A Toast to Randolph Bourne

Originally published at: A Toast to Randolph Bourne – Quillette

The pandemic has taken from us a bold and gifted writer, just 32 years old—only not this pandemic but the one that swept the world in 1918. The story of Randolph Bourne confirms that history perpetually forgets what it perpetually remembers. Every decade rediscovers Bourne and every decade loses him again. Once Bourne loomed large…

A lovely essay, detailing the intimate cubby-hole of an intellectual life which appears for most as only a footnote in history- worthy of an entry at least, but only a short one. That’s the interesting thing about writing- I think it was Glenn Greenwald who I recently heard talking about this axiom- one can but diligently temper one’s craft, pursuing specialisms of knowledge which may or may not be of interest to one’s readers- in the end, it is the vagaries of culture which will decide your relevance and relative notoriety, aside from the requirement for a modicum of talent.

Still, it’s better than vainly aping whatever platitudes happen to fill the particular paradigm- joining the infernal choir of the discordant mob, in the charlatan mimicry of journalism- becoming that most loathed creature, the activist journalist. Writing well in this pursuit might well get them a job, but in order to succeed and receive the plaudits they most clearly crave, they must necessarily carry the cynicism of the ordinary innocent lives they have ruined, like notches on a belt.

No, far better to practice your craft in relative obscurity, hoping you can provide solace to the occasional reader, helping them realise they aren’t mad- it’s the world that is crazy, running a fever of cultural derangement which might well kill the patient. Those who stand out and stick to their guns, even as most eagerly embrace the ideas of the crowd like the latest fad or fashion, may often be wrong, but they will never lack integrity.

An interesting essay from yesteryear. Thank you for the insight. As usual, many of my essays and comment are free to view and comment on my substack:


Methinks dear Geary J that I like your unusually cryptic comment rather more than the charming little essay it is drawing on…and the fascinating essayist it reminds us of.

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