Political fiction: an addendum to the bibliography

In the February 22 New York Times Book Review, p. 35, Mohsin Hamid and Francine Prose discuss the question, “Does fiction have the power to sway politics?” Ms. Prose mentions political fictions published as fictions, such as The Jungle, while Mr. Hamid calls our attention to fictions that are ostensibly non-fictional, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the media releases about weapons of mass destruction that were published in the runup to the Iraq War. Both essayists also mention Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and either of them could have mentioned that Mark Twain blamed Sir Walter Scott for convincing a bunch of slave-rapists that they were lairds possessed of an honor worth dying for. And I wonder, too:

Wouldn’t San Francisco in particular, wouldn’t the United States in general, be healthier and happier if its oligarchs hadn’t been taught by the didactic fictions of Ayn Rand that they really, non-fictionally, are Nietzschean supermen, jenseits von Gut und Böse and as sound as a dollar?

Exegi Polaroidum aere perennius

“Hi, this is Steve,” said the voice on the phone. “How are you?” The voice was a breathy basso and the intonation oozed with benevolence. A few seconds after that, Steve revealed that he was calling to offer me a reverse mortgage and I realized that Steve was an interactive audio file.

A cynosure of the international art world in the first decade of this century was the American artist Dash Snow (1981-2009). A member of the princely Menil family of art patrons, Dash devoted his life as an artist to wearing hats, vandalizing hotel rooms, and not much else. But he was also an almost unbelievably handsome young man, with waist-length blond hair and a really big trust fund, and he took tens of thousands of Polaroids of the life his Dionysiac force created around him. Most of these images are of people being drunk or drugged.

It was the drugs that got him. At

http://www.americansuburbx.com/2012/10/asx-tv-dash-snow-talking-about-dash-snow-2012.html

you can see an elegiac interview about that event with a gallerista who fondly remembers the fun she unfailingly experienced when Dash was in the room. Even as a little boy, the gallerista recalls, Dash was a nonstop source of creative energy: throwing things, smashing things, and setting fires until the very moment he was sent off to reform school. After a while, the interviewer cuts the conversation short and abruptly leaves the room. It’s time, he explains to the gallerista, for him to pick up his little boy.

At

http://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/09/asx-tv-dash-snow-interview.html

you can see Dash in extreme closeup with cigarette, aetatis suae XXIV. If he had lived, he would have looked like Mitch McConnell by the time he was 40. But art, even Dash’s art, admits you to an interior zone from which the human reaches out toward immortality. Back from the immortal, in this case, come a couple of sentences’ worth of Dashtalk: “I don’t believe in the laws or the system by any means whatsoever. I try not to obey them at any time.”

The words are just phatic sound, of course, like Steve’s “How are you?” They might as well be the clay language of a Grecian urn, stilled into perdurable ceramic. Yet when the speaker fills his lungs with smoke and speaks the words to the video track, he looks as real as Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Dash-in-the-Polaroid doesn’t believe in the laws. He thinks of what he does generally, in the abstract. (The drugs probably have something to do with that.) Steve-in-the-computer doesn’t believe only in the Do Not Call List. He thinks of what he does in a focused pragmatic way, with the help of lawyers who edit his script and computer programmers who help him speak it. Dash represents inhuman art. Steve represents the humanity of the hucksters who ascribe a value to art.

At the end of The Bacchae, Dionysus destroys first those who didn’t worship him and then those who did. Look at this image and discuss.