The Cultural Apocalypse Already Happened, and Other News


On the Shelf

Gary Perweiler, Pyramid Scent, 1983.

  • The National Magazine Awards have announced that they’re suspending their fiction category next year. You can probably guess why: “Only fourteen magazines submitted entries in the category in 2016—a fraction of the number of participants in other categories,” Sid Holt, the chief executive of the American Society of Magazine Editors, wrote last week. “Compounding the problem, few ASME members say they are competent to judge the category.” It’s sort of like how the Olympics canceled team equestrian dressage this summer because it’s the least popular sport—it’s just a bunch of people on horses, who cares, aren’t there women in spandex we can watch instead? Except, wait, they didn’t cancel it. They did it anyway. Yes: even the Rio Olympics, which received more attention this year than ever for their corruption and dishonesty, saw that some areas of human achievement deserve recognition even if they’re increasingly unpopular. 
  • I’m not saying this is related or anything, but have you noticed how relevant the Frankfurt School seems to be all of a sudden? It’s as if their critiques of capitalism have found new footing in a world where, say, the judges of the National Magazine Awards can no longer be bothered to read short fiction. Stuart Jeffries writes, “If Adorno were alive today, he might well have argued that that cultural apocalypse has already happened, but that we are too uncritical to notice it. His fondest fears have been realized … The leading lights of the Frankfurt School, Adorno and Horkheimer, never lived to develop social-media profiles, but they would have seen much of what the Internet offers as confirmation of their view that the culture industry allows the ‘freedom to choose what is always the same’ … Their contention was that the freedom to choose, which was the great boast of the advanced capitalist societies in the West, was chimerical. Not only do we have the freedom to choose what was always the same, but, arguably, human personality had been so corrupted by false consciousness that there is hardly anything worth the name any more. ‘Personality,’ they wrote, ‘scarcely signifies anything more than shining white teeth and freedom from body odor and emotions.’ ” 

  • Nasty-neat, goose drownder, fleech, emptins, ear screw: these are among the regional American terms being decimated by the onslaught of globalism. Why? Why don’t we treasure these unusual, often charmingly ridiculous little nuggets of slang? Use ’em or lose ’em, people. This is not a drill. “The Dictionary of American Regional English views the potential extinction of fifty American words and phrases as no laughing matter. DARE and the global podcasting platform Acast have joined forces and are starting a campaign to bring these colloquialisms back to ‘their former glory.’ The game plan is for hosts of various programs on Acast’s network to start using these at risk words, in hopes that their millions of listeners will adopt them into their vocabulary.”