Sunday, September 02, 2012

Early cool

Enjoyed this LRB piece explaining how DH Lawrence's revisions turned Connie of Lady Chatterley's Lover into someone who purveyed, with her vulcanised rubber tennis shoes and light anorak (and Coty parfum), an early sense of commoditised modern cool.

"It seems to me that Lawrence, whose temperament and prose style might be thought to tend perpetually to the condition of molten lava, was in fact, when the mood took him, an advocate of cool. In Cool Rules: Anatomy of an Attitude, Dick Pountain and David Robins define cool as a ‘new secular virtue’ – the official language of a private or subcultural rebelliousness retuned from generation to generation, as well as of worldwide commodity fetishism. According to Alan Liu, in The Laws of Cool, it’s a ‘way or manner of living’ in a world structured by technological and other systems. Cool exploits the element of ‘give’ or ‘slack’ in any such system. It is information designed to resist information: ‘information fed back into its own signal to create a standing interference pattern, a paradox pattern’. Cool doesn’t want to have to choose between the competing demands of technique and technology, free will and necessity. It’s a serious business. According to Pountain and Robins, cool provides the ‘psychological structure’ by means of which the ‘longest-standing contradiction in Western societies’ – between the need to work and the desire for play – may yet be resolved"

OK, Connie never had to worry about the balance between leisure and work, but stick a few logos on her tennis shoes and plastic Mac and she's the first casual! Moreover, dancing naked but for her cool pumps instilled in her a sense of pre-pop culture 'techno primitivism'. How very festival of her.

Lawrence may have been an inveterate anti-modernist, always on the side of the organic - and Mellors and Connie bonded on hatred of the modern world as personified by Sir Clifford Chatterley - but he insisted on getting the details of that modern world right. Click on the italics and have a read.

[Picture shows a board outside Lower Clapton Road bookshop. Message suggests cool has stopped becoming the means of transformation (become cool u get the girl, better mates and musical tastes, the best drugs) and become the over-riding thing in itself; forget the content of the book, global internet hipsters, the image of you doing the cultural activity is what matters, where the true cultural currency lies.]

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