Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Well, here we are on the internet. You probably have a few other windows open: the New York Times, your email, the weather, and probably some kind of social-networking site (myspace, friendster, even a dating site). These sites are used for a great many things: pedophiles, spam, hyping shitty bands, seeing what your friends are up to, etc. For me, they are only about one thing: my lists of favorite movies, books, and films.

One glance at these enumerations of one's tastes immediately brings a charge of disingenuousness. One is far more likely to list Army of Shadows as one's favorite movie than the actually-superior The Godfather, or to treat one's tastes synecdochically, letting one more obscure noir stand in for a broader affection that "covers" the "obvious" but excluded Maltese Falcon.

This gets to the heart of the matter. "Taste" is for public consumption. And the very compulsion to take a lie-detector to people proclaiming Battleship Potemkin as their favorite film, is a misguided one. There IS authentic enjoyment. Aesthetic critiques are possible. However, the presentation of taste and one's actual (gustatory) taste, in their social articulations, become as indistinguishable from one another as the laws of chance and determination in Borges' "Lottery in Babylon."

What we propose is a sociology of these processes. There are apparent seams, paradoxes, glaring but unreproachable flaws, compulsions, and genius maneuvers everywhere in this field. We will cover literature, film, music, the notion of "hipsters," and New York in general.

More soon. For now, I should say that, if this blog were to have a reading list, it would be as follows (and I have not read these books, so we could get up a kind of discussion if we chose):
Immanuel Kant "Critique of the Power of Judgment"
Joseph Litvak "Strange Gourmets: Sophistication, Theory, and the Novel"
Roland Barthes "The Fashion System"
Pierre Bourdieu "Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste"

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