Saturday, February 14, 2009


An extract from Don DeLillo's White Noise. I found it pretty boring but at least it is not as huge as Underworld which I had to abandon. DeLillo, like Pynchon, is just not my cup of tea it seems. Reading the book I felt I should have rather read an essay by a sociologist and one of those continental thinkers who write gloomy treatises on media, consumerism, technology, capitalism, the dehumanizing effect of American culture and the general hopelessness of our postmodern world... DeLillo is quite funny and sharp at places but not as much as his reputation would lead one to believe. The idea of the essential absurdity of much of mainstream life in America (and indeed rest of the world too) exemplified by shopping, among other things, is not very original but still it is quite funny to read.


The encounter put me in the mood to shop. I found the others and we walked across two parking lots to the main structure in the Mid-Village Mall, a ten-story building arranged around a center court of waterfalls, promenades and gardens. Babette and the kids followed me into the elevator, into the shops set along the tiers, through the emporiums and department stores, puzzled but excited by my desire to buy. When I could not decide between two shirts, they encouraged me to buy both. When I said I was hungry, they fed me pretzels, beer, souvlaki. The two girls scouted ahead, spotting things they thought I might want or need, running back to get me, to clutch my arms, plead me to follow. They were my guides to endless well-being. People swarmed through the boutiques and gourmet shops. Organ music rose from the great court. We smelled chocolate, popcorn, cologne; we smelled rugs and furs, hanging salamis and deathly vinyl. My family gloried in the event. I was one of them, shopping, at last. They gave me advice, badgered clerks on my behalf. I kept seeing myself unexpectedly in some reflecting surface. We moved from store to store, rejecting not only items in certain departments, not only entire deparments but whole stores, mammoth corporations that did not strike our fancy for one reason or another. There was always another store, three floors, eight floors, basement full of cheese graters and paring knives. I shopped with reckless abandon. I shopped for immediate need and distant contingencies. I shopped for its own sake, looking and touching, inspecting merchandise, I had no intention of buying, then buying it. I sent clerks into their fabric books to search for elsuive designs. I began to grow in value and self-regard. I filled myself out, found new aspects of myself, located a person I'd forgotten existed. Brightness settled around me. We crossed from furniture to men's wear, walking through cosmetics. Our images appeared on mirrored columns, in glassware and chrome, on TV monitors in security rooms. I traded money for goods. The more money I spent, the less important it seemed. I was bigger than these sums. These sums in fact came back to me in the form of existential credit. I felt expansive, inclined to be sweepingly genrous, and told the kids to pick out their Christmas gifts here and now. I gestured in what I felt was an expansive manner. I could tell they were impressed. They fannned out across the area, each of them suddenly inclined to be private, shadowy, even secretive. Periodically one of them would return to register the name of an item with Babette, careful not to let the others know what it was. I myself was not to be bothered with tedious details. I was the benefactor, the one who dispenses gifts, bonuses, bribes, baksheesh. The children knew it was the nature of such things that I could not be expected to engage in technical discussions about the gifts themselves. We ate another meal. A band played live Muzak. Voices rose ten stories from the gardens and promenades, a roar that echoed and swirled through the vast gallery, mising with noises from the tiers, with shuffling feet and chiming bells, the hum of escalators, the sound of people earing, the human buzz of some vivid and happy transaction.

why Kierkegaard would have hated internet

Long absence from the blogworld again! I used to always complain (to myself) that "nothing happens in life", like Charlie Kaufmann says in Adaptation. Well, for a change, too many things are happening in life these days. Have been busy at work and many other things and for some reason I don't feel like spending too much time on the internet.

Here is a provocative article by Hubert Dreyfus disucssing why Kierkegaard would have hated internet, blogging and facebook. He writes about some of the things I have been thinking about these days. He says that internet promotes a mode of life which is free of commitments, risks and responsibilities and so is essentially meaningless and nihilistic. The same is actually applicable to the the entire public or social sphere that we live in too. We act, speak and in general conduct ourselves as if nothing is at stake, definitely nothing personal is at stake. The internet is full of information but it is always without context and "desituated". All of this makes a lot of sense to me but ultimately I also think it should be up to the individual to decide how to use internet.

Anyway, today also happens to be the valentine's day. So best wishes and just in case you happen to be in India, take care, be safe and don't get thrashed by the culture goons.