Schopenhauer Meets Ricky Martin | Letters | Chicago Reader

Schopenhauer Meets Ricky Martin 

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Concerning the article "Chi Lives: La Vida Kathie" in the September 17 issue of the Reader:

Are we as a society to admire this type of writer? More directly, does the staff of the Reader admire this type of writer (or is there simply someone on the staff who knows her and wanted to give her a bit of publicity)? Let's think about the merit of this writer with respect to her newest publication (for that is all it is worthy of being called, least of all a book): someone who publishes a biography of a person whom they have never met; someone who assimilates their material for this biography from questionable sources plastered all over the Web. But maybe "assimilate" (definition: to take in, digest, and transform [food] into living material--American Heritage Dictionary) is too kind. This is more like regurgitation--no, even that can have some nutritional value; it's vomit. This "writer" reminds me of a character from Ben Jonson's satirical play Volpone, namely Voltore, a vulturelike advocate who feeds on the rotten waste of others--and the analogy works, because Ricky Martin stinks. It seems that "progress" is merely a myth we all hide behind, since Arthur Schopenhauer addressed this problem over a hundred years ago. He distinguishes between two types of writer: "those who write for the subject's sake, and those who write for writing's sake. While the one have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating, the others want money; and so they write, for money" (The Art of Literature). The article in question makes it explicitly clear (as if praising this feat) that the author had no prior interest in the subject of her publication--that is, before the offer from the publisher.

Now, my goal here is not to bash this young writer who is trying to make a living in a profession that is, for the most part, underappreciated. For there is (brief) mention of her previous accomplishments as a writer, which all seem extremely admirable, such as writing reviews for gay and lesbian fiction and coordinating events like the Second Annual Queercore Round-up and BBQ. Rather, the problem seems to be located elsewhere: first, in a public that would pay money for such a publication; secondly, in a periodical that would publicize, condone, and even applaud such a publication. Thus, I align myself with Schopenhauer in focusing on the latter condition: "A great many bad writers make their whole living by that foolish mania of the public for reading nothing but what has just been printed--journalists, I mean. Truly, a most appropriate name. In plain language it is journeymen, day-laborers!" In this sense, the journalist, by feeding on this unauthorized (quite a euphemism in this case) biography, is just the next link in the chain of vulturism. Furthermore, I believe that the views of our society are no longer able to make any notable transformations without the help of the media, which is unfortunate. Therefore, I beg of those of you on the staff of the Reader: for your own sake and for the sake of others, write with a heightened attentiveness to your subject material and overcome Schopenhauer's representation of the journalist.

Jeremy Horsefield

Uptown

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