Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Today's word: epigone

epigone: Generally a follower or disciple, but usually used to indicate an inferior successor.

At first blush you might want it to follow the pronunciation pattern established by epitome or Antigone, but it doesn't. It doesn't even rhyme with gone. It rhymes instead with loan, so that the phrase "Ed disowns epigones" has a nice little rhyme to it.

The Republican party, from my liberal point of view, is beset (perhaps overrun) with the epigones of Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand, both of whom I can find reason to praise, but neither of whom I would vote for.

I ran across this little gem today in a book, originally published in 1973, by Richard Kostelanetz called The End of Intelligent Writing. I found the book on the "Pay What You Can" cart at IndyReads Books and just couldn't pass up a title like that.

On page 11, in a discussion about so-called Southern (American) writers in the first half of the 20th century, you'll find this pronouncement:
In the early fifties emerged even younger Southern epigones, all born between 1914 and 1930, who were eager to do various kinds of academic-historical sweeping . . . most of whom, unlike their cultural daddies, remained in Southern universities, some of whom devoted whole books to themes and subjects their precursors treated only in essays. They were the grandchildren, so to speak, in a literary family whose father figure, [ss] Ransom, was privately called "Pappy."
Kostelanetz isn't very laudatory toward the Southern writers or their literary offspring. Or really any "school" of writing that attaches itself to a minority. Or to New York.

And I'm only to page 70.

I might write more about this book later, if I ever stop gnashing my teeth long enough to finish it. Kostelanetz is pissing me off a little. He writes with the smugness that only comes with overconfidence, decorated with a large vocabulary (words like epigone, which appears again a couple dozen pages later) to veil his personal griefs and unsupported accusations behind professorial haughtiness.

Then again, I'm wound pretty tight these days, so I piss off easily.

If Richard Kostelanetz is still alive (I haven't looked yet), I want to ask him if he still believes everything he wrote here.

And, on another note, while I was reading I found myself wondering whether David Foster Wallace had read this book. I think he would've liked it.