Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Failure of the Day: Radical Pragmatism

I’m waaaaay behind on this. First, I’m 12 years behind on the play. It’s not entirely my fault: in 1991 I wasn’t aware that the play Angels in America was debuting in San Francisco because I was busy becoming crippled and an emotional wreck. So then I missed it for the next six years because I was pretty busy trying to keep myself alive and sheltered. The six years after that, I remember being vaguely aware of it as an “issue” play but I couldn’t ever keep straight whether it was an AIDS thing or a homelessness thing and I was also pretty busy first being astonished that I had survived the first 6 six years, and then trying to deny that those 6 years had ever happened and then finally remembering to have a personality separate from those 6 years. And now it’s 12 years later and I just saw the first 3 hours of the movie version on HBO and I’ve taped the second 3 hours but I haven’t watched it yet because I am totally losing my shit over it and I’m trying to pace myself.

Second, I’m about a month behind on discussing the movie version of the play because of both the whole “losing of my shit” business and also a more mundane ass kicking cold/flu that still has not let me be for coming up on 17 days.

The long and short of it is that the first half of it just wiped me out. Really good, interesting and intelligent art is hard enough to come by, but really good, interesting and intelligent art with a deep medical theme—holy shit. I know, I know, that’s not really what it’s supposed to be about, it’s all the politics of sex and death but the sickness part, the ongoing, permanent sickness is present enough in the play to seem to me a vital part of the cultural conversation about illness in general, and that’s more or less why I was interested in the thing to begin with. I have not been disappointed.

And so I became interested in Tony Kushner, who I am horrified to learn is a mere 10 years older than I am, which means he was younger than I am now when he wrote the fucken play. But even that must be put aside because he is rapidly becoming a hero of mine, not just because of the play, although that would be enough, but because I keep reading articles and interviews with him online and every single thing I read, I totally agree with.

I read in the latest Mother Jones that he is a “radical pragmatist,” and that term resonated through me like a fucking gunshot in the Sistine chapel. I’ve been trying to find the description for my politics for roughly 4 years now and I’ve finally found it in those two words. I am always happy to find descriptions like that—such economy! And his bit about how “Politics is not an expression of your moral purity,” I can only say Finally. Finally! An outspoken member of the Left who gets it! It’s thrilling to me, truly. And now I have to go to Green Apple and buy everything that guy ever wrote.


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