On Richard Taruskin (highly abridged)

My old music history prof at UC Berkeley, Richard Taruskin, in fine form here, returning to his old haunt at the New York Times to demolish Julian Barnes’s neocon party line novelization of Shostakovich.

If I were an important person, I can imagine myself being asked why I regard Taruskin, along with Chomsky, as one of my major influences, even though his politics are frequently dubious, not to mention his having, on at least two occasions, personally attacked me in print. This review should give a good indication why. Namely, that he routinely exercises the capacity to, as Orwell put it, “face unpleasant truths.” That’s what’s made him enemies over the years, and that’s why, while finding him a plenty disagreeable person, I regard him as an unlikely albeit problematic ally. (He would never describe me as one, needless to say.)

For it is this capacity, after all, which is fundamental to any chance we have of digging ourselves out of the hole we are in. The fact that much of “the left” has demonstrably abandoned it at various points of its history, including now, suggests to me that the kind of intellectual honesty Taruskin embodies is a much better foundation on which to build a political movement than the delusions of those who self-identify as on the “revolutionary” left.

Much more to be said on this topic, obviously.

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