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September 26, 2005

Conking Kunkel

Low Culture's parody of the insufferably pedantic, unbearably long-winded, and awkwardly erudite interview with Ben Kunkel on Why Modern Males Suffer From Torpor And Flaccid Personalities is pitch-perfect. The article, meant to be a Q&A with profound self-help implications, is so strangely bad as to be most interesting as a fugitive from good editorial judgment. The interviewer, Rebecca Traister, is single, dissatisfied, and totally bewildered by the lack of literary-caliber lovers populating her nightlife. So she looks up a Hot Young Novelist who just published a book about a directionless dude to provide her with answers. Kunkel, the writer in question, takes the opportunity to sound like an academic journal trying, and failing, to publish an article that'd work for popular consumption. So we get "ennui", expenditures of "libidinal energy", and references to Hannah Arendt's theory of bureaucratization.

Meanwhile, back on some planet that makes sense to me, rehashing old concerns about Generation Slacker hardly merits an article, I've never noticed a giant imbalance in the number of apathy-afflicted men and women (and while some have, I'd suggest that may be because it's harder, as we get older, to really know members of the opposite sex, as attraction often intercepts friendship and we erect more barriers more quickly. I seem to have more dynamic male friends than female ones, but I think that's sample error rather than demographic reality), and this idea that men are now kept from being Great Men by the grinding down of society and loss of the frontier (which Kunkel didn't mention but probably should've) is quasi-nuts.

We've been hearing this for decades now -- if American males were really listing about, wishing they could go off and fight some wars, they'd be going off and fighting the current war. These arguments have been floating around forever and the answer, so far as I can tell, is that characters in books and movies and television shows are simply quite a bit sweeter than the non-scripted, non-imagined (unless you're a sophist) actors populating reality. I know lots of folks in politics -- none of them are as bright, brilliant, and quick as the operatives populating Jeb Bartlett's White House. And trying to explain that away only distracts from the very real work of adapting to it.

Gah!

September 26, 2005 in Life | Permalink

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Comments

I've never noticed a giant imbalance in the number of apathy-afflicted men and women

Ah, but you were so distracted by the other 17 really annoying things about the interview that you missed the absurd New York exceptionalism of their hackneyed social theory.

Posted by: djw | Sep 26, 2005 5:30:37 PM

I know lots of folks in politics -- none of them are as bright, brilliant, and quick as the operatives populating Jeb Bartlett's White House.

Really? Even after you adjust for the fact that they're not working from a Hollywood script, none? That's disheartening. How much exposure have you had to what you perceive to be the "good" people in the upper ranks -- people like David Axelrod, and ... um ... uh ... David Axelrod? Rahm Emanual? Really, I swear, Democrats have other good operatives .,. their names just aren't comign to me ... well, Joe Trippi seems to be bright, if not a bit loony.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Sep 26, 2005 5:46:27 PM

Nick, I share your offense. I consider myself a CJ with a, um, beard.

Posted by: Matt Singer | Sep 26, 2005 6:25:21 PM

The most interesting people I have ever known were women. I'm just saying.

P.S. It's Jed Bartlet, not Jeb.

Posted by: Ara Rubyan | Sep 27, 2005 12:26:15 AM

Thanks for posting this. I read that yesterday, and though I found at the beginning A moment where I thought "yes...that's it..." the interview immediately took a turn for the sucky. That was one stupido conversation. To her credit, Traister seems to have tried to reign Kunkle in, and get him to comment on her basic concern, but he had none of it. In fact, he was far, far, far more annoying than any of the men-without-good-hobbies that she was so initially fired up about. She needs to write a new piece on how men like Kunkle are the real problem...

Maybe not for the same reasons, but my response was GAH! just like Ezra's.

off to go read the parody...

Posted by: CattyinAustin | Sep 27, 2005 9:02:26 AM

Oh, don't pick on Ben, please! It may have been years since I've seen him, but he really is this wrought, this willing to pursue a philosophical discussion right out the window. For those of us who knew him personally, this is what we loved about him. And now I really want to know who 'jp' the author of the parody is, because pulling in Adorno is just plain too accurate for someone who didn't know him.

Posted by: random | Sep 27, 2005 3:11:59 PM

His brand of philosophical wankery was shown in the worst possible light by the starting point of Traister's risible social-theory-based-on-what-she-doesn't-like about-a-few-guys-she's-dated.

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