An intellectual is a person who sleeps with other men’s wives. I am an anti-intellectual intellectual.
Roland Barthes. Very intelligent but stupid? He said you don’t read a book, the book reads you. Is that rubbish? The duck test. If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a duck. It is rubbish.
I listened to a talk about Barthes, a French theorist, or philosopher. He must be very intelligent, I didn’t understand a word he said. Why make up words and use words like semiology and post-structuralism and so on? To confuse, to impress, to show off? Never use a scientific or jargon word when a simpler word will do said George Orwell, who never spoke or wrote rubbish.
Barthes, now dead, said a biography is a novel pretending to be a biography and a novel is a biography pretending to be a novel. Nothing is what it is, according to him. He was against meaning. Does his writing mean anything? According to him, no, although he did not say so in so many words. To say meaning is meaningless is a meaningless statement because it contradicts itself. It means something or it doesn’t, in either case it is false.
Professors and pseudo-intellectuals love Barthes and his type because they need explaining. They are in the explaining business. John Carey said art contains its own explanation. If a joke needs to be explained it is not a joke. Art is the same, written or not.
I asked a person who believed in structural analysis does it tell you if a book is good? He said funnily enough it has nothing to say about that. That is the only thing you want to know about a book.
Oscar Wilde said there are only two kinds of books, good books and bad books. He was a real genius. That’s all you need to know about a book, is it good or bad?
A book or any work of art is like a swim or a walk. Depending on the weather it is enjoyable or otherwise. If it is hard going, get out of the water. Stop reading. Do something else.
Genius is the art of making the complex simple. Not making the simple complicated. Da Vinci said simplicity is the highest form of sophistication. So much for high flown claptrap. Intellectual snobbery is common in academic circles. I’m better than you because I know something you don’t know. But is it worth knowing?
The anti-art movement has a lot to anwer for. How about anti-thought? Analysis paralysis anyone?
12th May, 2017