Sunday, April 17, 2005

One day

Q: What do you say when something or someone makes you feel stupid three times in one day?
A: Three strikes and you're out?
Dusk, a baseball game, the willows along Lake Mendota. Posted by Hello
Boat at Giverny? No, boat at Picnic Point on Lake Mendota, with the twilight haze muting the Capitol in the background. Posted by Hello
Goose, watching the sun set. Or the truck. Posted by Hello

“A fear that without all the bells and whistles no one will pay attention…”

The post title is straight out of the article “The Souped-Up, Knock-Out, Total Fiction Experience” in the Ideas & Trends Section of today’s NYTimes. It describes the maximalist style in American fiction writing currently in vogue, where the content (and presentation) overload is such as to send the average reader reeling.

I’m in agreement there. But why limit it to literature and music? Such demands are now placed on us routinely as we struggle to enjoy and savor even the simplest of pleasures. Take eating and drinking. Sensory overload to the max! It’s not enough to chomp down the food, smack your lips and move on to the next item – you have to read about it, study the presentation and admire the many ingredients. Then you test yourself to see if you can indeed distinguish and appreciate all the elements. And if you can't create complicated flavors, you can at least complicate the description by adding these bells and whistles to a basic “meat and potatoes” dish:

(from a certain Madison restaurant:)
Local Grass-Fed Highland Beef from Fountain Prairie Farm, [restaurant name] Mashed Potatoes with Amish Blue Cheese Compound Butter, Blue Moon Rainbow Chard and Red Wine Jus.

Or, in wine drinking, the stunning sensory overload is now expected when we open a bottle of Pinot Noir. Complicated wines are seen as good wines. A $35 bottle of Pinot will buy you this:

(from the Sherry-Lehmann catalogue:)
This Pinot Noir was grown on the upper Martinborough Terrace section of the Te Muna Road Vineyard (NZ). It is a unique vineyard site that offers an excellent soil profile. The result is an aromatically complex Pinot Noir with fine hazelnut aromas of oak with intense violet and black fruit characters. Silky, with a palate driven by warm, ripe black cherry and plum flavors…

I should trot over to Borders and flip through a few books on physical intimacy. Have things grown complicated and cluttered there as well? I’d love to know what the current wisdom flying around in those pages is all about. (Only it will look like I’m trying to gain some insights for my own private use. How embarrassing.)

Ah, the added layers! The overkill, the extra words, the indelicate musical scores, the blogs we read -- filled with the clutter of visuals and the clutter of unnecessary audacity! The foods we eat, no longer simple, the wines we drink, no longer simply pleasant, the everyday -- no longer pleasant in its simplicity.

When do we revert to minimalism? How long do these cycles last anyway?