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 The principal function of popular culture

This is not a quotation but a collage of sentences (which the dots somewhat suggest) taken from an essay of mine entitled "Even If By All the Oxen in the World." The title is itself a quotation from Plato. The piece can be found in my essay collection, Fiction and the Figures of Life, David Godine, Boston, 1979, pp. 268-279. It was originally delivered at a conference on popular culture where it was greeted with catcalls and cries of "shame!". William H. Gass

"It is the principal function of popular culture - though hardly its avowed purpose - to keep men from understanding what is happening to them... people who have seen the same game, heard the same comedians, danced to the same din, read the same detectives, can form a community enthusiasts whose exchange of feelings helps persuade people that their experiences were real, reinforces judgments of their values and confirms their addictions......

The products of popular culture, by and large, have no more aesthetic quality than a brick in the street. Their authors are anonymous and tend to dwell in groups and create in committees. They lack finish, complexity, stasis, individuality, coherence, depth and endurance... From time to time one senses an effort to Hitlerise the culture of the folk. This in order to put out those high and isolated lonely works of genius, which still manage somehow, amazingly, now and then, to appear. There is no folk, of course. Popular culture is the product of an industrial machine which makes baubles to amuse the savages while missionaries steal their souls and merchants steal their money."

William H. Gass

Thanks to John Finlayson-Fife for getting hold of Professor Gass and helping us correct this. John has also helped us with another 'famous' misattribution re: the Nelson Mandela's Speech.

Check out this one-on-one interview with Prof Gass by Christopher Orlet at PIF Magazine.
...

"The singles (recorded music) we release will not teach you anything that you can apply to any obvious problems of life. They will not help in the business office or the army camp or in the kitchen or in the school yard. In fact, the knowledge and energy we share with you is pure luxury. It will not help you to understand the social economy of France or the secrets of a young woman's heart or a young man's head. But it may help you to feel the pure satisfaction which an inspired and precise pop single gives: and this sense of satisfaction in its turn goes to build up a sense of more genuine mental comfort, the kind of comfort one feels when one realises that for all its blunders and boners the inner texture of life is also a matter of inspiration and precision."

Excerpt from first Zang Tuum Tumb press sheet. (Classically ignored)

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