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In reviewing this complaint, editors determined that the reviewer had based his account of these matters mostly on information from an article about Vargas Llosa in The Daily Mail, but neither the reviewer nor editors independently verified those statements.
Instead of stopping these blood baths, culture desired to provoke and celebrate them.” In other words, God died as the last casualty of the Napoleonic Wars, and the wars of the century that followed laid waste to the human.
What remains is the reign of what Vargas Llosa calls “the spectacle”: techno-entertainment, and capital.
It’s impossible to think of the way the narration is split among cadets at a military school in “The Time of the Hero,” or the way the teeming jungle causes timelines to mix in “The Green House,” without thinking of film; it’s impossible to recall Vargas Llosa’s stint as a TV talk-show host without finding its fictionalization in “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter,” later adapted for the screen itself; “Who Killed Palomino Molero?
” and “Death in the Andes” owe much of their plotting to noir. Vargas Llosa, abjuring the inevitable socialism of his youth, ran unsuccessfully as a pro-American candidate for the Peruvian presidency in 1990; “The Feast of the Goat” and “The Dream of the Celt” are rife with intellectuals who deign the compromises of diplomacy, and dine out on the laden tables of neoliberalism.
So, a history that begins with Eliot’s Anglo-American expatriate striving proceeds through refugee German-Jewish anxiety and ends with the communist, poststructuralist French: Guy Debord.
Now we’re ready for what used to be called, with colonial scorn, the margins, the fringes: South America.
This commendable philosophy has had the undesired effect of trivializing and cheapening cultural life, justifying superficial form and content in works on the grounds of fulfilling a civic duty to reach the greatest number.”But Vargas Llosa doesn’t stop at that. people usually play sports at the expense of, and instead of, intellectual pursuits”; “Today, the mass consumption of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, crack, heroin, etc., is a response to a social environment that pushes men and women towards quick and easy pleasure.”Even if Vargas Llosa is correct, there’s a difference between being correct and being stylish. I take no joy in kicking an old man when he’s down.
Later in this essay he notes: “It is not surprising therefore that the most representative literature of our times is ‘light,’ easy literature, which, without any sense of shame, sets out to be — as its primary and almost exclusive objective — entertaining.” And if you need more to file under the Grumpy Old Novelists rubric: “Chefs and fashion designers now enjoy the prominence that before was given to scientists”; “The vacuum left by the disappearance of criticism has been filled, imperceptibly, by advertising”; “Today . The psychology’s too obvious, applicable equally to a novelist as to a reader: To complain about the death of culture is to complain about dying yourself. I’d rather reread his earlier books, and remember how his character Zavalita expressed rage — expressed Vargas Llosa’s previously productive rage — in “Conversation in the Cathedral”: “He was like Peru, Zavalita was,” Vargas Llosa wrote there, because Peru and Zavalita had both screwed up (though he uses a stronger expression) “somewhere along the line.”But where? Vargas Llosa’s novels have never hesitated to traffic in the same high-low blend he now bemoans.
Of course, it’s tempting, even now, to keep spinning that description out, into “cuckold, chain smoker, cat fancier and anti-Semite” — not just to have my revenge, but also to demonstrate how culture works, or doesn’t.
I can’t help suspecting that if I were writing a decade or so in the future I would be expected — despite all information being findable online — to explain what a “bank teller” or “publisher” was, not to mention what it once meant to write criticism, as opposed to a consumer review.“Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society” is a new nonfiction diatribe by Mario Vargas Llosa, or (should I say) by the Spanish-language Peruvian novelist, lapsed Catholic, last living public face of the Latin American “boom” and 2010 Nobel laureate in literature Mario Vargas Llosa, the author of over two dozen previous books.