Recovering in the Dumpster this morning with the kind of headache only the cheapest wine can inflict, I was hit with an almost irresistible thought, given my lost life as a literary critic. What if I were to write a "critique" of PMA, Esquire's, ouvre, at Trusts and Estates, asking who is her lineage? As for themes: The School of James Hughes. As for genre and style: Talk of the Town (E.B.White in The New Yorker at its zenith), Dr. Johnson's peripatetic essays in The Rambler, and Horace, Sermo 1.9 (Horace and the Bore). One strand via Hughes: that of The Bore, who would be the Most Trusted Advisor, The Privy Counselor, and Man of all Work to Augustus, or at least Maecenas. (The Roman term for such loyal retainers was "parasite," not a term of respect, admittedly, but look whose talking.) The other strand in PMA is the "virile plain style" of the neoclasscial tradition of the honest man, the plain dealer, the moralist, the candid insider, writing in an easy way for others who are, or think they are. Such a self-respecting person speaks truth to power, and is admired for it by the leader who might behead those whose lips tremble at the moment of truth. Yet, PMA is a woman? That, too, and that is why her work in "family dynamics," and "family governance," or home economics, resonates. The language of strategic reason, the languages of love. Love of the arts, included. Of course, if this post could be blown up to the size of a Doctoral Dissertation in English Language and Literature, I might yet be Dr. Phil, in sky blue robe with the dark blue and gold slashes, and monk's cowl, though I have no pants and am barefoot, as befits an Honest English major with a degree in Philosophy.
For those Trusted Advisors, or Consiglieres, or Secular Priests, new to lit crit, just one question: In PMA's recent essay, "Are You "Wealthy'?," blowing up the School of Hughes, blasting its foundation (unwavering fidelity to the wealthiest, doglike loyalty to the Patron), she happens to leave a meeting of The Bores Who Serve Billionaires, and gets better advice on wealth, wisdom, virtue and happiness, from a cabbie. Was there really such a cabbie? What if she made that up? What if the Bore in Horace is made up, more a 'type' of the eternal parasite than an actual trusted advisor wannabe on a particular street in Rome 2,000 years ago? Would it be contrary to the editorial policy of Trust and Estates to publish fiction? Could it countenance satire, towards which the style of Horace, Dr. Johnson, and even The New Yorker (see the cartoons) tends? Traditions, like Audrey herself, have an atavistic gene that expresses itself when the civilization it carries is imperiled. As was Rome under the increasingly mad, or corrupt Caesars, as were gouty English royalty in Dr. Johnson's era, during the American Revolution, as are we now as The Wealthy Bear it Away, and the addled masses, around the globe, react and revolt, with the Duck Dynasty Patriarch needing as much help on Family Governance and Family Dynamics as anyone else, as does Trump. And on such "governance," of the grand self within the grand family, and grand family within the broken polity, that the future of our world depends, contested by billionaires and those who serve or follow.
Now, if you will excuse me I must cage enough for another bottle, "the hair of the dog." Failed as a literary critic, failed as a Morals Tutor, failed as a protege of The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, may I at least succeed as a Beggar before old age sets in and indigence is friendless and wineless? And so now I: "Pray, Kind Sir, step in here for a moment behind the Dumpster. Let me have a word with you on the QT. I know you are well connected with Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Geneva, London, the Gulf States. I, though you might not know it to look at me now, am a learned man, a moral man, a wise man, a blameless man, virtuous. These very rags bear witness to my integrity. I have never sold out for the money, or prostituted my talent. I have chosen not to bathe, or hose off, because I am me, the human animal, authentic and incorruptible. Surely, you must know Maecenas? Caesar? Gates? Zuckerberg? Soros? Adelson, Thiel? Might you introduce me? To improve their taste or morals? Mentor their children? Prepare their heirs? Slit a throat? Prosecute a case? Keep secrets? Procure a mistress? Reduce taxes? Build social capital by buying an election? There is nothing that is not ennobled by my Patron's wealth. Nothing no matter how vile need be hidden from me. I have seen it all, and done worse. Pray, Sir, how are your own children doing? Could I prepare them Sir? Can you at least spare a quarter? Just one dime, Sir, and I will let you pass."