Roger Kimball Quotes

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Roger Kimball Quotes & Sayings

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Roger Kimball Quotes #1237627
#1. History," Bagehot wrote, "is strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world gave a chance for it.
Roger Kimball Quotes #1067060
#2. You cannot step a foot into the literature about the 1960s without being told how 'creative', 'idealistic', and 'loving' it was, especially in comparison to the 1950s. I fact, the counterculture of the Sixties represented the triumph of what the art critic Harold Rosenberg famously called the 'herd of the independent minds'. Its so-called creativity consisted in continually recirculating a small number of radical cliches; its idealism was little more than irresponsible utopianism; and its crusading for 'love' was largely a blind for hedonistic self-indulgence.
Roger Kimball Quotes #521247
#3. In a remarkable book called Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age, the historian Modris Eksteins anatomizes the metabolism of the sentimentality that underwrites Keynes's embrace of guilt as an instrument of policy. Eksteins shows how sentimentality and a species of extravagant mythmaking mark the points of contact between avant-garde culture and burgeoning totalitarianism. This was especially true in Germany, the country that had advanced the radical program of the avant-garde most enthusiastically. England, by contrast, was a conservative power. Where Germany started the war to transform the world, England fought the war to preserve a world and the culture that defined it.
A key difference lies in the aestheticization of life: treating life, that is to say, as if it were a work of art devoid of human reality. On the continent, as the historian Carl Schorske put it in his classic study offin-de-siècle Vienna, "the usual moralistic culture of the European bourgeoisie was . . . both overlaid and undermined by an amoral Gef ühlskultur [sentimental culture]." This revolution in sensibility amounted to a crisis of morality - what the novelist Hermann Broch called a "value vacuum" - that quickly precipitated a crisis in liberal cultural and political life. "Narcissism and a hypertrophy of the life of feeling were the consequence," Schorske wrote.
Roger Kimball Quotes #691618
#4. We -- the industrialized, technologized world -- have never been richer. And yet to an extraordinary extent we in the West continue to inhabit a moral and cultural universe shaped by the hedonistic imperatives and radical ideals of the Sixties. Culturally, morally the world we inhabit is increasingly a trash world: addicted to sensation, besieged everywhere by the cacophonous, mind-numbing din of rock music, saturated with pornography, in thrall to the lowest common denominator wherever questions of taste, manners or intellectual delicacy are concerned. Marwick was right: 'The cultural revolution, in short, had continuous, uninterrupted, and lasting consequences'.
Roger Kimball Quotes #704271
#5. The Beats, like their successors in the Sixties, have often been described as 'idealists'. But fantasies of total gratification are not the product of idealism. They arise from a narcissism that, finding the world unequal to its desires, retreats into a realm of heedless self-absorption. Modesty, convention, and self-restraint then appear as the enemies rather than as the allies of humanity. In this sense, the Beat generation marks a step away from civilization.
Roger Kimball Quotes #1451099
#6. There is not much to say about Burrough's writing. It consists of semiliterate ravings by a very sick mind, a kaleidoscope or surrealistic depictions of drug-taking, violent, often misogynistic fantasy, and sexual depravity.
Roger Kimball Quotes #178296
#7. The true democrat wishes to share the great works of culture with all who are able to appreciate them; the egalitarian, recognizing that genuine excellence is rare, declares greatness a fraud and sets about obliterating distinctions.
Roger Kimball Quotes #401853
#8. The truth is that American universities are among the safest and most coddled environments ever devised by man. The idea that one should attend college to be protected from ideas one might find controversial or offensive could only occur to someone who had jettisoned any hope of acquiring an education.
Roger Kimball Quotes #588722
#9. Welcome to the information age. Data, data, everywhere, but no one knows a thing.
Roger Kimball Quotes #416158
#10. The institutionalization of the Beat ethic has been a moral, aesthetic, and intellectual disaster of the first order. (It has also been a disaster for fashion and manners, but that is a separate subject.) We owe to the 1960s the ultimate institutionalization of immoralist radicalism: the institutionalization of drugs, pseudo-spirituality, promiscuous sex, virulent anti-Americanism, naive anti-capitalism, and the precipitous decline of artistic and intellectual standards. But the1960s and 1970s only codified and extended into the middle class the radical spirit of the Beats, who, in more normal times, would have remained what they were in the beginning; members of a fringe movement that provided stand-up comics with material.
Roger Kimball Quotes #842987
#11. The Beats are crucial to an understanding of America's cultural revolution not least because in their lives, their proclamations, and (for lack of a more accurate term) their 'work' they anticipated so many of the pathologies of the Sixties and Seventies. Their programmatic anti-Americanism, their avid celebration of drug abuse, their squalid, promiscuous sex lives, their pseudo-spirituality, their attack on rationality and their degradation of intellectual standards, their aggressive narcissism and juvenile political posturing: in all this and more, the Beats were every bit as 'advanced' as any Sixties radical.
Roger Kimball Quotes #258430
#12. The sentimentality of kitsch is a sign of its falseness. But it is also a sign of its extravagance. Unanchored to reality, sentimentality is naturally unbounded. Kitsch is a response to a failure or disintegration of cultural values. When the world no longer speaks meaningfully to us, we shout into the void and pretend the echoes come to us from on high.

The grandiosity of kitsch is in proportion to the existential poverty out of which it arose. In this context, it is worth noting a limitation of that dictionary definition of kitsch. The sentimentality of kitsch can be "sweet," but it can also be sour, malignant.
Roger Kimball Quotes #72249
#13. (Some people regard the astonishing collapse of manners and civility in our society as a superficial event. They are wrong. The fate of decorum expresses the fate of a culture's dignity, its attitude toward its animating values.)
Roger Kimball Quotes #1459906
#14. The romance that has surrounded the Beat generation since the mid-Sixties has acted as a kind of sentimental glaze, obscuring its fundamentally nihilistic impulse under a heap of bogus rhetoric about liberation, spontaneity, and 'startling oases of creativity', Notwithstanding their recent media media make-over, the Beats were not Promethean iconoclasts. They were drug-abusing sexual predators and infantilized narcissists whose shamelessness helped dupe a confused and gullible public into believing that their utterances were works of genius. We have to thank Lisa Phillips and the Whitney for inadvertently reminding us of this with such vividness. If nothing else, 'Beat Culture and the New America' showed that the Beats were not simply artistic charlatans; the were -- and, in the case of those who are still with us, they remain -- moral simpletons, whose destructive influence helped fuel the cultural catastrophe with which we are now living.
Roger Kimball Quotes #325560
#15. Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Kerouac were all on the side of the savage. That their penny-ante gnosticism was not only perpetuated but mythologized and spread abroad as a gospel of emancipation is something for which we have the Sixties to thank -- or to blame.
Roger Kimball Quotes #1360197
#16. Although aesthetically nugatory, "Beat Culture and the New America" was an exhibition of considerable significance -- but not in quite the way that Lisa Phillips, its curator, intended, Casting a retrospective glance at the sordid world of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Lawrence, Ferlinghetti, and other Beat icons, the exhibition unwittingly furnished a kind of pathologist's report on one of the most toxic cultural movements in American history.
Roger Kimball Quotes #1275011
#17. In short order, the unconventional became the established convention; the perverse was embraced as normal; the unspeakable was broadcast everywhere; the outrageous was met with enthusiastic applause.
Roger Kimball Quotes #1328801
#18. Kitsch lives with one foot in the realm of aesthetics and another foot in the realm of ethics.
Roger Kimball Quotes #55516
#19. One dominant response to the Great War was "disillusion" and a repudiation of principles named by such lofty abstractions as Honor, Patriotism, Virtue, and Beauty. It is easy to find examples of that solvent at work. But in another sense, the response to the war, especially on the continent, and most particularly in Germany, was just the opposite: it was what we might call the re-enchantment, the re-illusioning, of the world by means of a wholesale embrace of empty abstractions. The re-enchantment was malign, to be sure, but it was also thoroughgoing. Nazism was the most poisonous effort.It was, as [Modris] Eksteins puts it, "an attempt to lie beautifully to the German nation and to the world." This is where kitsch comes in.
Roger Kimball Quotes #1162425
#20. It is significant that the socialist mentality is usually also an atheistic mentality, where atheism is understood not so much as the disbelief in God as the hatred of Godan attitude as precarious logically as it has been destructive in practice. There is an important sense in which religion as traditionally understood reconciles humanity to imperfection and to failure. Since the socialist sets out to abolish failure, traditional religion is worse than _de trop_: it is an impediment to perfection.
Roger Kimball Quotes #107976
#21. Our complexity is much more likely to lead us astray than any simplicity we may follow.
Roger Kimball Quotes #676178
#22. What the historian Elie Kedourie called "the Chatham House Version" - that toxic amalgam of smugness, moral relativism, and cherished feelings of guilt about the achievements of Western civilization - everywhere nurtured the catechism of established opinion.
Roger Kimball Quotes #363759
#23. As with most revolutions, the counterculture's call for total freedom quickly turned into a demand for total control. The phenomenon of 'political correctness', with its speech codes and other efforts to enforce ideological conformity, was one predictable result of this transformation. What began at the University of California at Berkeley with the Free Speech Movement (called by some the 'Filthy Speech Movement'} soon degenerated into an effort to abridge freedom by dictating what could and could not be said about any number of politically sensitive issues.

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