After the Dowdism crept: This memoir in yesterday’s New York Times reads like a bit of a parody.
It ran on the front page of The Arts section, getting a very large display. The memoir carried this tag line:
“Critics for The Times explore their inspirations.”
Apparently, it’s part of a series. In this installment, Chris Suellentrop explains his inspiration, which seems to be video games.
Can you feel the parody kicking in? After describing his childhood from age 5, Suellentrop, who is now 38, starts describing the arc of his journalistic career:
SUELLENTROP (8/8/13): [W]hen I started playing games again, when I continued playing them after moving to Washington to become a political reporter, I still didn’t take them any more seriously than I had as a child. I had set on a career as a journalist covering government because I wanted to perform some kind of public service, to sacrifice earning potential for the greater good of an informed citizenry. Video games, as much as I loved them, were trivial.So far, so recognizable. This is the very familiar story of a young man who enters journalism hoping to serve the public.
Quickly, though, the narrative takes an unfamiliar turn. In this, the age of Collins and Dowd, upper-class boredom begins setting in. After seven years in DC, the journalist starts reverting:
SUELLENTROP (continuing directly): After seven years in Washington, including a stint covering the 2004 presidential election for the online magazine Slate, games began to loom larger and larger as a subject worthy of journalism. I moved to Boston and then to New York, first for my wife’s career and then for mine. I worked as a political editor for the Op-Ed page of The Times as well as The New York Times Magazine. In between the politics, I assigned some articles about games and found myself writing about them, too.So much for all that stupid shit about covering White House elections! “Games began to loom larger and larger as a subject worthy of journalism,” the critic says.
As he continues, we’d have to say that a certain Stepford feel starts leaking in:
SUELLENTROP (continuing directly): The more I wrote, the more I played, the more I realized that games weren’t inconsequential. They were important. They were exciting. They were beautiful. Like the printing press or moving pictures in previous eras, video games were a technology that introduced a new creative form, this one with a particularly intimate relationship between designer and audience.Can games explore political philosophy? We have no idea.
A flurry of games in the final years of the last decade—among them BioShock, Portal, Grand Theft Auto IV and Flower—pointed to ways that the feeling of intense focus that video games create, a sensation I first experienced as a 5-year-old in Kansas waging a futile space battle against annihilation, could be deployed in the pursuit of grander aims than diversion. Games could explore political philosophy, comedy, tragedy, serenity.
Whatever! Suellentrop was 5 again! That seems to be the preferred mental age for those who work at the New York Times now that the famous Creeping Dowdism has made its way all through the building.
We’d call that a remarkable memoir, one which captures the feel of the modern times. An era has come to an end in that passage, an era in which it was assumed, for a very long time, that journalists wanted to serve.