In new books, on websites, in magazines, the churn is everywhere: once again, “decline” is a buzzword. The decline of America. The decline of the movies. The decline of the Big Mac. On and on. Jed Perl’s squib on the subject, “The Pernicious Talk of Decline In The Arts,” has a good point or two. To wit: ‘The evolution of an art form is far too mysterious, too much a product of the unpredictable movements of many particular imaginations, to ever fit into some preordained pattern. Decline—and perhaps this is the most troubling thing of all—involves a prediction about the shape of the future. To speak of decline is to flirt with the kind of dystopian hyperbole that feeds the authoritarian imagination.” Got it?