09 October 2013

Exit Strategies Addendum

Humility and artistic self-determination: two vitally important achievements for any artist, typically in proportionately short supply, but always available in abundance at your nearest low-wage day job.

1 comment:

Stefan Kac said...

N.N. Taleb

"There is a tradition with French and other European literary writers to look for a sinecure, say, the anxiety-free profession of civil servant, with few intellectual demands and high job security, the kind of low-risk job that ceases to exist when you leave the office, then spend their spare time writing, free to write whatever they want, under their own standards. There is a shockingly small number of academics among French authors. American writers, on the other hand, tend to become members of the media or academics, which makes them prisoners of a system and corrupts their writing, and, in the case of research academics, makes them live under continuous anxiety, pressures, and indeed, severe bastardization of the soul. Every line you write under someone else's standards, like prostitution, kills a corresponding segment deep inside. On the other hand, sinecure-cum-writing is a quite soothing model, next best to having financial independence."
(pp. 163-164)

It's funny how easily Mr. Negative Empiricism himself can slip into enormous generalizations and inferences without bothering to offer up the kind of hard evidence he demands from others. Til then I'm going to play skeptic about the details here even though I am sympathetic to his general point. Are we sure that it is not the American AUDIENCE who are more hynotized by academic credentials than are Europeans? And how can we be sure it was academia that "corrupted" these leech-writers, who otherwise would have developed normally? NNT is the first to pipe up about how little academia succeeds in educating. If so, how could it succeed any better at "corrupting?"

(Flannery O'Connor: “Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”)

(A mid-2000s musical collaborator, originally from the East Coast, to me about the U of MN: "I can't believe you went there.")

Incidentally, I was on my way down the sinecure path with my airport job. I really wanted to make it work. Unfortunately I found it very unpleasant to be situated at the butt end of a long hierarchical chain of Accountability. Ironically that is the most job-secure location along the entire chain! And it was part-time with benefits! It was perfect! But the job did not actually cease to exist after leaving the office. The accountability-pressure and the brain-frying were too intense. I can't say I regret leaving, and I have nightmare, not dreams, about going back, but the ideal of it remains very seductive for all the reasons NNT outlines here.