Happy millionaires, floating above money. Tastemakers and models where the substance of sign are widgets produced from the mysteries of Eurocentric sytle. Even anti-stye is currency spoken at the proper moment. Castles in the sky held up by anti-gravity - the collective will of the subordinate and subordinated who dare not look the other way. Whether it is the act of looking away or looking as in appearing the Other way, those in thrall refuse to ignore the central process, their ennobling whitewash without which they become the non-audience, those left outside the theater of the West. Marshall Blonsky, in American Mythologies, examines the symbolic discourse between the performers and the performed upon as if to examine the state of the ceiling in the house whose walls have already collapsed. Yet it remains a valid work because while we all stand in the cold ruins, the ceiling remains frozen in mid-air suspended like our disbelief, while from its reflections we measure our steps. As intellectual excavator and personal ruminator par excellence, Blonsky will become the McLuhan of the 90s.
I have always found such work fascinating in its intelligence and simultaneous evasion of moral discourse, the modularity of discourse enabling dualities and incomplete modes of consideration which allow a delicate spinning of understanding devoid of serious judgment. This, to me, is the miracle of modernity whose ultimate result, by inserting himself for four years into a physical space with these men and women, the demigods of design - Blonsky's own humanity rejects. This result is the emptiness of disintegrated thought represented in the duality of Western humanitarianism and nuclear blackmail the co-dependent poles of persuasion. It finds wonderful play space in the mental realm of fashion. Evoking the laughter of broadcast journalists and the acquiescence of the western subject, Blonsky finds nothing worth excoriating nor viscerally experiences nothing. He dances from parlor to post, changing jackets, briefcases, meals and languages even as they blend and mix forming a spectrum of the EuroAmerican patina. Yet all this ether signifies everything Western and that's the miraculous power evoked.
Blonsky might hope his book, like Eco's Pendulum becomes a symbol of knowing the secrets of EuroAmerican style (using Glaser's definition of style which is an extension of ideology) while at the same time de-mystifying it. In that manner the book itself becomes a primer for the past decade and the next in an expository manner (for those of us in Kansas City and subwayLand) without real self-criticism. It is a work of art. Blonsky may come to know himself as Blonsky, his winking persona so very much like Glaser's Falstaff. Yet if Blonsky were not becoming the Arsenio Hall of the Postmodern Jet Set how would we gain access?
I set knowing secrets in opposition to demystification because the scope becomes too vast for absorbable criticism. But what about people who find Armani fashion ugly Bellini design as trite and Demokeracy in the election of Mitterand?
Yet Blonsky is too much an intellectual oddball who still views his professors as 'masters'. What process does one go through to become the Semiotician who can scorn wisecrackers with claims of patent on the very jargon of his trade? From whence derives his authenticity? And why has it left him with the same stereotypes about people who ride the subway and the primary ethnic constitution of the American homeless? It is in these areas of weakness that the books failed chapters become apparent. For Blonsky seems all too able to adopt a point of view of an alienated scholar which privileges him to joke with Martin Amis about the smell of surplus New Yorkers. Nor does he perceive any authentic challenges to the commercial semiosphere. I too am somewhat of an oddball. How many Americans take their travel advice from A. Sivanandan who suggests that we remain home and subversive as we emerge immune to the culture of McDonaldization? Yet on the other hand there is praxis in numbers. It is disconnected and non-hierarchical. It spreads from coast to coast like house music. Eco's 8,000 run publication books are also Prince's Black Album. Blonsky misses the underground completely. Imagining himself and taking comfort in alternate fantasies of being a sole survivor of the Authentic 60's (without so much as naming a particular praxis be it Free Speech or Black Consciousness). He forgets.
Perhaps he has figured a way to explain away Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Toni Morrison and Cornel West. Perhaps it because those who find them inspirational don't speak the voice of America - certainly not in the dining rooms of Italy. On the other hand, perhaps Four More Years might do Blonsky well. There are signs in the world of the Deaf and in the other unheard worlds with meaning he might well explore.
Chinua Achebe writes a bit about having a communities own or to read oh so cleverly through that certain lack Bellini sees in Japanese. How does he do it I wonder. He seems too quickly out of his depth in areas where the categorization and proper interpretation of the , yet remains compelled to explain. His courage for pushing those boundaries is exemplary, leaving areas ripe for future study. But I suspect that having concluded with an ABCs of the 90s, the part of the book which most of us in the Hoi Polloi will cogently digest, that such work might not seem required. Then again, he never said he was a pragmatist, which is why ultimately Blonsky's personal analysis may ultimately only affect those Americans Braudlilla see. As the EuroAmerican universe of signs is thoroughly mapped his. Yet shall I dare confound his Big Bang with the nagging problem of Dark Matter?