Friday, November 23, 2018

About Maxwell Perkins

I keep coming back to the little dance that all writers and other purveyors of fact must dance, between going over the heads of their intended audience and insulting their intelligence. As I suggested in relation to Barthes, it’s ultimately subjective: OK, maybe I know who Isaac Newton is, but not Bachelard or Hjemslev, but that doesn’t apply universally. Except... seriously? I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of Pointless contestants who don’t know who wrote the Principia, but what proportion of those are on top of French epistemology and/or Danish linguistics in the mid-20th century? (And, yes, I had to Google those.)

And here’s another example. In the New Yorker, Jordan Orlando offers yet another bloody article about The White Album in which he introduces George Martin as “the Beatles’ Maxwell Perkins”. To be honest, I think Orlando’s choice is a little less preposterous than that of Barthes; there will be very few people who know the editor of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but not the Beatles’ producer, but I suspect there are more than those who know Hjemslev but not Newton. And, because this is all about knowing your audience, I reckon all of them read the New Yorker.

And that just gives me the perfect opportunity to remind you of the work of Rutherford Chang.

PS: And this is interesting too: she even has a stab at Revolution #9.

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