Monday, April 23, 2012

It’s salutary to remember that the C.I.A. poured hundreds of millions into culture. For example, there was a festival of atonal music in Paris in 1950, entirely funded by the C.I.A. Can you imagine a less attractive festival? They paid for tours by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Abstract Expressionist art exhibitions. The aim was to persuade especially left-of-center European intellectuals that the United States was a powerhouse of culture, because there was a widespread assumption, so the C.I.A. believed, that Europeans thought America was just an empty-headed place of money and loudness, with no depth.

Ian McEwan talks to Deborah Treisman at the New Yorker Book Bench, the whole thing  here


dave said...

"The further east you go across Europe toward Russia, the more expert ordinary people are about mushrooms."

Philip Duncan said...

I don't quite get McEwan's use of "salutary," but maybe it's owing to the Anglo-American divide. From what I can tell, US usage pretty closely hews to the word's dictionary definition, i.e. beneficial or promoting health. So when I read the above sentence it seems a bit clunky, like another adjective might have better served (important? salient? disconcerting? creepy?).

I'm not trying to be nitpicky--obviously in an oral interview the perfect word isn't always going to come to mind. I'm just curious if the word is more commonly or broadly used in the UK, so that they feel comfortable throwing it around a bit more. e.g. "She acts the posh totty but she's quite unsalutary" or "Prince Harry's salutes were appropriately salutary" or "Me and the mates was on the piss, had a salutary rumpus I'll tell you what."

This is how Brits speak, right?