Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Peter De Vries and Confrontation

It might help if you first read this story by Peter De Vries, which appeared in The New Yorker in 1950.  You don't have to, but it's short and good and will better inform your understanding of my entry. 

I wish he hadn't broken the record, but perhaps that's what makes it a good story.  I can't really say what I would have brought to the party, as it seemingly took place in 1950.  But really, I hope I never end up at one of those parties at all.

I've written about this before (see this entry), but I think about it a lot, so why not bring it up again?  Jazz doesn't have to be so sacrosanct, but often it is.  In De Vries's story, Jam Today, he's ridiculing snobbery.  But there's more to it than that.  He's also ridiculing the narrator.  I should sympathize with him in this story, but I really don't, because he doesn't defend himself.

You know he could.  He could tell all those high-hat connosieurs to go to hell--that swing is jazz, and Benny Goodman is its king.  But he lies about his tastes and ends up, I imagine, feeling bad about himself.

I try not to lie about my tastes.  I try to be honest with myself and with others.  But sometimes, even when I'm telling the truth, I feel dishonest.  This often happens when I talk about jazz with those who don't really listen to it.  But my feeling dishonest also has to do with assumptions I make about other people. 

I often think in retrospect that there is a difference between what I have said and what I have really felt.  I love jazz, but sometimes I temper my enthusiasm when talking about it because I don't want to seem snobby.  Jazz is often deployed as a sign of sophistication, and I don't want it to seem like I'm reinforcing a hierarchy.

But maybe I don't put enough faith in other people.  Passion is important to me.  I'm sure it is to others, too. 

I don't want to be like the man in the story.  I want to defend myself by being honest.  I have a feeling people lie because they fear confrontation.  But confrontation is healthy--and often, it might not happen the way you thought it would, as in, it might not happen at all. 

Some of the most important confrontation goes on inside you, between what you think and what you say and what you think others heard you say.  When I think, I try to sift through those factors, balance them out, but never really come to a satisfying conclusion about them.  It seems to me that all we can do is hope others understand us.    

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