March 23, 2007

Interesting National Review Article Reviewing Joan Didion's Work
Didion might seem to be wasting her considerable talents writing about an already oft-explored figure like Howard Hughes. But her sharply discerning essay, with shades of James, not only hints at what the Master might have made of Hughes. It explains the American mind, even today:
That we have made a hero of Howard Hughes tells us something interesting about ourselves, something only dimly remembered, tells us that the secret point of money and power in America is neither the things that money can buy nor power for power’s sake (Americans are uneasy with their possessions, guilty about power, all of which is difficult for Europeans to perceive because they are themselves so truly materialistic, so versed in the uses of power), but absolute personal freedom, mobility, privacy. It is the instinct which drove America to the Pacific, all through the nineteenth century, the desire to be able to find a restaurant open in case you want a sandwich, to be a free agent, live by one’s own rules.
In the age of blogs, cellphone cameras, and reality TV, Didion’s last sentence is hauntingly prescient: “He is the last private man, the dream we no longer admit.”

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