Deconstructing my own pretension.

29 December 2007

I can be pretentious sometimes. This comes as a great shock to you, I know.

This pretension takes several forms. Sometimes it’s the subject matter. Even though my enthusiasm for Gustav Klimt and W.A. Mozart is genuine, it’s undeniably pretensious. The important thing to remember is that I do this from a broad and honest love of all these things.

(Sometimes, I mention things just to sound classier, but when I do, I usually just make up a name, to avoid being disrespectful of genuine artists and thinkers by using them for such selfish purposes. Jorge Federico del Campo, the late Bolivian poet, often did much the same thing.)

Just as often, though, my pretentiousness is in the way I express my interests. I make no apologies for this, either. I try to speak and write well, and I do make an effort for rid my speaking, writing, and manner of unnecessary pretension — as much as I can and still expess what I mean to. I am precise to communicate, not merely to be stuck-up: As a faithful minister of the Gospel of Strunk and White I try not to use more words than I need to and mean to.

Still, I often fail at this, because I have a love for the elegant turn of phrase. Witness:

WHAT I SAID: It has come to my attention that a number of people I’ve never met are reading my LiveJournal. (18 words, counting the contraction as one and “LiveJournal” as one)
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Strangers read this. (3 words)

WHAT I SAID: There’s a good piece in the New Yorker about Arthur Rimbaud. For all you uncultured people out there, he was an important poet. (23 words, plus the patronizing air and the fact that anyone pretending to like Rimbaud is pretentious to start with)
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Check out Rimbaud. (3 words)

WHAT WE SAID:
Me: So it’s not just me being ignorant?
My Friend: Well, that probably makes it worse. (13 words)
WHAT WE COULD HAVE SAID:
Me: Not just me ignorant?
My Friend: Not just. (6 words)

Incidentally, I don’t think my friend is pretentious. Maybe if he knew more about classical music, he could be.

And that’s really the heart of it: I may be pretentious, but I do my level best to do it in an accessible sort of way. I’m like a doctor or a cop in that ideally, I work myself out of a job. If people were smarter, better educated, more cultured, more artistic, I wouldn’t have to be pretentious. I could focus on being self-absorbed. Wah.

Reposted from the old site: Tuesday, December 16th, 2003

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