There are good reasons why I haven’t bought Wired Magazine in about five years. The whole bleeding edge thing frayed a bit with the dot com crash. And that hyperactive, slightly autistic gadget-boy take on the world (a planet which only spanned the west coast of the US and the high tech bits of Asia) just started to seem ever so recursive. But today, in honour of being on the west coast and much delayed on a flight from L.A back to Europe, I cracked and bought the magazine.
Wired now has fashion tips for how to wear your bluetooth, a rather pointless feature on ‘Earth 2.0’, advertisements for Gilette (because the best a man can get is a whopping five blades), and far more car ads than I remember – most of them for Japanese vehicles that improbably combine performance, high tech fuel efficiency, and the nodding respect of other techies. So ‘Wired Man’ is slightly more environmentally aware than he used to be, but just as insecure and rather implausibly hirsute.
Wired also has a feature about a rather disgruntled economist, David Galenson. Galenson – only slightly self-interestedly – has a theory that there are two kinds of genius; boy wonders and plodders. Well, he actually calls them conceptualists (they paint their masterpieces before they’re 30) and experimentalists (late bloomers who actually turn out to have have dual-peaked careers). The theory uses price comparisons for work by twentieth century American artists to show that the boy wonders (Frank Stella, Jasper Johns) burn out early or only have one big idea while the plodders (Rothko, Pollock) develop and refine their ideas and techniques over a lifetime.
I have a lot of sympathy for Galenson. Thirty-something strivers unfavourably compare themselves with the Larrys and Sergeys, and secretly nurse the fantasy that their own time will come. But – and this may be due to Wired’s skewed demographic or the ingrained sexism of the art market – it is striking that women really don’t feature. One literary example is mentioned (Sylvia Plath) but that’s it.
Which strikes me as odd. I’ve long believed that, patriarchy being what it is, many women writers only come into their own late in life (perhaps I’m the one nurturing a fantasy). But it makes sense; women are often far less convinced of their own genius, for reasons biological and social, and spend a large chunk of their most productive years producing other humans. But later, when the opportunity of time is presented, the performance anxiety of youth has gone, and a life well and fully lived provides the material and insight to put pen to paper, off they go.
The only thing is, I suddenly can’t think of a single example. Any thoughts? Or does this intuition only appeal because it’s comforting?