not personally. It's nice that he's got the biggest brain around, and it's nice that he's read more books than anyone since this guy (or maybe, possibly even this guy). But oy, the man's been subjecting his readers to thin dribblings like these for decades:

The new sound-sphere is global. It ripples at great speed across languages, ideologies, frontiers and races. The economics of this musical Esperanto is staggering. Rock and pop breed concentric worlds of fashion, setting and life-style. Popular music has brought with it sociologies of private and public manner, of group solidarity. The politics of Eden come loud.
The politics of whunnit? Buh-duh. Well at least Epstein seems undaunted, and keeps his balance for a few well-placed axe-kicks: "What George Steiner has been doing, over the past forty or so years, is an incomparable impression of the world's most learned man." Nicely done. And likely right. That is, it's probably true that overgorged polymaths like Steiner will no longer have a place on the intellectual 'stage'. The Joseph Epsteins of the world, the Dale Pecks, even, will carry the day, because they can hit the mark with wit and fury. And meanwhile, the sheer brainiacs will do no better than cheap impressions: It's embarrassing to hear the author of "Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?" hold forth on the global music scene, just like it's painful to hear Harold Bloom badger on about Wesley Clark. Sad to say, but bring on the professional commentators, bring on Mark Steyn, or Martin Amis. The hugebrowed wisdom seekers might be tending towards irrelevant.
-- Brad Plumer 6:33 PM || ||