Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


RIP Claude Lévi-Strauss

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: ,

Jonathan Taylor writes:

Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss has died at 100.

Updating: John Updike praised The Origin of Table Manners in 1979, though he found missed any sense of "the arthropoid breath" in CLS's "science of mythology": "It is beautiful like a clock, and cool like a clock—a strangely elegant heirloom from the torture-prone, fear-ridden jungles and plains. Its orderly revolutions and transpositions have the inverted function of not marking but arresting time, and making a haven, for their passionate analyst, from the torsion and heat of the modern age."


I remember reading Updike’s review of Lévi-Strauss’s “The Origin of Table Manners” when it appeared in the magazine (“A Feast of Reason,” July 30, 1979) and enjoying its audacity immensely. I say “audacity,” because even though Updike was a layman when it came to things anthropological, he did not flinch from pointing out what appeared to him to be a nonsensical element in Lévi-Strauss’s vast system of thought. To illustrate his point, Updike picked out a vivid example, namely, Lévi-Strauss’s analogy between honey and menstrual blood. I’ll not go into detail here. Suffice it to say, Updike persuasively shows Lévi-Strauss’s analysis to be “less a pragmatic servicing of reality than the execution of a fiendishly difficult, self-imposed intelligence test.” The review – one of the best I’ve ever read - is included in Updike’s great 1983 collection, “Hugging The Shore.”

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree