Archive for August 1st, 2012

by lizard

With Gore Vidal passing so soon after Alexander Cockburn, I can’t help wonder about my generation and its capacity to produce comparable figures. Can we do it?

Not when boy geniuses like Jonah Lehrer receive a fawning incubation that then morphs into one of the most embarrassing crash and burns the New York literati crowd has ever seen (from Jezebel):

Journalists are conflicted about Jonah Lehrer, judging by the number of frantic Gchats and emails I received from my peers yesterday after Michael C. Moynihan broke the news in Tablet that the 31-year-old wunderkind science writer, already under fire for extensive “self-plagiarizing,” attributed numerous fake quotes to Bob Dylan in his most recent book, Imagine. (The media was so obsessed with the story that they actually managed to crash Tablet’s website for a bit after the piece went live.)

There’s shock: it’s unbelievable that such a highly regarded, well-paid New Yorker staff writer and author of three books is also equally prolific at making stuff up. (Lehrer resigned after the story broke, and his publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is recalling print copies of Imagine.)

Ouch.

The truth: it’s impossible for my generation to produce comparable figures, and partly I think that’s because of the profound technological shift in how we process information. There are obviously other factors, but I think that’s a big one.

In judging the intellectual output of these two feisty contrarians, both have taken stances that probably shocked and angered many of their admirers. Cockburn questioned the scientific consensus regarding the human role in climate change, and Vidal speculated what leaders like Bush knew before the 9/11 attacks.

Does that negate the rest of their artistic and intellectual achievements? Hardly, but it’s interesting to consider both expressed their unpopular opinions near the end of their lives.

RIP, gentlemen.

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