George W. S. Trow

American writer

George W. S. Trow (September 28, 1943November 24, 2006) was an American essayist, novelist, playwright, and media critic.

The idea of choice is easily debased if one forgets that the aim is to have chosen successfully, not to be endlessly choosing.



Within the Context of No Context (1980)

  • Wonder was the grace of the country.
  • Celebrities have an intimate life and a life in the grid of two hundred million. For them, there is no distance between the two grids of American life. Of all Americans, only they are complete.
  • The work of television is to establish false contexts and to chronicle the unraveling of existing contexts; finally, to establish the context of no-context and to chronicle it.
  • Soon it will be achieved. The lie of television has been that there are contexts to which television will grant an access. Since lies last, usually, no more than one generation, television will re-form around the idea that television itself is a context to which television will grant an access.
  • The idea of choice is easily debased if one forgets that the aim is to have chosen successfully, not to be endlessly choosing.

Collapsing Dominant (1997)

  • Each one of these social generations—from the ‘50s, from the ‘60s, from the ‘70s, from the Reagan era, from now—thinks of its social aesthetic as definitive. In fact, they are all in a process: encouraged toward, and beyond, hubris, by demography.
  • The 1960s weren’t the 1920s again; they were the Liberal Arts expressed in the negative. The 1970s, despite the hedonism, weren’t the 1920s; they were the Negative out to get all the rewards formerly held by the Positive. The Goat and Adding Machine Ritual is now.
  • World War II changed the demography. For a while, high seriousness was a part (only a part) of the mix. No one likes to think that the vector that has carried him into the demography could get lost in the demography, but that is what happens. Rock and roll—or the generating spirit of rock and roll—could get lost there, easily. And just think of all the ideas—and changes—there were implicit in the hegemony of rock and roll. We could be left with . . . just some of the music.

An Explanation—for the Young Male Child I Saw in Douglas, Alaska

  • Your parents had a third parent—television. If you went back to 1950, you would be surprised. Many people—of all kinds and conditions—had just two parents. In the time since then, the referee has won all the championship matches—and the referee is a value-free ritual.

My Pilgrim’s Progress (1999)

  • friend Dr. Arno Gruen, author of The Insanity of Normality, has said an interesting thing. He said that culture, in recent decades, has taken on a life of its own, without reference to the people it is supposed to protect.
  • USA Today is back-formed from the Assumed Dominant Mind of television.
  • By 1956, out of all the Cultural Avatars and Vectors available in 1950, THE GIRL had won. Authority. (And they had it, those girls; no one today has it.) They’d won the war, in a way.
  • (discussing the Alfred Hitchcock film Saboteur): …I saw when I was young that, in fact, when you got to the top or toward the top of things, you found, indeed, very flawed but glamorous people, people who were, in fact, not thinking about the kinds of problems that the blind man was thinking about in 1943, not acting intuitively and bravely and in some kind of harmony with nature as that blind man in Saboteur was acting, and certainly not taking on impossible tasks. People were acting in a kind of what I’ve come to call a deutero-Hemingway way: they were preserving their own vitality by being adventurous within the media. The James Stewart character is someone who roams the world, but with a camera, not a gun, and not like Schweitzer, setting up modes of change in impossible places. He’s touring the world adventurously in the interest of preserving his masculine independence, but he’s doing it with a camera.
  • …the film [Elvis ’56] is moving to me because it shows his vital uniqueness walking—a new kind of old American, innocent, with old American experience, and that’s always been our formula, our innocence, plus a unique kind of experience that other people haven’t had in other lands—walking with all of that, plus physical beauty, into Rear Window—down-the-drain-land.
  • Don’t let me get grand with you; I’m not someone who was, from day one, turning himself into a philosophical academic or anything; I was, from day one, someone who was determined to survive, and to pay attention to what was going on around him, period, and when Elvis Presley came along, my heart stood still, to borrow the Larry Hart lyric. The first note I heard from him, I said, “Well, this is it, this is a sufferer like me, this is something new, this is what I want, this is who I am, in a way,” and Elvis had that gift. That’s why there are so many Elvis imitators.
  • As that little child in the spacesuit in The Seven year Itch grew up, three things would become obvious to him. He would be aware that he hadn’t been trained to really understand the history of mechanization, and was insufficient in that regard; that he hadn’t been trained to be anything like Winston Churchill, and was going to be permanently insufficient in that regard; and that he wasn’t actually going to be able to look a mine worker in the eye, and was going to be insufficient in that regard. He was going to be aware that he had been a Video Ranger from the start, and that he was going to have to keep on being a Video Ranger, and that he was going to have to learn to laugh about that. And, also, because he wanted to get married, to be a man in some sense, he was going to have to be serious about something. He was going to have to touch base with some real thing going on in his father, and what he got hold of was the irony in his father....And the evolution of that process is toward David Letterman…. We were going to have to grow up to be entirely ironic in our visceral reactions to our own manhood.
  • With Eisenhower, we’re dealing with something after the fact, a kind of Diocletian grace of God to rule over us, for a time, while we figure out who we are, as rulers.
  • Our third American Tragedy is Martin Luther King. King was Mario Cuomo and Stevenson another way. Oh, he had some Roosevelt will to power, but Cuomo has a will to power, and Stevenson had a little, maybe more than I’m giving him credit for. He was who you wanted it to be, in a way. Old America. We’re singing spirituals again. We’re having dreams again. Well, that left mechanization entirely out of the question. There was no Hollywood there. There were no gangsters there. There was no World War II victory there. I hope everyone understands I’m being completely nonracist when I say he was Adlai Stevenson another way.
  • [Ike] was presiding over a situation in which history was turning into demography, in which judgment—and Ike possessed judgment with a capital J—was being drained out of every powerful situation, and marketing considerations were being pumped in.
  • [O]ne loss in our era has been any interest in stories told from the top down.
  • I don’t just like Ike; I love him. I think he’s the guy of guys, I think he’s uniquely American, and I’m sorry we’re not going to have him anymore.
  • The fact is that fifty percent of our national mind is a giant, explosive blowup of a Xerox of a 1970s rock-and-roll press list.
  • Maybe that’s why everyone died young. Some of the questions you didn’t dare ask about Earth People’s Park were: Where is it? Who will run it? Will anyone want to do the real work? Like the global economy now, it was just something assumed, and the people in the room were there to embody the zeitgeist of it and kill the people who didn’t belong (or seem to belong) in the body of the zeitgeist.

Quotes about George W. S. Trow

  • (How did you meet George Trow, the New Yorker editor?) JK: I met National Lampoon editor Michael O’Donoghue in an elevator. We started to talk, and he said, “I know someone who would like you very much!” And he introduced me to George, who adopted me as a sister. He thought I was funny, so he would take me to events with him, and I would say something, and he would write it down. And the things I said began to appear in “Talk of the Town”; George would say “we went somewhere with our sassy black friend Jamaica Kincaid” and the whole rest of it would be something I had said.
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