Thursday, February 02, 2006

Keillor on BHL

If you know French pop-philospher Bernard Henri-Lévy (BHL), you know it's not much of a stretch to say that he likes the spotlight. Every media personality has his or her schtick. Tucker Carlson is identified by his bow-tie, David Letterman by his double-breasted suits, MacLaughlin by his loud, gravely voice. BHL's pièce d'identité happens to be the dark jacket over the white shirt unbottoned down to the lower sternum. It's the playboy image par excellence. Last year BHL was asked by the Atlantic Monthly to travel across the US and write a five-part series on all things America. BHL considers himself a modern-day Tocqueville. The articles were interesting but hardly enlightening. Instead of simply reading American culture, à la Tocqueville, BHL reads French fears into American culture, in particular American kitsch. How is one supposed to get an accurate picture of American society from a Las Vegas brothel and a West Coast spouse swap? The megachurches are another false barometer. Granted, many smaller churches take their cues from these institutions, but these cues are administrative, i.e. how to get more bodies in the building. We could go on for some time, but for brevity's sake, and for a good laugh, just go read Garrison Keillor's review of his book in the NY Times Sunday book section. Yes, like any good capitalist-philosopher, BHL has decided to capitalize on his new role as Tocqueville and sell the same story as many times as possible. Place the articles all together and voilà! a book! Zola would be proud.


At 20:52, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud reading Keillor's review of BHL. I may have even guffawed. Having seen the philosopher in question, live and in costume, give an hour long talk which he read from a post it note, I can't really say that any of it surprises me.


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