Harold Bloom wrote a famous book called The Anxiety of Influence. The subject was really the weight the past holds over the present. Eliot also wrote Tradition and the Individual Talent which treated a similar subject in terms of the impersonality of the artistic sensibility. But what about a tome called The Influence of Anxiety or The Anxiety of Anxiety? In order to sell, the book would have to deal with some famously anxiously individuals, Kierkegaard in philosophy, Bergman in film and Kafka in literature, but such a book would probably derive its greatest power from dealing with the average Joe. After all anxiety is a great motivator. In Manhattan children grow up anxious and they read the anxiety on their parents faces when their early rejection from pre-schools presages a long life of pink slips and unfulfilled dreams. They face further anxiety when they grow into adolescence and realize the symbols of male and female sexuality they see in advertising, films and television have little to do with their actual anxiety fraught interactions with the opposite sex (this is one of their first experiences of meta-anxiety or the anxiety of anxiety). Later in life they will go through anxiety about the fate of their IRA's or retirement plans, realizing that in a bull market theirs has the singular distinction of having been managed by a bear. Anxiety comes in big time when they themselves become parents, burdening their own children with the task of living out a parent's unfulfilled dreams -- a task that most children deal with by openly rebelling against the unreasonable expectations that have been placed on them. Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence was an important book, but The Influence of Anxiety will be a blockbuster that'll make its author rich enough to pay for an unlimited supply of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.
(Photo of Franz Kafka)
This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture