Sunday, December 21, 2008

bizarre narrative strategy to softpedal ostentation for which NY Times allegedly feels some guilt

Wellthis truly is a bizarre and really yucky story. The NY Times travel section does a tour of the extravagant manses of some 19th and 20th century titans of industry. The writer, however, notes that it is a a little distasteful to speak about such ostentatiousness given the financial meltdown currently going on in the world. This, to me, does not ring true. You didn't own the house. I didn't own the house. We are just going to look at it. If you feel uncomfortable about seeing such gaudy wealth, how about not going there? However the supposed uneasiness which the writer for the Times claims to feel about documenting the extravagance of the homes doesn't deter him from writing about them. Instead, he creates imagined discussions between himself and the owners - among them Jay Gould, railroad baron considered one of the 19th century's robber barons, Frederick Vanderbilt of the famous Vanderbilt family , and - in which the moguls confess that some of the more extravagant elements of their homes might just have been a little much....

So we have the specter of alleged guilt over even visiting these houses, and then we have imagined conversations with former industrial big-wigs in which apologetic dialogue is attributed to them in the event that, oh yeah, perhaps they exploited and walked all over a few too many people to accumulate such wealth. Yeesh. The NY Times has a curious way of recognizing the seriousness of our financial claiming unwarranted guilt over seeing extravagant houses and then attributing unexpressed guilt to the barons who built those houses.

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