February 9, 2010

Under the Influence

If you ever ask me if I’ve heard of a particular band or author or film, I’m going to say yes. This is because my generation’s coin is cultural knowledge, and I am a counterfeiter. Try me sometime; catch me at a party and fabricate an absurd band name. Not only will I have heard of them, I will have a poor opinion of their work, find it derivative, and will prefer instead some other howling absurdity like Cluck and the Chickenhearted or Take a Knee.

My personality, or that intellectual yawn I think of as my individuality, is almost certainly just an assemblage of influences. I am composed of .04% Paul Simon lyrics, .001% episodes of Airwolf, .02% misconstrued Kafka quotes, etc. etc. Take all that away and what am I but a monkey who likes to eat and mount things interchangeably.

Is that right? I guess so. This is awful. Why are you here?

If influences are dosh, one can associate them with stock. Therefore, the syllogism goes, there must be a stock market of memes and medium churning invisibly somewhere. Right now, I imagine, Nabokov’s stock is on the climb and Melville’s is tumbling; Ashbery is trending down, but Muldoon is a good hedge. Does this belittle the subject, the actual creative artifact? Certainly, but it enlivens the cagey exchanges between minglers, and it allows us to form factions and camps which are very important to primates. I don’t need to know exactly who I am if I can rely on my clan to define me. You know who’s stupid? People who like Lorca. I love Lorca. Who is he?

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