Knight parked the car and tossed the keys on the centre console. He had a tent and a backpack but no compass, no map. Without knowing where he was going, with no particular place in mind, he stepped into the trees and walked away.
Why would a 20-year-old man abruptly abandon the world? The act had elements of a suicide, except he didn’t kill himself. “To the rest of the world, I ceased to exist,” said Knight. Following his disappearance, Knight’s family must have suffered; they had no idea what had happened to him, and couldn’t completely accept the idea that he might be dead.
His final gesture, leaving his keys in the car, was particularly strange. Knight was raised with a keen appreciation of the value of money, and the car was the most expensive item he had ever purchased. Why not hold on to the keys as a safety net? What if he didn’t like camping out?
In the journalism culture itself, it’s different: liars, hoaxers, fabricators, plagiarists, truth-stretchers, and cons are banished to the outer darkness. Michael Moynihan, the journalist and blogger who called out Lehrer’s Dylan quotes as fake, put it this way: “Ours is the only profession in which any transgression, big or small, means the end not of your career at a certain outlet—it means the end of your vocation.”
The surprise isn’t that journalists are hard on journalists who fake it: that’s right and just. The surprise is that the punishment is applied so consistently in a field where the practitioners agree on little else about how they do what they do.
The trouble is, once you accept the proposition that popularity corresponds to value, the game is over for the performing arts. There is no longer any justification for giving space to classical music, jazz, dance, or any other artistic activity that fails to ignite mass enthusiasm. In a cultural-Darwinist world where only the buzziest survive, the arts section would consist solely of superhero-movie reviews, TV-show recaps, and instant-reaction think pieces about pop superstars. Never mind that such entities hardly need the publicity, having achieved market saturation through social media. It’s the intellectual equivalent of a tax cut for the super-rich.
It is the fortunes of this humdrum test that Damion Searls charts in his impressively thorough, if somewhat dry book. “The Inkblots” is part biography of Hermann Rorschach, psychoanalytic supersleuth, and part chronicle of the test’s afterlife in clinical practice and the popular cultural imagination.
Molly McCully Brown’s first book of poems, “The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded,” is part history lesson, part séance, part ode to dread. It arrives as if clutching a spray of dead flowers. It is beautiful and devastating.
These trees treasure up their carbon in dark abundance, in compounds that compose fungible resources of elemental matter and overflowing possibility. A century ago, from the dizzy imperial heights of industrial progress, it was possible to envision the city after us returning to wild forest; today, we might do better to acknowledge that a city is a feral forest, always and already; to know that forms of life are forever branching, and that bewilderment is our natural habitat.