June 04, 2000
Just re-read David Foster Wallce's

Just re-read David Foster Wallce's essay E Unibus Pluram - television and U.S. fiction, which concerns itself with how TV has turned irony into the default mode for U.S. (and I believe this applies to Canada as well) culture:

And make no mistake: irony tyrannizes us. The reason why our pervasive cultural irony is at once so powerful and so unsatisfying is that an ironist is impossible to turn down. All U.S. irony is based on an implicity "I don't really mean what I'm saying." So what does irony as a cultural norm mean to say? That it's impossible to mean what you say? That maybe it's too bad it's impossible, but wake up and smell the coffee already? Most likely, I think, today's irony ends up saying: "How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean." Anyone with the hertical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like an hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its subject is, when exercised, tyranny. It is the new junta, using the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.

The essay is part of Wallace's collection, A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again, and I highly recommend you pick it up. Fatbrain link; Indigo.ca link

Posted by Bill Stilwell at June 04, 2000 12:00 AM
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