Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pleasuring Yourself

It’s been a while since someone got a missive against elitist taste posted in an elite publication, so clearly we were overdue. The latest comes from Adam Sternbergh, whose piece “All of the Pleasure. None of the Guilt” is in the New York Times Magazine. The arguments contained therein should come as no surprise to anyone who knows what “cultural vegetables” refers to: Sternbergh takes up arms against the term “guilty pleasure,” rhetorically asking, “Why not be done with the whole idea that certain cultural pleasures are more edifying than others? Why not retire the familiar labels that are simply remnants of a cultural caste system?”

Such talk, as well as inane flourishes like “With the exceptions of warmongering doublespeak and racial epithets, is there any more pernicious linguistic remnant of the 20th century than the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’?” (what a trifecta), immediately smacks of baiting, but in fairness to Sternbergh, his piece is far more equitable than, say, Dan Kois’ insipid insistence on the dullness of the highbrow. Sternbergh at least acknowledges that some people might read Moby Dick or À la recherche du temps perdu because they find them genuinely enjoyable, and his mantra is less a defense of the simple than “Can’t we all just get along?”