Book #30

Traffic by John Ruskin

The radical Victorian art critic's excoriating defence of dignity and creativity in a world obsessed by money.

Ruskin was an art critic who was called before an assembly of men in 1864 to give his opinion on which architectural style they should build their new Exchange building. He kicks off his speech by explaining "most simply and sorrowfully I have you tell you, in the outset, that I do not care about this Exchange of yours." The lecture we're presented with is an interesting monologue on architecture in relation to morality, taste, religion, and money.

The speech is powerful, and I particularly liked Ruskin's accusation of his audience worshipping the Goddess of Getting-On, implying them of craving wealth merely as a collection, never for the spending of it; he asks them where they plan to store it all, and forces them to think how facetious this is:

You shall have thousand of gold pieces; thousands of thousands - millions - mountains, of gold; where will you keep them?

The second essay, The Roots of Honour, describes politics and economy with some injections of artistic criticism. I didn't enjoy this one as much, found it quite dull, and struggled to concentrate.

Overall, this isn't the best Little Black Classic so far. It poses some provoking questions, but I really was glad it's a mere 55 pages.