Sunday, October 7, 2012

Aimless Reading: The V's, Part 4 (Thorstein Veblen)

The Theory of the Leisure Class
Veblen, Thorstein
The Theory of the Leisure Class

Purchased at the Niagara Falls outlet mall discount book store for $2.50. To get there from Buffalo you take the 190 north and get off at Niagara Falls Boulevard, turn right, then left onto a service road that runs alongside the highway, turn right into the lot, and park. I usually parked outside Saks. A trompe l'oiel mural depicting happy, multicultural families of tourists looking out over the falls covers one whole wall of the building.

I'd enter through Saks, where I often shopped for clothes. You used to be able to get great deals on marked-down designer duds there, but those deals became harder to find over the years. Once a year, they'd rearrange the store, which I always found disorienting. One trip the men's section would be in the rear and I would know where to find everything, and the next trip they'd be in the front and I'd have to figure the whole place out all over again.

I once took Nobel Prize-Winner Orhan Pamuk there. We were driving to Niagara Falls and he was cold and wanted to stop to buy a winter cap. We pulled into the mall, parked, walked past the mural and into Saks. Pamuk bought a Holden Caulfield-esque hunters cap, complete with woolen earflaps. I have a photo of him standing at the counter making his purchase. You can't really see the cap, as it is sitting on the counter. You can see it in this one, though, where he is taking a photo of the old train station in Buffalo.

Anyhow, to get to the bookstore you stepped out into the mall and walked directly across the hallway. The section I always visited was towards the back of the store in the center. One row of books contained Penguin Classics, Library of America, and poetry. I used to allow myself about fifty bucks per trip and often walked home with a bag of 9-10 titles, sometimes more.

This is another of those books I couldn't resist buying because of the price. I have always meant to get around to reading it, but alas, alas, alas. I think I first heard of it through Susan Howe or possibly Charles Bernstein. I've always liked the former's reformulation of the title as "The Leisure of the Theory Class" in one of her books.

A witty little dig at academe.

from The Theory of the Leisure Class


On this head of purity of speech, as at other points where a conventional usage rests on the canons of archaism and waste, the spokesmen for the usage instinctively take an apologetic attitude. It is contended, in substance, that a punctilious use of ancient and accredited locutions will serve to convey thought more adequately and more precisely than would be the straightforward use of the latest form of spoken English; whereas it is notorious that the ideas of today are effectively expressed in the slang of today. Classic speech has the honorific virtue of dignity; it commands attention and respect as being the accredited method of communication under the leisure-class scheme of life, because it carries a pointed suggestion of the industrial exemption of the speaker. The advantage of the accredited locutions lies in their reputability; they are reputable because they are cumbrous and out of date, and therefore argue waste of time and exemption from the use and the need of direct and forcible speech.

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