Tuesday, February 28, 2006

OK, I mean.

Tonight I went to see the inimitable Camille Paglia. I mean "inimitable" in a literal sense; it is nearly impossible to understand a word she says, let alone repeat her. She talks so fast - so relentlessly, breathlessly fast - that 20 minutes in I began to draw caricatures of her instead of listening. After Ms. Paglia had been reimagined by myself and my companions as: a hamster, a chicken, a large crow, a slot machine, a machine gun, an alarm clock, and a bunch of clattering dentures on a floor, I began to take notes. Here, an excerpt of a lecture by Camille Paglia:

The state of sexual freedom has gotten better since the 90's.
There is an increased sense of aesthetic appreciation.
Also appreciation for fashion photography.
Also porn.
Music is the new poetry.
It isn't, though, anymore - not since the 60's.
Now it's an individual experience, rather than collective.
Children should drink beer.
Pills are unenlightening.
Barbara Streisand has lost her pizzaz.
And gay appeal.
The moderator is gay. A gay professor.
He has the expression of a man with a butt plug in.
Perhaps he has a butt plug in right now.
Barbara Streisand is a tragic figure.
Age: How embarrassing.
Elizabeth Taylor is hot: no one noticed until Camille Paglia said so.
Elizabeth Taylor's minimalism gives her acting a dimension of deep emotion.
Elizabeth Taylor has lost her pizzaz.
Cleopatra was underrated and misjudged because of the costumes.
This gay professor would like to talk about cosmetic surgery.
Camille Paglia is not sure what to talk about.
Camille Paglia says: "...grotesque anomaly."
Cosmetic surgery is ugly.
Nicole Kidman has botox. She looks silly.
Actresses with botox have "waxy foreheads".
Pop culture has gotten worse since the 90's.

I guess this was a weird night for me. I've been reading Paglia's work - starting with Sex, Art, And American Culture at age 12 - since I was just a kid, barely understanding anything she discussed besides a gut sense that she was right, that I would follow her beliefs or at least take an interest in them. A comparison she made in that book, between wearing skimpy clothes and leaving your wallet on the hood of a car in the middle of central park, has always stuck with me - particularly through the all-girls' school "health classes" - tiresome seminars on positive body image and the many dangers of college men. I've wanted to see her for a long time, hoped her speech would have the same dynamism as her writing - and the weird thing is, she does speak the way she writes - relentless, brow-beating, defiant. But spoken aloud, the charm is somehow diminished.

If you don't listen to radio, despise TV, then your use of language will be stuck in this pedantic middle-earth,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was the best review of anything ever. I've never even read her stuff and I still found it high-larious. - BootersNest