Sunday, September 4, 2022

The Waste Land

 From First Things:

But the best place to read T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land—in order to commemorate its one hundredth anniversary this year—is the airport.

The airport is a sacrament of modernity, an icon of power, control, efficiency, logistics, and smooth banality. It’s the placeless instrument by which millions of people, who don’t know one another, don’t want to know one another, nevertheless profitably use one another for a few hours to further advance their authenticity, somewhere else. At the same time, more than any other place in the world, our ordinary human actions—eating, talking, walking, waiting—are so completely confined to an arbitrary grid of order, it’s like a physical incarnation of despair. A few minutes there; a quick walk here; a well-placed utilitarian exchange there. Indeed, Houellebecq’s “inkling that, more and more, the whole world would come to resemble an airport” is haunting, because it’s a vision of a meaninglessness, placeless, communion-less world.

This is the context in which the peculiar horror of The Waste Land—a horror that comes from emptiness—makes sense. (Read more.)

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