Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nietzsche on the Edge

I have a stuffed Nietzsche vulnerable to being eaten by our dog, Taiko Waza. He surveys and surveils our bedroom. He's a kind of Ozymandian figure: he doesn't look like Nietzsche much, and this indicates the inevitable falling away from an original.

The effigy looks like just anyone. He can sit, but he can't sit up straight. He's bottom heavy, weighted in the rump, under soft plush. The plush of his coat is sickeningly slick, and the color is a vile gray. He is saccharine sweet. Even his mustache is worn cleanlier than the 19th century thinker wore his. He is a softening, rounding off, and generification of one of the most outrageous and controversial dead White European males, bless his polyester heart.

There is a fantastic bust of Nietzsche; and there is also a bland one. The first looks like a hybrid of Chthulu and Nietzsche, and the second looks like a hybrid of a body builder and Nietzsche. In one, the mustache hangs down, grotesquely, like tentacles; in the other, it is as regular and well trimmed as a toothbrush.

To read ten books by Nietzsche is to learn to respect the sculptor who shaped the Chthulu-Nietzsche. Nietzsche lived “dangerously,” and the bust looks dangerous itself. Nietzsche's books are dangerous in that, in the wrong hands, they may be used for evil; Nietzsche's psychological observations often seem to me to be like those of a brilliant psychopath. Psychology for Machiavellian princes.

The stuffed Nietzsche gives no hint about The Antichrist, nor that its author referred to himself as “dynamite” to blast away old values and “idols,” making way for new ones – creative destruction. He is softer than the Nietzsche of his foremost translator, Walter Kaufmann.

Saki, the pseudonymous British author, wrote that, as he contemplated his becoming older, the last thing he wanted a reputation for being was “amiable.” This plush doll is an amiable firebrand. You'd think he wrote chatty trash like Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right. He looks more like a businessman than like Superman's father. He is a commodity. His ass has a label sticking out of it!

To judge a book by its cover is wiser, no matter how mistaken, than to judge a philosopher by his/her popularizations, whether in comics, catch-phrases, or plush decorative dolls. Reading Nietzsche changed my life, which has nothing to do with his anodyne effigy sitting on the edge of our dresser, gazing into the abyss.

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