A Commonplace Book

The modernists’ once-subversive refusal to be gulled or lulled has long since degenerated into a ritual of despair at least as corrupt, soft-minded, and cowardly—not to say smug—as the false cheer it replaced. The terms of the dialectic have reversed: now the subversive task is to affirm an authentic post-modernist optimism that gives full weight to existent horror and possible (or probable) apocalyptic disaster, yet insists—credibly—that we can, well, overcome. The catch is that you have to be an optimist (an American?) in the first place not to dismiss such a project as insane.

Ellen Willis

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