The Year of the “R” Word

A few months ago I came home and found my wife watching this movie that featured a scene of a guy standing in the middle of the street cursing at cars.  I thought, Huh, this looks interesting, guy cursing at cars.  What followed was one of those experiences that quickly becomes the defining moment of the day, a cathartic black hole that warps all other recent events with its spooky gravity.

She was watching the film Blue Valentine.  I had planned on showering, cooking, then grabbing a beer, but succumbed to the film.

I’m not in that sort of relationship – the we-love-each-other-so-much-we-fight-all-the-time – and yet, once again, I once again find myself enraptured with a potentially kindergarten love story (See earlier blog entry about re-reading Ariana Reines Coeur de Lion).  What makes this at all interesting to me, especially since I find the mealy protagonists less than appealing?  (I started disliking the guy when he moved to Brooklyn, with this weird vaguely Emeril Lagasse.)

A few weeks later, talking with some friends, we decided that Romanticism could never come back, unless there were some kind of apocalypse, not this one, but a one big-bang type thing, Florida suddenly inundated or something, and then we might believe again in heroism, in the possibility of the future,  even in the future as possibility.  From here, I just can’t see it.

And yet I do.  I borrowed Patti Smith’s Just Kids to read on the planeride to New York.  I figured it would be light, and I was right about that.  I was not however prepared for so much Romanticism.  This Romanticism comes via Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and we might as well say, from the original avant-gardista Alfred Jarry.  The book expounds so much indigestible faith in the artist and art that you’d think it wasn’t 1960s New York but the Weimar Republic.  Nevertheless, I made it through the book the way you make it through a big bowl of soup when you’re full.

This year I’ve found Romanticism in nearly everything, and every time I do, I’m sure I should be moving away from it aesthetically; when I do, I realize I’m doing the “R” thing again.  The idea that art should be going somewhere or even doing something is Romantic.  Likewise, moving away from Romanticism is Romantic, maybe even Modernist, and  in some cases Post-Modernist.  If there was a philosophical issue analogous to this it would be the move away from Socrates after Wittgenstein (and like-minded thinkers).  The question is: are these qualities – absolutism in philosophy and Romanticism in art – intrinsically a part of them?

Not sure.  However, at the end of this year, I’m happy, if even Romantically so, that I have the chance now and again, to sit down in front of a screen and think.

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