Ralph Dumain rdumain at
Mon Aug 21 19:22:04 MDT 1995

A while back somebody recommended to me AESTHETICS AND POLITICS
(NLB, 1977) as a source on Walter Benjamin.  Well, I've had this
in cold storage for some time, but I finally took it out and read
parts of it, most of it by now.  I was going to confine myself to
the Benjamin related material, but I read the final essay by
Adorno and now the afterword by Jameson.

I have a number of impressions which go way beyond Benjamin per
se.  First of all, this is an insider's book.  It's not just
specialized, it's really for those who have deep background on all
the people concerned and their milieu -- Lukacs, Adorno, Benjamin,
Brecht, and Bloch, for starters.  That excludes me.  Still, I have
enjoyed kibitzing on their alien culture to a certain extent.  It
reminds me of the precious sophistication and utter rottenness one
finds in European culture, and makes me thank my lucky stars I'm
no European but can yet benefit from the theoretical
sophistication of a dying culture from a safe distance.  How
utterly rotten Europe is.  Good fucking riddance when it goes.
And Frederick Jameson has got his nose stuck sniffing up its
asshole, he'll go with it and fare thee well to him too.

Some impressions and maybe some questions.

BENJAMIN -- I don't learn much about him here but I find Adorno's
commentary on him most intriguing.  But tell me -- what in hell
are Benjamin's dialectical images and in what works do I find

LUKACS -- a poisonous old turd dried and shrivelled under the
dying sun of Old Europe and Stalin.

ADORNO -- a withdrawn and ascetic European intellectual snob to a
T, but what an acute critic and analyst, up to a point!  For his
aversion to Charlie Chaplin and jazz -- American phenonema,
revealingly enough -- I want to process his genitals through a
meat grinder, but his observations and dissections of various
other phenomena he is most acute.  I love the way he slices and
dices Lukacs, Sartre, and Brecht in the final selection.  I have
detested each Brecht play I have ever read or seen; I'm glad to
see him cut down to size.  Adorno is very acute for the
representative of a dying culture.

Knowing little about him and having him recommended him to me by
everyone, above all C.L.R. James fans, I have a predisposed
sympathy towards Benjamin.  I have my suspicions about the "aura"
he derides in the mechanical reproduction bit, but Benjamin has
soul, as befits a Jew, and I'm glad to see these fusty, morbid
Germanophone Europeans didn't all lose it completely, damn them to

You would never know Jameson is an American, that Europhile
ass-licker.  I say that because being an American is important, in
that one has indigenous resources to draw on, which you don't see
in Jameson.  I've got a beautiful quote from Romare Bearden, who
said that as an American Negro he has _seen_ things that Dali,
Ernst, Breton or the rest of these European shits never could have
_imagined_.  He didn't call them shits, I do.  Jameson seems to
dwell in Europe spiritually and loves the stench pumped out
through their anal pores. I say let's steal all these European
ideas and make them live again on fresh soil and bury their
stinking rotting corpses.

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