The film “2010” — the 1984 sequel to the vaunted “2001” adaptation from ’68 — opens with its protagonist facing a huge decision: whether or not to embark on a long mission fraught with danger while prone to both failure and a threat to his marriage. He soon wakes up far from home in a bewildering technical environment among a cohort that speaks a different language. They struggle to collaborate on their first project, a research mission in which they find something unexpected, some groundbreaking new knowledge. Then their computer crashes and erases all the new data.
I see it now. It’s a movie about grad school.
Saul Bellow was born a hundred years ago today, and people of letters have been spilling a lot of them in appreciation of and retrospection on his considerable work as a very American novelist. As it happens, this spring is also the centenary of a pivotal moment in those same American letters — the expression of a problematic idea that still haunts cultural discourses and one that speaks directly to Bellow’s particular literary tactics: publication of Van Wyck Brooks’ claims about this country’s great divide between “highbrow” and “lowbrow” cultures.
I'm THOMAS CONNER, Ph.D. in Communication (Science Studies) and culture journalist.