Act Naturally: Pretentiousness, Coolness, and Culture

[I]t’s difficult not to feel as though we, as a culture, have reached a dead end, that our quest for authenticity has bred nothing more than a series of postures and attitudes that, if they hadn’t sprung up by themselves, would have been invented by market demographers anyway. Perhaps we are stuck in the age of ‘cool,’ when all roads to larger causes inevitably circle back to the adolescent project of exalting the self. ...

Perhaps the literary figure who can, in the end, escape this pernicious cycle will be a character who is less focused on the impotent, market-driven imperatives of authenticity, on finding ‘the real you’ — less focused, in a sense, on being an ‘interesting’ character — and more disposed to actions that transcend the limited itineraries of the self.
— Barrett Swanson