entertainment has a bad name

Michael Chabon again. His introduction to the Best American Short Stories 2005 is brilliant.

It’s his take on “entertainment,” one that made me think of a woman I know who becomes disgusted when I try to get our book club to read anything that I describe as enjoyable, entertaining, or touching. Because good literature, you know, is always mournful and hard to read. Things that are funny or fun are clearly written (and read) by idiots.

Chabon’s intro is hammy but funny and true. There’s word-magic here.

Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people, some of whom write short stories, learn to mistrust and even to revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights. It gives off a whiff of Coppertone and dripping Creamsicle, the fake-butter miasma of a movie-house lobby, of karaoke and Jagermeister, Jerry Bruckheimer movies, a Street Fighter machine grunting solipsistically in the corner of an ice-rink arcade, bread and circuses, the Weekly World News. Entertainment trades in cliché and product placement. It sells action figures and denture adhesive. It engages regions of the brain far from the centers of discernment, critical thinking, ontological speculation. It skirts the black heart of life and drowns life’s lambency in a halogen glare. Intelligent people must keep a certain distance from its productions. They must handle the things that entertain them with gloves of irony and postmodern tongs. Entertainment, in short, means junk, and too much junk is bad for you — bad for your heart, your arteries, your mind, your soul.

I think Chabon is a marvelous writer. His Summerland is probably the best book I’ve read in the past few years.

It’s very entertaining.

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