Monday, May 18, 2009

A Tasteless Reference

Janet Maslin has a review today in the New York Times of Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever, by Walter Kirn. According to the review, Kirn bluffed his way through college, substituting clever words for actually knowing something:

Once he had decided to major in English, “since it sounded like something I might already know,” he learned to enjoy tossing the vocabulary of deconstructionism back at his teachers. He brought his SAT whiz’s skill to the deployment of “liminal,” “valuational,” “heuristic” and “praxis.” He felt empowered to attack a Western canon that he had never really read, skipping “straight from ignorance to revisionism.” These academic madeleines are as nostalgia inducing as the well-chosen pop culture references (the “Moosewood Cookbook”: “a best-selling guide to taste-free dining”) found throughout the book.

I guess the irony is lost on Maslin; by appealing to her prejudices, Kirn can also pretend to know something about cooking.

I have two words for Maslin, and for Kirn as well if he now pretends his days of pretending are behind him: gypsy soup.


Shag from Brookline said...

Doesn't this apply to many on Wall Street and in banking, as well as many MBAs there and elsewhere?

"According to the review, Kirn bluffed his way through college, substituting clever words for actually knowing something ...."

Shag from Brookline said...

As for "gypsy soup," the recipe begins:

"First you've got to catch the gypsy."

Sandwichman said...

Dog Bites Man

Next we'll learn that celebrities are shallow.

Bruce Webb said...

Even better than English are Comparative Literature and Rhetoric at least as they were taught when I was a graduate student at Berkeley in the early eighties when Critical Theory was king. At its extremes you didn't really need to read any actual literature, you just had to be cynical and witty and remember some concepts cribbed from Derrida and the Post-Structuralists.

In the end that road proved to be pretty sterile and God knows what a trained Deconstructionist does these days to avoid starvation. But at the time you could deliver some ostensible serious work using a simple mixture of bluster and bullshit.