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更新时间:2018-8-28 20:35:43 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Death in the Age of Narcissism

Just before and after John McCain’s death on Saturday, I read many tweets, Facebook posts and essays that beautifully captured his importance.

就在约翰·麦凯恩(John McCain)上周六去世前后,我阅读了许多推文、Facebook帖子和各种文章,它们都很好地说明了麦凯恩的重要性。

I read many that were equally concerned with the importance of their authors:


Here’s how much time I spent around McCain. I’m also close to his daughter Meghan. This is the compliment he once gave me. This is what I said back. I voted for him this many times. I agreed with him on these issues but not those. It’s difficult to describe how pained I am. Here’s a photo of me looking mournful.


Were these hymns to McCain or arias of self-congratulation? The line blurred as the focus swerved from the celebrated to the celebrator.


A measure of this is inevitable and even right. One of the best ways to convey someone’s impact on the world is to demonstrate and universalize his or her effect on us, and our own stories and memories are our inimitable additions to the conversation.


But a little of the first-person singular goes a long way.


Did you hear Donald Trump on the day Aretha Franklin died? In the first sentence out of his mouth, he defined her as “a person I knew well.” In the second, he alluded to a few of her performances in hotels that he owned by saying, “She worked for me.” The remark was classic Trump in its offensiveness. But it also reflected a more widespread conflation of eulogy and personal P.R.

你注意到唐纳德·特朗普在阿丽莎·富兰克林(Aretha Franklin)去世那天说什么了吗?从他嘴里出来的第一句话,把她定义为“一个我很熟悉的人”。在第二句话里,提到了她在自己的酒店里的一些表演,说“她为我工作”。这是特朗普一贯的无礼风格,但也反映出悼词和个人公关之间更为常见的一种融合。

Did you see Madonna at MTV’s Video Music Awards? She stepped up to the microphone, began to memorialize Franklin and mused at great length about the raw ambition, relentless rise and gritty resilience of … Madonna! “So you are probably all wondering why I am telling you this story,” she finally added, stirring from her solipsistic stupor.


No, we weren’t “wondering why.” We were “appalled that.” As Stuart Heritage of The Guardian wrote, “Madonna took Franklin’s legacy and forced it through a prism so utterly self-regarding that even the jazzed-up kids in the audience looked like they were losing the will to live.” But while her indulgence was extreme, it was also emblematic.

不,我们并不“想知道”。我们对此“感到震惊”。正如《卫报》(The Guardian)的斯图尔特·赫里蒂奇(Stuart Heritage)写的那样:“麦当娜继承了富兰克林的遗产,强行用一个完全以自我为中心的棱镜加以折射,以至于观众中哪怕是那些最兴奋的孩子,看上去也像是失去了活下去的盼头。”虽然她的这种肆意妄为是极端的例子,但也是具有象征性的。

The rest of us have neither the megaphones nor megalomania of Trump and Madonna, but we have some of the same impulses when weighing in on famous people’s deaths. We find the one point where we intersected with them. We wedge in our own biographies. We flaunt our own résumés.


We assert our character through our grief — or our lack of it. (No shortage of cranks on Twitter deemed this past weekend an appropriate occasion to revel in their distaste for McCain.) It’s classic virtue signaling, gauchely timed and in need of a more specific phrase. Virtue grieving? Obituary opportunism?


To wade through reactions to the losses of McCain, Franklin and other public figures who have died this year is to wallow in anecdotes, information and statements of principle that are obliquely or clumsily attached to the sadness at hand.


I blame social media, which can make some kind of immediate response seem almost compulsory, like a homework assignment. It’s a midwife to bad judgment and a narcissism multiplier, with its promise of likes and shares.


I also blame journalism, which is in a phase that encourages its practitioners to treat big developments as branding opportunities, carve our own niches in others’ narratives and become characters as well as guides. Doing that without preening is tricky business, and so many of us bungle it that I’m not going to single out anyone in this column. For similar reasons, I’m not going to point fingers at the politicians and aides who pivoted so awkwardly from McCain to their own navels.


I first noticed a surfeit of oddly boastful eulogies when Nora Ephron died six years ago. It seemed that everyone in Hollywood, New York and Washington knew her. Maybe everyone did: She had tremendous energy and a talent for connection. I made my own connection to her much too clear in something that I wrote then. I look back at it and cringe.

六年前诺拉·埃芙隆(Nora Ephron)去世时,我一眼注意到了一些充满自夸的奇怪悼词。似乎好莱坞、纽约和华盛顿的所有人都认识她。也许确实如此:她精力极为充沛,有联络人脉的天分。在我当时写的东西里,我对自己和她的关系写得太过清楚了。现在我回头看它,感到很难堪。

Many of us don’t fully appreciate what we’re doing, and that’s a damned good reason, among plenty of others, to pay closer attention to it. It undermines what should be our goal, which is to put someone else in the spotlight. We can’t do that if we’re crowding the stage.


Speaking of stages, a screen behind one on which the band Journey recently performed showed pictures, in memoriam, of Franklin. A music critic made positive note of that in his review. He was then contacted by Journey’s guitarist, Neal Schon, and his publicist, who wanted the review corrected to specify, in the publicist’s words, that the tribute was not arranged by the whole band but “was done solo by Neal himself.”

说到舞台,“旅程”(Journey)乐队最近演出时,在他们背后的屏幕播放了富兰克林的照片作为纪念。一位乐评人在评论中称赞了这件事。然后,“旅程”的吉他手尼尔·朔恩(Neal Schon)及其公关人员联系了他,希望对文章进行修正,用公关的话说,要指出这个致敬并不是乐队的安排,而是“由尼尔独自完成的”。这下澄清了。同样清楚的,还有他真正迷恋的对象是谁。