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May 8, 2005 - The often repeated charge that Americans lack a sense of irony...

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Reading automotive reviews seems to be a guy thing – so distaff readers can tune out now. But some of the liveliest writing can be found in such things. This was first discussed in the pages well over a year ago - February 23, 2004: What would Roland Barthes drive? - a discussion of an amazing Los Angeles Times column by Dan Neil.

Neil, then, on pickup trucks vis a vis Roland Barthes – regarding America's love of snazzy pickups in spite of the obvious lack of need for such things –


Like the soft-handed Parisians who bought up Millet's peasant paintings, pickup poseurs would find rural virtue a different thing entirely if they spent a day in the fields.

Barthes loved to flog the petite bourgeoisie with their own illusions.



And here - April 11, 2004: Fun With Words - you will find a note and some comment that a few days earlier the Los Angeles Times won five Pulitzer Prizes - the second most ever won by a newspaper in a single year, for coverage that included wildfires, wars and Wal-Mart. And Dan Neil won the Pulitzer for criticism then.

Since that time his Wednesday Los Angeles Times reviews continue to amuse – and recently (April 27, 2005) he presented an evaluation of the new Mercedes SLK in verse form - “April marks the 10th annual observance of National Poetry Month, established by the Academy of American Poets to increase the visibility, presence and accessibility of poetry in our culture. In that spirit, Dan Neil has written his weekly column in verse.”

It wasn’t very good – but since I had a relatively bad experience with the older model SLK (five years of ever-increasing odd electrical problems) – perhaps I am not the one to judge.

Neil now also writes a regular column for the Times Sunday magazine – “800 Words” – on general culture, and often on the culture of Southern California, such as it is. Recommended? You might call up Prize Bull from April 24 this year – a discussion of Harry Frankfurt's book "On Bullshit" that is well beyond clever, being ironically self-referential on many, many levels.  But registration is required, or maybe you even have to be a paid-up Times subscriber, so perhaps just trust me on that.

But Neil is not alone. I came across this in The Independent (UK) – at it is amusing. There one Michael Booth has a road test of the new Corvette C6 Coupe.

See Stars and go-faster stripes
Michael Booth discovers that beneath the Corvette's new European-friendly curves lurks a slab of unreconstructed American muscle
01 May 2005 - The Independent (UK)

Two thirds of the way in you will find this –


The often repeated charge that Americans lack a sense of irony is, of course, soundly refuted by both their sitcoms and the career of their current president, but I still can't tell whether the Corvette is for real or a self-referential cultural parody. Certainly in a European context it is a preposterous overstatement. After all, this revered piece of American cultural iconography has a 6-litre, 400bhp V8 engine that General Motors still insists on calling a "small block". It also boasts an optional fighter jet-style head-up display which projects read-outs for speed and G-force (no, really) above the bonnet in an eerie glow - eat your hearts out Maverick and Goose. Later, I notice a sticker that says, "Warning: children under 12 can be killed by the air bag. The back seat is the safest place for children." The Corvette, of course, has no back seat. Even more curiously - given the current sate of international relations - this is translated into only one other language: French.

So, either the Corvette is a post-ironic parody by the South Park team, or it really is a car to drive, as PJ O'Rourke's immortal phrase has it, "fast while on drugs while getting your wing-wang squeezed and not spill your drink."


Ah, as a sub-genre of artful writing – the popular review of new cars – there is much vigorous writing to be discovered here.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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Paris readers add nine hours....