PRINT March 1995

Robin Wood

American culture generally enjoys cleverness: it is so much easier to grasp than real intelligence, so much less challenging and dangerous. Cleverness doesn’t disturb, it keeps people happy, gives them “kicks,” it’s all slick fun. And Americans are supposed to be happy—isn’t this the land of equal opportunity, so if you’re not happy it’s your own fault, there must be something wrong with you. Cleverness helps you to forget that things might be different, might be better, that a struggle for change might be desirable and necessary: sure the culture’s shot to pieces, but it’s still good for a laugh if you look at things in the right, the clever, way. Cleverness feeds on and nurtures cynicism and nihilism. Pulp Fiction is a work of phenomenal cleverness and no intelligence whatsoever.

Cleverness assumes a special function in an age of economic collapse and moral, emotional, and psychological

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