May 24, 2005

A Context Of No Context

"But Texans, inhabiting what McMurtry has called a 'context of no context', were just as likely to accept one cheesy concept as another. [...] Eventually, of course, Texans became curious about our origins, only to find that what we had mistaken for history was really only marketing." (Benjamin Moser reviewing Larry McMurtry in the NYRB, 27/5/04 (again)).

At least those hapless Texans (supposedly) discovered the deception; in California, it's marketing all the way down. Here all history is simply just another species of marketing. In a self-absorbed world fixated on gloriously-faked authenticity (remember that here "historical authenticity" means "as it should have been", or "bearing some resemblance to, but much shinier, safer, and cleaner than the original"), why should one expect it to be anything different? In a California infested with exclusive gated housing developments with names like "Emeryville Commons" -- in a part of the world that not only never had commons, but that is actively hostile to the idea of commons -- what else would you expect? History as "commons", probably.

(C.f. "One difference between the West and the South, I came to realize in 1970, was this: in the South they remained convinced that they had bloodied their land with history. In California, we did not believe that history could bloody the land, or even touch it." -- Joan Didion in "Where I Was From").

(Part of California).


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