Kenneth Weisbrode’s On Ambivalence: The Problems and the Pleasures of Having it Both Ways arrived in the mail today. It’s a small, slender book, nice to look at, pleasing to hold, that challenges “the ambivalence of the present moment,” the mode of existing postmodernism has left us with. I haven’t read much beyond the introduction, but on the strength of the clear, forceful writing of those two tiny pages, it seems like the kind of argument that will clarify my own thinking and leave me changed.
"Ambivalence," says Weisbrode,"is a condition worse than most because it can lead to catastrophe…. It is something more subtle, and more devastating, than human frailty. Weaknesses can be remedied. Ambivalence comes, rather, from too much ambition. Desire begets dissatisfaction, and vice versa. Optimization becomes a fetish. Wanting the ‘best’ means that we must have both or even all and are reluctant to give up any option lest we pull up the roots of our desire. That is why ambivalence is so hard to confront, understand, or master. And why it can be so disastrous.”
Belated discovery after obsessive Googling: The Paris Review’s Nicole Rudick is, of course, already on it.