Sunday, February 28, 2010

Since those who write books and make movies and TV shows are distinguished as a class by their mobility, we seldom get an honest reckoning of the cost of modern nomadism. Who but a loser goes home? stays home? stays put? If anything, nomadism - expatriation - is celebrated as the flowering of the human spirit. Ill-tempered soil produces crabbed souls and backward people. It's the fresh air and fecund concrete of Manhattan that permit the fullest efflorescence of human possibilities. It's the difference between William Faulkner and Eve Ensler.
So says Bill Kauffman from his 2007 talk on Wendell Berry. America's official expression of the pursuit of happiness favors deracination over against rootedness, going places over against fidelity to place. It precludes the idea of a home.

I thought Kauffman's reference to Greenwich Village was humorous and a perfect example of placelessness - that holy land of 1960s faux revolutionaries and now burned-out ex-hippies. I resent that Bob Dylan moved there, and I find disgusting his description of his time there and his incessant name-dropping in Chronicles. Robert Zimmerman could have been much more the American prophet than he was if he hadn't abandoned Minnesota, his family, and his own name.


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