After Diana: Irreverent EulogiesEdited by Mandy Merck. New York and London: Verso ver·so
n. pl. ver·sos
1. A left-hand page of a book or the reverse side of a leaf, as opposed to the recto.
2. The back of a coin or medal. . 231 pages. $16.
I first read about princess Diana's death in a uniquely disorienting dis·o·ri·ent
tr.v. dis·o·ri·ent·ed, dis·o·ri·ent·ing, dis·o·ri·ents
To cause (a person, for example) to experience disorientation.
Adj. 1. location: a rotating bar with a distant view of the Times square electronic news ribbon. Slowly spinning around the drink well, I caught in my peripheral vision a series of red letters flickering accident and injury. Then they, and I, spun out of each other's sight line. One more loop, and Diana was officially dead. The lights came up, management froze the wheel, and the TV volume was ratcheted up to earsplitting ear·split·ting
Loud and shrill enough to hurt the ears. See Synonyms at loud.
Adj. 1. earsplitting - loud enough to cause (temporary) hearing loss
deafening, thunderous, thundery levels.
Many of the contributors to After Diana seem to have had a similar experience: half in and half out of the public demonstrations of grief, flooded by loud and confusing media fuzz, slightly nauseated nau·se·at·ed
Affected with nausea. . The prime note sounded in this collection of post-mortem essays is one of frustration, and rather schoolmarmishly, these twenty-one pieces from the heart of the British New Left (plus a couple meters of verse by Jean Baudrillard) present themselves as a stern corrective to, in the words of philosopher Glen Newey, "1oopy fanzine fan·zine
An amateur-produced magazine written for a subculture of enthusiasts devoted to a particular interest: a science fiction fanzine. drool and schoolgirl crush-gush": a brainy kick to the gut of the New Sincerity.
A perfectly good idea, but the end result is a bit soured by the tone of snarky snark·y
adj. snark·i·er, snark·i·est Slang
Irritable or short-tempered; irascible.
[From dialectal snark, to nag, from snark, snork, to snore, snort complaint - a weakness, perhaps, of analysis that attempts to be simultaneously of-the-moment and big-picture. Many of the writers, such as Guardian columnist Francis Wheen (who compares a modern monarchy to vegetarian sausage), are active players in the political debate, and a tone of aggrievement rather than grief prevails throughout. "No one I know," notes Dorothy Thompson, "bought flowers, wrote a condolence message or joined the crowds in the streets; few watched the televised funeral." With rare exceptions, this is a book by people who looked out their windows at the grieving population and wondered, "What the hell are these people thinking?"
The conclusion they generally draw: They're not. Diana's death, contributors complain, was insidiously co-opted by Tony Blair to promote a content-free ethos of "modernization" - a Clintonian emotional appeal devoid of any genuine structural changes. In fact, far from auguring the monarchy's fall, the public outpouring actually shored up the royal family. And, from essay to essay, the Diana Effect's much-touted "healthy emotionalism" (a cultish insistence on feeling over thought) is - take your pick - dangerously anti-intellectual, an opiumlike distraction from socialism, creepily American, potentially fascist, and/or an uncritical valorization val·or·ize
tr.v. val·or·ized, val·or·iz·ing, val·or·iz·es
1. To establish and maintain the price of (a commodity) by governmental action.
2. of the most extreme stereotypes of femininity.
Despite the occasional didacticism and a streak of misogyny misogyny /mi·sog·y·ny/ (mi-soj´i-ne) hatred of women.
Hatred of women.
mi·sog (e.g., Glen Newey's "Diarrhoea," in which he calls Diana "a world-class airhead," "a blond, rather vacant dumpling," and, weirdly, "Medusa on crack"), many writers do have interesting insights. Architectural theorist Mark Cousins muses on the shifting spatial relations of London during the events after Diana's death (noting, for example, that the ovation for Earl Spencer's eulogy began not with the actual funeral attendees, but with the applause of TV-watching crowds locked outside the closed service - that was in turn recorded by cameras inside the hall and promptly fed back to the audience that had created it). Homi Bhabha, in a thinkpiece that first appeared in these pages last December, notes Diana's position as a deceptively "post-ideological" heroic figure - a "philanthropic 'transindividual'" a la George Soros or Ted Turner. And University of Reading professor Naomi Segal's "The Common Touch" is a batty but rather hypnotic meditation on the Diana Effect as seen through the metaphor of bulimia bulimia: see eating disorders. . The princess, she argues, radicalized her own royal celebrity through her body, acting as the locus for a constant flow of fluid "radiance" and "femininity" between herself and her charmed audiences.
The French writers - Marc Auge, Francoise Galliard gal·liard
1. A spirited dance popular in France in the 16th and 17th centuries.
2. The triple-time music for this dance.
Spirited; lively; gay. , and Regis Debray - tend to take a genially bemused stance, approaching the Diana biz as entertaining spectacle. Auge approvingly calls the televised carnival of mourning "great art," while Debray calls Diana's funeral "a double miracle, an astonishing a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. marriage of ancient and modern, like an outdoor Apollinaire poem." (Baudrillard's "Lament for Lady Di," on the other hand, is jawdroppingly silly: "Ah, Dodi, Dodi/What have you done with Lady Di?" Elton, eat your heart out.)
One exception to the academic tone is Vanity Fair scribe Christopher Hitchens's mean but undeniably funny "Princess Di, Mother T, and Me," in which the self-proclaimed "official pisseron of people's funerals" provides an opinionated journal of his days on the talk-show circuit. Bitchy bitch·y
adj. bitch·i·er, bitch·i·est Slang
1. Malicious, spiteful, or overbearing.
2. In a bad mood; irritable or cranky. as Hitchens is (he calls the deceased pair "a simpering sim·per
v. sim·pered, sim·per·ing, sim·pers
To smile in a silly, self-conscious, often coy manner.
v.tr. Bambi narcissist and a thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf"), he does make smart observations about the circus, including his own role in it. "See me, feel me, touch me, heal me," writes Hitchens of the crowds pawing at Prince William. "Don't people have any pity for this boy they so adore? . . . Is he to be some kind of blood bank?" Hitchens also sardonically (if briefly) acknowledges the limits of his type of journalism: "But could I honestly say I guessed that people would feel this way about Diana? Forget it, Hitchens. There are depths of the soul that are hidden from your sort."