Archives for category: Literature

The kick-ass female action “hero” was a novelty with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But after the millionth iteration, it is wearing thin, to say the least.

To say the most? It is a form of misogyny.

How so? It imputes to women the natural and traditional propensities and roles that men admire in men and aspire towards — and that women have desired in men and want men to be. So women are now routinely being judged by a standard that was naturally-cum-fancifully apt almost only for men. This functions as a performative repudiation of femininity, and a triumph of masculinity. It is a strange twist on “trans.” And for men to admire women chiefly for filling masculine roles strikes me as preciously close to the liking of women for being like men.

So, what men and women who assert the value of “female action heroes” (NOT heroines) are really doing is saying “no one really likes women”; that the feminine is disgusting or pitiable and that women, to be admired, should “be more like men” or, better yet, aspire to be “better than men” as understood by unrealistic standards once held by men for themselves.

Like so much of modern politics, and of course feminism, this strikes me as creepily misogynistic.

I am reminded of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where the citizenry is “decanted” not begotten naturally, and where “fatherhood” is a joke and “motherhood” a gross indecency. To the extent that the female superhero theme is not pornography (and that is the source of some of the attraction: watching lithe bodies contorting onscreen for our delectation) it’s a repudiation of the feminine telos.

Which strikes me as misogynistic.

Not hatefully misogynistic. It may not be borne of hate. It is borne of discomfort. Queasiness. Distaste. Discomfort with the natural, the animal reality of our species and our very mammalian success. Our civilization is imagining a new non-animalistic conception of life. It used to be the gods, now it is stefnal superheroes and the looming, all-too-real specter of cyborgian AI.

Decadence, for the most part. But hey: maybe the future is less Brave New World and more Day Million.* But I doubt it.

Of course, we have a choice of dystopias.

* “Day Million” is a terrific short story by Frederik Pohl, as well as a name of a short story collection.

So, if slavery is bad because liberty is good, and if the American conception of liberty is bad because of slavery, why is slavery bad?

At issue, you will immediately recognize, is the Project1619-adjacent notion that the existence of slavery in American history discredits the government and general political complexion of the United States of America. I have argued against/around this poison pill [meme] before, chiefly on Quora:

The leftist idea is to use the mere existence of past slavery as a rationale to set up a completely different kind of socio-political order. Since most of these ninnies are promoting some form of socialism, those of us who identify socialism with slavery must express some alarm.

The idea is bizarre when you break it down. But most young people seem not to move beyond statement and restatement of the core notion:

The temerity of the Left! One of today’s leftists’ characteristic charges is that capitalism and slavery are a package deal, somehow, and that American capitalism depended upon the institution of chattel slavery for its success, and that the wealth Americans now revel in is tainted by the institution of slavery that was abolished over a century and a half ago.

An astounding assertion, and utterly without merit.

As I stated in the piece quoted directly above, it is an extraordinarily loopy notion even to pretend “to redress past harms caused by slavery” by working “to oppose freedom generally.”

Americans have promoted the idea of freedom while not successfully living up to the idea. Sure. And slavery was the most obvious failing of freedom-loving Americans. But to say we should give up liberty and embrace socialism — servility to the coercive horde or the maximum state — because of this, is . . . witless.

Or, maybe, the wit of the Devil taking the hindmost brains. He loves a good laugh, and to urge his minions to abandon freedom “because slavery” is too droll even for a mere human archon.

twv

All flesh be grass?
But which grass, among so many?
Man has spread across the earth —
Spartina, across the mud —
Each going where others could not go.
So, spartina, you are man’s secret totem —
You, the grass no sane man would sow;
We, the flesh that sees like flesh as foe.
Your blades,
Which human spades
Cannot devour,
You, I say, represent man’s power.
But . . . you know your limits.
Do we know ours?
Well, of mud we are
And to mud we shall return.
You, spartina, are the grass
From which flesh could learn.
And let it be said,
By the living and of the dead:
We’ve made our mark upon the mud,
You in lovely green,
Man in red blood.

twv, August 3, 2004

Spartina is a grass that is invasive in the Willapa Bay, near where I live. The federal government has spent millions trying to eradicate it, since it turns oyster beds in the intertidal areas into raised grasslands. Since writing this poem — oh, so long ago — I learned that the federal government spent millions planting the grass on the shores of the Potomac. And Chinese have been using it to reclaim land for a very long time. twv

The Atlantic, once an indispensable magazine, first went completely Trump Derangement Syndrome, and of course now carries water for the Pandemic Panic Totalitarians. Here is an email I just got from the ’zine:

COVID-19 deaths are on the rise once again. We debrief why that’s not at all surprising—and three other things we learned while covering the outbreak in recent days.
Four Things We Learned(SHUTTERSTOCK; PAUL SPELLA / THE ATLANTIC)

1. There is no mystery in the number of Americans dying of COVID-19This summer surge in deaths was entirely predictable by looking honestly at the case and hospitalization data that preceded it, Alexis C. Madrigal explains.

2. America needs to prepare for a double pandemicThis is what keeps our Science reporter Ed Yong up at night. “If America could underperform so badly against one rapidly spreading virus,” he asks, “how would it fare against two?”

3. We talked to Anthony Fauci. He called efforts by the White House to discredit him “bizarre.” But no, he hasn’t thought about resigning. “I just want to do my job,” he told our reporters. “I’m really good at it.”

4. The pandemic will force some to face their cognitive dissonance“When the facts clash with their preexisting convictions, some people would sooner jeopardize their health and everyone else’s than accept new information or admit to being wrong,” two social psychologists write.
It goes on from there, but you get the idea.

Aldous Huxley (July 26, 1894 – November 22, 1963)

In any cause, the best or the most atrocious, zeal is always intoxicating. A world without zeal would be a world deprived of many simple but savage pleasures: but at least half its present excuses for interfering and bullying would have been taken away from it.

Aldous Huxley, Introduction to The Easton Press edition of Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1934), signed July 24, 1933.

These lines follow a much-quoted but mis-cited passage first published here 11 days ago. This quotation, above, completes the paragraph that I have published in these pages (on memevigilante.com) as a corrective to the usually mis-cited “quote.”

The title, above, references an excellent piece of music by contemporary composer John Adams.

twv

It is not sexist to acknowledge differences between the sexes. It is not racist to recognize differences among the races. It is not ageist to accept that you will grow old and die.

twv

Remember when we used to call journalists “news hounds”?

Atavistic, now — a throwback to a bygone era, when investigative reporters caught a whiff of a story and rooted it out. There was a sort of gritty glamor to that style of journalism. Remember The Front Page? Five Star Final? His Girl Friday?

The aptness of the “hound” metaphor derived from the professional use of dogs to find criminals and missing children.

But today’s TV, online and pulp purveyors of fake news are not exactly known for their sniffing-the-story canniness. 

Maybe we could find some wild variety of the canine for an epithet.

Wolf? Journalists run in packs, and are vicious. Just like Canis lupus?

But wolves seem the noblest of canines.

Fox? Are today’s journalists clever enough to warrant that comparison? Hardly, though Vulpes vulpes is the Red fox, and many of today’s journalists lean far left, and red used to be the color of communism, socialism, and the like.

But most corporate news journalists turn out to be very establishmentarian. Hardly fox-worthy.*

Coyote? Now we are getting closer. The late-night yips and falsetto howls of Canis latrans do suggest the sort of onscreen frenzy we see among the fake news mavens.

But drop the canine comparison. “Hyenas are commonly viewed as frightening and worthy of contempt,” explains Wikipedia. “In some cultures, hyenas are thought to influence people’s spirits, rob graves, and steal livestock and children. Other cultures associate them with witchcraft. . . .”

And the several major species offers much by way of comparison: the insectivore Aardwolf; the paradigmatic scavenger, the striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena); and the infamous laughing hyena (Crocuta crocuta), which can be quite dangerous.

Apt? Apter? Aptest?


* “If you lie always in service to the left, you might be a Red. But if you lie mainly to serve your masters in the Deep State, what does that make you?”

How Lines of Inquiry Get Shut Down

Finally, someone smart and not a coward asks the obvious questions and expresses the requisite incredulity:

The lack of professional curiosity among journalists about the Jeffrey Epstein case is astounding. Eric Weinstein is speaking truth — to power, even (for the Fourth Estate is indeed a power) — here, simply by denying the lies commonly used to smother public interest and coverage of the subject.

But I have a conjecture. I may know why.

Indeed, I suspect everybody knows why: for everybody knows that at the highest levels of government, and feeding around The Giant Pool of Money, the institutions and people are fantastically corrupt. No, that is too light. Everybody knows that at the top, there is profound evil.

You know it, your neighbor knows it, and the media mavens know it.

But the knowledge is suppressed, quite willingly, by nearly everyone. Why?

Well, most people depend upon — and even obtain their sense of “identity” from — the governments that are evil. Everyone is morally compromised, “journalists” most of all . . . because they seek to be the manipulators of public opinion, and they (for the most part) want the power of the State to grow. Everyone has dirty hands and compromised consciences, so the knowledge of the evil at the heart and mind of the modern state is rarely spoken of, and those who do speak of it are scorned or derided or ignored.

We pretend it isn’t knowledge, and because we all speak of it so rarely, the knowledge ceases to be public, and thus not testable. And this, in turn, discourages tests.

It is a feedback loop of corruption, and it extends from the pinnacles to the barnacles.

Of society.

And Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.

J. Sheridan le Fanu’s short story “Dickon the Devil,” which can be found in the third volume of The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of J. Sheridan Le Fanu (2010), is a typical spook story of its period, the second half of the 19th century. It has scant drama, and is not dramatically told. The idea, I guess, was realism of presentation, to set the stage for the eldritch element — the indirect method.

The story first saw print in 1872. I cannot say I think much of this one, but
I will try others. Maybe I will even give the humungous novel included in the volume mentioned above, The House by the Churchyard, a go.

Reading Descent of Man (1979; 1987)

T. Coraghessan Boyle’s short stories, from the few I have read so far, are

  1. very good;
  2. often darkly comic; and
  3. close, perhaps kissing cousins, of genre science fiction.

My favorite of his, so far, is “Back in the Eocene,” a story about a father who tries to back up his son’s public school ‘education” about how bad “drugs” are, despite the fact that, “back in the Eocene,” that same father had taken and much enjoyed — and apparently not been harmed by — those now-demonized drugs.

That perspective, of times long gone still casting a shadow on the present, is effectively and humorously communicated by reference to the distant geologic past.

I read that story years ago. Tonight I read “Quetzálcoatl Lite” and “De Rerum Natura,” both to be found in his early collection, now seemingly Pleistocene past (if not Eocene), Descent of Man. The first is a sly tale of the collecting mania, in which a man vies with another, older collector, to find a rare beer can in the jungles of Central America. The second is a stranger tale of a genius inventor, one of whose inventions is a cat that lacks excretory functions. The title references Titus Lucretius Carus’s classic Epicurean poem (see George Santayana, Three Philosophical Poets).

That second story could have been published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. While not standard genre fiction, F&SF regularly publishes material in the same vein.

I consider authors like Boyle and, say, Will Self, to be ultra-fiction writers, engaged in a literary emprise that exists alongside popular traditions of fantasy and science fiction. Both are quite good, no doubt. But I do not consider them light years beyond many who inhabit the genre industry.

It is only by convention and bigotry that they exist in literary worlds utterly apart.

twv

N.B. “Back in the Eocene” and “De Rerum Natura” can be found in T.C. Boyle’s 1998 mega-collection, Stories.