Unboxing ‘Farewell to an Idea’

I picked T J Clark’s Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism on Richard Pickup’s recommendation , and after reading the first paragraphs of the Introduction, I’m glad I did. Funny, dense, serious, accessible, it’ll require some close, careful reading, an exercise of some mental and rhetorical muscles I haven’t used in awhile, and I look forward to it.

Insofar as I haven’t read it yet (and may Allah give me the strength, focus, and time to do so), I can’t give it an honest review, but by sheer density alone, it’s more than I expected, and with lines like “If I cannot have the proletariat as my chosen people any longer, at least capitalism remains my Satan” and “… torn between exhilaration and despair… I call the exhilaration nihilism, and the despair unhappy consciousness. But I do not pretend they are easy to tell apart” I expect some moments of intensity and levity, the likes of which I haven’t encountered together in quite awhile,  and I’m giving it a speculative 4.8 stars, and only taking .2 off because of the uncertainty around my ability to actually get through it in a timely manner, not that my sticktoitiveness, or lack thereof, is any fault of Dr. Clark or the publishers, and I’m excited to dust of my Art Historian hat and see if it still fits.

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