I suppose this is how we do politics now that politics is dead: the near entire retreat to the imaginary, a casual contrarianism committed to nothing besides its own ability to shock. ...The vague conservatism of the “Catholic revival” does not reflect commitment to improving society or even their own souls; instead, it is merely confused agitation born of obsession with a liberal class they imagine to be composed solely of Jezebel writers — a politics, faith, and worldview with all the conviction and all the consistency of one impetuous toddler angry at another.
Perhaps due to public outcry over its low efficacy and side effects, perhaps due to its high cost, and perhaps due to lingering discomfort with the idea of a female libido pill, Addyi’s sales have thus far been hugely disappointing. Amid excited comparisons to Viagra following Addyi’s FDA approval, pharmaceutical company Valeant acquired Sprout the same week for a billion dollars. But whereas Viagra sold more than half a million prescriptions in its first month, only 227 women received Addyi prescriptions in its first weeks. Fueled by a cultural climate of female empowerment and sex positive feminism, its creators had seen the possibility of a revolution in low female libido. For them, the personal would not become political; it would become a prescription.
And in an obliquely related way, I loved how every artist I loved seemed almost incapable of functioning: how much Tarkovsky dwelled on petty slights, how much Flaubert fought with his mistress. Isolated among academics, I felt closest with these imaginary projections, and I revered them, but to use Delmore Schwartz’s language, they were simultaneously “the individual/ Who drinks tea, who catches cold.” And to think of artists as ordinary, clay-footed, at the mercy of bad reviews and angry friends and deplorable trends, gave me hope, for myself and for the future of art. My favorite biography of Alain Robbe-Grillet was a short, poorly typeset, single-edition French one, which barely touched on his novels or films; instead, it focused on his Nazi-collaborator parents, his sexual hang-ups, and the bad weather of his native Brittany.
Compare the experience of the sad person today, asking their doctor for Prozac or maybe playing with an adult colouring book, to the experience of a Samuel Johnson. The first is made to feel small and simple; the second is made to feel himself more intelligent, more dignified, more ambitious. Moreover, as any reader of Shakespeare’s tragedies will know, the early Moderns had a way of laughing about despair, solitude, even suicide — a kind of manic sad clowning found absent from the way most people talk about mental health now, both infantilising and deadly serious. Burton, after all, wrote The Anatomy under the name Democritus Junior: the laughing philosopher.