Books to NoteSunday, March 26, 2006
Things I’m reading now:
- Paul Fussel’s BAD: Or, the Dumbing Down of America
- Joyce Cary’s Power in Men
- The Divine Right of Kings by John Neville Figgis
- George Mowry’s The Twenties: Fords, Flappers, and Fanatics
Paul Fussel’s “bad” is not nearly as dumb as it seems. Fussell–who has an essay included in the Mises Institute’s Costs of War–is a hilarious critic, albeit a persnickety one. The Washington Post calls him a “world-class curmudgeon.” On language, Fussell says:
It’s necessary to understand at the outset that BAD language is not bad, like shit or motherfucker. It’s more like gaming for gambling, taupe for mouse gray, starters for appetizers, shower activity for rain, nonperforming loans for bad debts, and preexisting (or resale) home for used house. That is, there must be in the language, as there is not in, say, fuck, an impulse to deceive, to shade the unpleasant or promote the ordinary to the desirable or wonderful, to elevate the worthless by a hearty laying-on of the pretentious. The object is almost always to make money off the credulous and the insecure, to swindle the naive and impressionable.