Thursday, 11 September 2008

When I think armadillo


Armadillo baskets became popular after the 1902 New York World's Fair, where they were first exhibited by the Texan Charles Apelt, owner of the Apelt Armadillo Company and Farm.


I immediately think of an armadillo basket, or of the armadillo cake in Steel Magnolias. Never would I think of a barbecue. Actually nothing would make me think of a barbecue. Barbecue is either something a waiter delivers to the table, or something that other people do. Smiling happy people with bouncy shiny wash and go hair.


Bill Sorich's Armadillo Barbecue

Excerpt from Notes On "Camp", by Susan Sontag
Published in 1964.

Many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described. One of these is the sensibility -- unmistakably modern, a variant of sophistication but hardly identical with it -- that goes by the cult name of "Camp."

A sensibility (as distinct from an idea) is one of the hardest things to talk about; but there are special reasons why Camp, in particular, has never been discussed. It is not a natural mode of sensibility, if there be any such. Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric -- something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques. Apart from a lazy two-page sketch in Christopher Isherwood's novel The World in the Evening (1954), it has hardly broken into print. To talk about Camp is therefore to betray it. If the betrayal can be defended, it will be for the edification it provides, or the dignity of the conflict it resolves. For myself, I plead the goal of self-edification, and the goad of a sharp conflict in my own sensibility. I am strongly drawn to Camp, and almost as strongly offended by it. That is why I want to talk about it, and why I can. For no one who wholeheartedly shares in a given sensibility can analyze it; he can only, whatever his intention, exhibit it. To name a sensibility, to draw its contours and to recount its history, requires a deep sympathy modified by revulsion.

Though I am speaking about sensibility only -- and about a sensibility that, among other things, converts the serious into the frivolous -- these are grave matters. Most people think of sensibility or taste as the realm of purely subjective preferences, those mysterious attractions, mainly sensual, that have not been brought under the sovereignty of reason. They allow that considerations of taste play a part in their reactions to people and to works of art. But this attitude is naïve. And even worse. To patronize the faculty of taste is to patronize oneself. For taste governs every free -- as opposed to rote -- human response. Nothing is more decisive. There is taste in people, visual taste, taste in emotion - and there is taste in acts, taste in morality. Intelligence, as well, is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas. (One of the facts to be reckoned with is that taste tends to develop very unevenly. It's rare that the same person has good visual taste and good taste in people and taste in ideas.)


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Now playing: Carrie Underwood - I Ain't in Checotah Anymore
via FoxyTunes

4 comments:

Pigtown-Design said...

You can tell when you're getting into the south on a cross-country driving trip when you start seeing squished armadillos in the road. But they certainly are interesting creatures!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Intelligence is a kind of taste.
I love that and do so agree.

katiedid said...

It is quite interesting of late to see what the political "tastes" have been in the US. It is so very true that tastes are not evenly developed.

columnist said...

I've just posted about taste: "Taste doesn't always help.." (Queen Elizabeth II). Co-inky-dink!!