This is The Year Today, a tri-weekly discussion forum where man and idea are made one, with your host Ronald J.R. Brentwood.
Ronald Brentwood: Good evening and welcome to The Year Today, I’m your host Ronald J.R. Brentwood … PhD. Chris R. Morgan is an up-and-coming young voice of today. Though ostensibly a writer of nonfiction, and more specifically of cultural criticism, his approaches to his genre and discipline are refreshingly, if also peculiarly, multifaceted. He never seems to stay in one place for very long, making for a small but uncommonly diverse following of regular readers. One such reader, a personal friend, admitted to me that she often had no idea what Mr. Morgan was saying, but was compelled nonetheless by the way he said it. Mr. Morgan’s essays are elegant … but scintillating; firm … but fair. And ever since he was mangled to death in a freak wheat harvester accident earlier this year, interest in his work has had quite an uptick, having been retweeted this one time by Jeet Heer. So it is an immense privilege to have the lower half of his corpse with us to illuminate upon his mind and methods. Mr. Morgan, it’s a pleasure.
Ronald Brentwood: I certainly can, thank you! So Chris, if it’s all right with you I’d like to get right into the meat of things. Of ideas, that is. Because I think you’re that rare kind of person who really cherishes that. Who gets past the noise and strikes at the heart of things with missile-like precision. So tell me, Chris … how do you do that while remaining engaged with the temper of the times?
Ronald Brentwood: Or am I misreading you already? Sorry.
Ronald Brentwood: That is an interesting distinction. And playing off that, to what extent do you and do you not feel a part of this intellectual climate? And more to the point, are intellectuals as public as they once were, why or why not?
Ronald Brentwood: Right. Then perhaps I should clarify. Do you see the state of the realm of ideas, that is to say, the realm of order, the economy of thought, the polity of discourse, the congress of the dialectic, as one of supreme health or supreme sickness? And if it is the latter, how can the ailment be reversed?
Ronald Brentwood: That is a scathing indictment, indeed. But I worry you’re missing the forest for the trees here. You’re talking about a fractured culture as if it were a positive, if not something to celebrate. That doesn’t leave much room for standards.
Ronald Brentwood: So if I’m following you, the trend is … no, I’m sorry, the purpose is to move away from inquiry?
Ronald Brentwood: And toward censorship?
Ronald Brentwood: Personal censorship?
Ronald Brentwood: Ah, fascinating. I must say I never quite considered the “cultural wasteland” of Falangist Spain quite in the vortex through which you put it.
Chris Morgan: [ankle detaches]
Ronald Brentwood: [laughs] I defer to the expert on that. But your point is interesting. It reminds me, if I may, of my own work, particularly my book Baked Panopticon, which sought a synthesis of the principles of Jeremy Bentham as applied to The Great British Bake Off. I think you’ll find—
Ronald Brentwood: Well, the Millsian schematics of Celebrity Big Brother seem kind of rote within the context I seek to explore. But—
Ronald Brentwood: Chris, I didn’t mean to impl—
Ronald Brentwood: No, no. Certainly not. I did not mean to infer that you could not follow the logic of Carol Vorderman’s embodiment of the Kantian transcendence.
Chris Morgan: [foot falls off]
Ronald Brentwood: Let us then agree to disagree. I want to circle back to you earlier allusion of Elena Ferrante and Scott Walker. How do her novels and his music, in your—
Ronald Brentwood: Ah ha.
Ronald Brentwood: Ah ha. You meant the Governor? Fascinating!
Ronald Brentwood: Well it is a shame that book will never see publication. But speaking of politics, if you don’t mind I’d like to get your particular read on these current events.
Chris Morgan: [legs come uncrossed]
Ronald Brentwood: Of course, of course. Now, if I read your work correctly, and I admit you don’t make it easy you are not particularly keen on our soon-to-be-President.
Chris Morgan: [slumps to right side]
Ronald Brentwood: Yet, at the same time, you have erred on the side of restraint, even full on skepticism, of our—and by “our” I mean fellow intellectuals and activists—ability to encourage and embody the spirit of resistance in these fraught times. Care to clarify?
Chris Morgan: [slowly rotates 180 degrees, backside facing the host]
Ronald Brentwood: Is the moral life possible? And if so, what political movement, if any, is the best guardian of it?
Chris Morgan: [slides forward]
Ronald Brentwood: If there is a critique of your work, I wonder if it is not that it almost mourns the liberal status quo without truly opening your heart and mind to any real alternative.
Chris Morgan: [thuds flat on the studio floor, chair knocks over]
Ronald Brentwood: Well, that is fair. I do hope that your work is read more keenly going forward. Mr. Morgan this has been a truly stimulating exchange that I won’t forget any time soon.
Well, that is all we have for this show, thank you again. Please join us for our next episode when Sam Kriss reads from his forthcoming collection of Curtis Yarvin and hellfire-engulfed ghost of Lord Macaulay slash fiction. Until then, I’m Ronald J.R. Brentwood, PhD. Good night.