The Corner


Western Culture, It Ain’t What It Used to Be

This from the Washington Post sounded awkward to my ears, but standards of cultural literacy change:

“Flake routinely catalogs Trump alongside evil and danger — at one point, he compares the Republican Party trying to make peace with this president to a German scholar who sold his soul to the devil.”

“A German scholar who sold his soul to the devil”? Just write what the senator did, “Faustian bargain,” trust that your readers will get it, and trust that anyone who doesn’t can look it up online. (“Many years ago I read a piece on WF Buckley that described his writing style as ‘Look it up, serf,’” a friend commented when I posted about this on social media last week.)

Reading, I sometimes come across a mysterious line or two that turns out to be dialogue from an old movie. I dutifully copy the passage, paste it into Google, and voilà. Arcana from the Austin Powers series are now considered mainstream cultural references.

Good-bye, Marlowe and Goethe, Irving and Mann. Farewell to the Western literary tradition that I was always hoping to get to know a little better. We hardly knew ye.

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