The illustration made me read this essay by Michelle Goldberg (“Margaret Atwood’s Dystopia, and Ours,” NYTimes, 9-14-19). On first glance, the picture’s Dairy Queen Blizzard ™ of cartoon imagery made me grumpy. Whatever it purports to symbolize, I thought, this illustration is overkill.
So I read the essay, and the illustration wasn’t. The topic is grim, but the language Goldberg unleashes is upscale and anomalously bracing. The illustration aptly evokes the cacophony she pillories.
She mentions the “salvific” potential of words.
She introduces me to a mock Latin phrase, “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” Like most mock language, it needs little translating.
She refers to a reality that “feels as if it’s disintegrating under the weight of digital simulacra and epistemological nihilism [my emphasis].
American journalism traditionally targets a sixth-grade reading level so as not to leave too many in the lurch. This piece, however, flouts tradition. Whereas I’m often guilty of using words as shields, Goldberg uses them as swords. They’re “elite” words, yes — but penetrative, and wielded unflinchingly.
(c) 2019 JMN