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This publication is available -,. s in microform from University t . . ,.. :. “.”. v… Microfilms International. Call toll-free 800-521-3044. Or mail inquiry to: University Microfilms International. 300 North Zeeb Road. Ann Arbor. MI 48106. NOTA BENS Grinding It Out For the Stuff You Wrap Fish in BY TOM McCLELLAN j OAN DIDION’S “Insider Baseball,” published last October in the New York Review of Books, is the most profound analysis of the ’88 presidential thing that I’ve read so far. On her way to making one of many telling observations, she mentions in passing that the “print media people” at the Democratic National Convention had their view blocked by a network TV booth. What telling observation was she on her way to? That the creation of a made-forcommentators and reporters became hapless pimps for both campaigns but not necessarily, as she shows by her own example is one symptom of the totalitarian substitute we now take for democracy. Her finished portrait is of a leadership divorced culturally and therefore morally from the populace it pretends to represent and hopes to govern; deliberately distanced by the closed feedback loop of Beltway around D.C. and by propols who provide photo-ops and sound-bites to change the numbers the pollsters record the sort of guys who stuck Ms. Didion behind the C of BS booth. The sort of guys who stuck Texas “print media people,” including a two-time Pulitzer nominee, in the understage-reverb seats in Houston last summer. The sort of guys who don’t care how they treat a lady or any commentator without a videocam, for that matter. Tough-minded guys like Meletos. Bigtime movers and shakers like Anytos and Lycon. Guys eager to make history before they know it. Television determines what many will dream tonight, what some will joke about tomorrow, what few will discuss next week, what none will note next year. Because it is difficult to think with a moving tongue, little worth thinking about is said on TV. What is memorable are the bloopers \(the Tom McClellan, who writes a regular column for the Observer, lives in Dallas. when a talking torso has something thoughtworthy to say .. . Yes, that’s write. The yesterdays’ newspapers that record Ambrose Bierce’s definitions of life, A. J. Liebling’s and Heywood Broun’s dissertations on the aesthetics of sport, Russell Baker’s discoveries of depravity those are hardly dead issues. Joke about the monthly ragazine or the weakly slick if you wish, but he who has collected all the New Yorker and Esquire numbers with Dorothy Parker’s book and theatre reviews really has something; while he who keeps in his memory bank a video tape of Dan Rather going sotto voce to the headset torso “at the edge of the convention floor” so`that the interview will not completely drown out the man at the podium,. who is praying has a whole nuther. A fellow grad student once told me he’d earned a Bachelor’s in journalism before cleaving unto the English department, “the fine-writing people,” as his journalism profs said. One of them told him to look up how many fine-writing heroes did hack time, served journalistic apprenticeships. His final list included nearly every major prose writer from.the 18th century to date, and that date came before Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night, Tom Wolfe’s Electric Koolade, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing the entire spate of books from ’65 to ’75 that redefined journalism and welded any gap between it and “serious literature” closed. OAN DIDION’S essay, then, and Susan Sontag’s on newsprint beside it, sprang not miraculously from the forehead of Athena, but from a cultivated field. One last gin-soaked cheer for the home team, especially for us in the minors. If choose to, with all its variants, has become an overworked “helping verb” recently I haven’t yet heard someone say “I choose to make up my mind” but I certainly expect to you can thank a French scribbler for the leftist rags of 60 years ago, who saw that 19th Century rationalism had made humanity the butt of a cosmic joke and individuality the effect of every cause but choice, and kicked rationalism out of the universe along with God and Immanuel Kant. “Man is free,” wrote Sartre, “man is freedom.” And that is what Texas grammarians call a Performative, like “I thee wed”: he made it so by saying it’s so and made it stick by sticking it out. Whether he owned a TV set I don’t know; but a mind forceful enough to make its major premise an idiom common as trash on the street in half a century does not need to be turned off and into an ad-man’s dumpster four hours every evening. I doubt that propols read at all \(probably such creators of today’s cliches and tomorrow’s tripes read this and wonder who Meletos and those others were: Guys much like yourselves, with minds and morals of your stripe, whom history chewed up and spit into a disgraceful footnote, as it will you. complete personal and business insurance ALICE ANDERSON AGENCY 808-A East 46th P.O. Box 4666, Austin 78765 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17