I finished The Case of Wagner. It’s written much more prettily than The Birth of Tragedy, which was appreciated. There are two postscripts and an epilogue, which are clearer on the subject of Nietzsche’s objection than the rest of the text–which he realized, apparently; he says as much in a letter to a friend he asked to proof it.
My favorite part, from the second postscript, is when Nietzsche clarifies that he hates all contemporary music:
When in this essay I declare war upon Wagner–and incidentally upon German “taste”–when I use harsh words against the cretinism of Bayreuth, the last thing I want to do is start a celebration for any other musicians. Other musicians don’t count compared to Wagner. Things are bad generally. Decay is universal. The sickness goes deep. If Wagner nevertheless gives his name to the ruin of music, as Bernini did to the ruin of sculpture, he is certainly not its cause. He merely accelerated its tempo–to be sure, in such a manner that one stands horrified before this almost sudden downward motion, abyss-ward. He had the nïaveté of decadence: this was his superiority. He believed in it, he did not stop before any of the logical implications of decadence. The others hesitate–that is what differentiates them. Nothing else.
This comes immediately after his declaration that he has “given the Germans the most profound books they have–reason enough for the Germans not to understand a single word” and before a rant on the badness of Brahms. (I tried to write “evils” rather than “badness” there, but Wagner is the only one deemed worthy of evils. Everyone else just sucks.) Conclusion: Nietzsche is a hilarious misanthrope. I’d pay to see him in a Grumpy Old Men sequel.
Next up: The Conversations of Cow, which wins with 3 votes. Gob’s Grief gets 2, Just Another Soldier 1, and The Lathe of Heaven and Humboldt’s Gift are rejected.
P.S.: I also mostly dislike Wagner, since I don’t like opera. I may or may not have fallen asleep during the second act of The Flying Dutchman, resting my forehead on the balcony railing, and been nudged awake to find scary little children still singing.
2nd P.S.: I wonder whether the lovers in Sondheim’s Passion, which is what I listened to when I couldn’t unearth my music-class copy of Wagner’s Tristan and Iseult, have a “cruel nature” sort of love (the good sort, like in Georges Bizet’s Carmen) or a sentimental, redeeming love (like in Wagner, boo!). Run out, watch a musical and a couple operas, read The Case of Wagner, and let me know what you think.