Arts Moral Masochism
posted by July 12 at 17:02 PMon
The other day, a friend gave me a copy of The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcom which, I’m ashamed to admit, I hadn’t read before. “Read the first sentence,” he said, “and tell me you don’t want to keep reading.”
The first sentence goes like this:
Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.
It gave me a warm, wistful feeling, the exact same feeling I got this first time I read this passage in Didion’s introduction to Slouching Towards Bethlehem:
My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.
I don’t know why, but those sad condemnations give me pleasure, scratch some deep itch—the kind of itch masochists must feel when they think about corporal punishment.