Friday, January 20, 2006

The return of the Chicagoan mega-church

Via Arts and Letters Daily I found this New York Magazine piece about everyone's favorite French public intellectual, "BHL." Must have somehow missed this article when I read the Vera Wang profile, but this is what happens when one reads magazines online, rather than in the bathroom, as Nature intended. In any case, Bernard-Henri Lévy's Toqueville Deux is not news to longtime readers of this blog. So he goes around America and, in an insightful and French way, makes some sort of assessment of the situation.

Because he is French and important, BHL can get away with having the following printed: "I had a great fuck with America." Because he means this on politico-philosophical levels you just wouldn't understand. It's an allegory, a metaphor, and an explication de texte all rolled into one. A critique so subtle and yet so blunt as to simultaneously shock and fly over the heads of puritanical, slow-witted American readers.

The full quote:

So is his goal with American Vertigo to become BHL in America, a branded public intellectual? “No comment,” he says, punching my shoulder lightly. “What I would like is if I could participate in the ideological intellectual debate here and contribute in a slight way.”

Still, he’s not going to move here. This is, after all, a man with many mistresses, and this country is just one of them. But, in the end, what did he like best about the U.S.?

“Everything, my dear. I will tell you. Sometimes in your private life you have a mistress you love, love being with. You spend time to time in a grand hotel, with good room service, great champagne, and you separate—and when you are really in love with her, you inevitably think, Could I wake up with her, near her every morning? And then you try it. This is exactly what I did in America. America was a great mistress. I had a great fuck with America. It was like a weekend in the Hotel du Cap.”

As with the Wang piece, I believe I get the references, but once again, something is off. BHL's basically putting a French-cliche (mistresses, fancy-sounding hotels) spin on that boring old phrase, "love-hate relationship." (Did the reporter or BHL himself first propose the America-as-mistress comparison?) But I have to admit I really want to read this book, to find out more than I ever knew about mega-churches in the greater Chicago area, and to see, finally, what this BHL is all about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is this "Arts and Letters Daily" you speak of? SM/B