The Breakfast Table

The High, the Low, and the Pathetic

I’ve been reading the coverage of this week’s fake news: the remote possibility that Hillary Clinton will run for Senate in New York. I remain mystified at her deification among the womany set or by Charles Rangel’s pathetic slaverings about how New York desperately needs her. This makes no sense as politics or theater: Hillary has proved herself over seven hard, tedious years to be one of the most maladroit operatives ever to hold power in Washington (and this is a crowd that includes Dick Morris); and surely, her soap opera value is quickly running out. Nothing is duller than a post-impeachment, no-longer-philandering president in his final months, and it’s hard to believe that Hillary’s reflected martyrdom will be worth much by next fall. The New Republic’s glancingly nasty editorial urges her to run under the odd logic that she has for too long been unaccountable to the public. “It’s time that this democratically untenable situation came to an end,” the editorial reasons not even remotely reasonably. Another possibility: Keep very, very quiet and maybe, just maybe, they’ll both go away.

Hillary Clinton’s momentary popularity is really symptomatic of the utter irrelevance of feminism post-Monica. A fifties-style stoic who conjured up a vast Neanderthal conspiracy to cover for a pathetic excuse of a husband, Hillary beams out her message via a fabulous makeover for the cover of Vogue. She is a feminist à la Wendy Shalit: Her allure comes from an almost virginal reserve, a Victorian insistence on keeping up appearances at all costs.

Back on Topic A, I notice that I’m not the only one having trouble navigating the high-low divide. Today’s Times reports that the Swedish Academy of Music will award its 1999 Polar Music Prizes to Stevie Wonder and Greek composer Yannis Xenakis–a very hip pair of choices, if you ask me. Xenakis is the experimental, mostly unlistenable modernist name-checked by experimental downtown art punk poseurs the world over. The Times describes the awards as going to “a popular and a so-called serious musician.” Ten years ago the Times would have termed them “a serious and a so-called popular musician” (Mr. Loaf! Mr. Rotten!), so I suppose this is progress.