I don’t know whether or not Susan Sontag ever saw “The Wire.” She died in 2004, so it’s possible that she saw an early season or two, but I would guess that she did not. She largely stopped writing about popular culture after the 1960s, and–no matter the magnitude of its scope at the end–the first season superficially doesn’t rise above the level of procedural. Viewers know, of course, that it transcends the procedural, but casual TV guide flippers would not.

Unfortunately, after examining the evidence, I can’t come to a definitive position.

Argument in favor of her loving “The Wire”: length. In Notes on Sontag, Lopate remarks that Sontag gradually starts to acclaim only really long movies in her reviews. Says he,

She seemed to rater artwork in direct proportion to the number of hours it took to experience it. She was demonstrating …a “taste for spiritual and physical effort—for art as an ordeal” (USS, 33) She had become the queen of sitzfleish. * A Yiddish word meaning to apply one’s ppsterior to the seat for as long as it takes.

If she loved the paltry 15 hours that is Berlin Alexanderplatz, then she no doubt would have found The Wire orgasmic.

Inherently contradictory evidence: her attitude toward realism. She hates it. Until she loves it. Her early work is all about proving how great avant garde fiction is and how awful realist fictions are (read–or rather don’t–The Benefactor). Later, she comes to write realist romances in a way that enthralls Cynthia Ozick, sells books, and alienates lovers of consistency. She was against realism before she was for it! What’s to stop her from being so capricious again?

(Special thanks to the Republican National Committee for helping with this ad)

Evidence against loving The Wire: she dismissed the format completely. This is a theme of one of her later essays, “At the Same Time: The Novelist and Moral Reasoning.” She might have liked the show, but you would have first had to get her to watch it.

We’ve written quite a bit as of late about the major influx of readers to Yesterday’s Salad.  Yet, as the number of readers increases, there has been a serious decline in commentary.  The trend is disturbing, and although it’d be easy to peg it to a general decline in civil society and community participation, I can’t help but wonder if our Walken.readers just need the right motivation.  Would help readers to know that their comments matter to us — in fact, commentators have real power here at YS, such as when grizzled ancient JT actually got us to stop talking about the Wire, despite the fact that it is the best series on television (existing on a different plane than YS favorite 30 Rock), and this season is already electrifying contributors to other web magazines.  Even perennial always-a-commentator-never-a-contributor Annie (stop toying with our hearts!) managed to get us to start blogging about the unfair arrangement surrounding the profits of digital media distribution, and that managed to start an industry-wide strike.

So comment early, and comment often; this could be your chance to change history.

I spent part of last week composing a retrospective for the first full year of YS in my mind, but I could never find the right lede, nor think of what posts I’d want to include, and before I knew it, it was 2008 and I’d missed my chance at both sending off my “malprorpiate valedictions” (the intended title) and having dinner with Chris Dodd. The problem might be that even if my brain is now a computer (as the furious romantic tells me), it doesn’t get internet, and I couldn’t remember all the posts that we’ve published over the year. Also, I was feeling nostalgic, and I’m still confused about whether or not nostalgia is still a good thing in this post-Garcia-Marquez world.

Apparently, I’m not the only one rejecting nostalgia. Treehugger reports on the growing phenomenon of “solastalgia.” Coined a couple of years ago by Glenn Albrech, “solastalgia” is “a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home.” Specifically, it is:

“.. the distress caused by the lived experience of the transformation of one’s home and sense of belonging and is experienced through the feeling of desolation about its change.” (link)

The term was created as a result of climate change, and has been gaining currency as the actuality of climate change has gained recognition. But even if the term is new, there’s certainly nothing new in the concept. Environmental and urban change has always been a topic of literature where it has been handled in any number of perspectives. Blakes, “And did those feet” concerns a type of solastalgia. The implied narrator wonders how Jerusalem could have been built “among these dark satanic mills” and yearns for a messianic return to the British pastoral, “England’s green and pleasant land.” One could even read it into Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio,” one of the great imaginary places in American literature. In particular, its early chapters, with their religious overtones, could bear such a reading.

“Solastalgia” could probably been seen as the guiding concept of season 2 of The Wire. That season (perhaps the least appreciated) concerned the decline of the American working class, and the struggle over gentrification. There’s a scene where one of the dock workers looks into buying a home only to be blown away at the cost of buying in his increasingly gentrifying neighborhood. His urban life was passing away before his eyes.

I’m not saying we should immediately rush out and start using “solastalgia” in our term papers, though it would hardly be the first environmental term to catch on as a literary term; after all, Derrida structured one of his most entertaining pieces around the word/concept “biodegradable.” Somehow “solastalgia” seems too clumsy to really succeed, but if it does, it may just be 2008’s word of the year.