Saturday, July 23, 2011

Academic Cliche Watch, Minisode 2: Dyer on "Argumentation by Announcement."

Several months ago, I wrote a post about the phrase "I want to argue that . . .", pointing out just a few of the reasons that it's worthless and destructive to the integrity of academic writing.  Geoff Dyer, the genius author of unparalleled books like But Beautiful and Out of Sheer Rage, seems to have noticed the same thing - though not surprisingly, he's responded with a level of subtlety and comprehensiveness that outstrips my modest effort by several degrees of magnitude.

In my defense, he seems to have found the perfect target in Michael Fried's "Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before," which he dissects with a precise brutality that could be paralleled to what Christian Bale did to all those poor women in American Psycho, if it were done in defense of decency and clear thinking.  Geoff Dyer is easily one of the most brilliant cultural essayists alive, right in the league of Joan Didion or . . . well, very few others.  So to be on the receiving end of such a performance from him, while certainly painful, could also be considered receiving a scolding from someone so elevated the rest of us could hardly be expected to even aspire to the same plane.

That said, I have no sympathy for Fried, who I hope is enjoying the comforting sleep of reason in the bed he's made for himself.

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