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Confessions of a ‘Soulless Troglodyte’: How My Brooklyn Literary Friendships Fell Apart in the Age of Trump

I became friends with Jamie when I was 13, a few years after my family fled the Soviet Union and settled in what was then one of the most diverse neighborhoods of south Brooklyn. When we first met, Jamie (not his real name) told me that he was a genius—that his Catholic school teachers said so after he wrote a poem about vaginas and read it aloud in front of the whole class. He told me he wanted to be “an author.” In the 1990s, our street was a spontaneous symphony of the working poor, a place where kids bonded by trading ethnic insults in a dozen languages. I had mastered this crude local vernacular. Jamie’s ability to step outside of our street language, speak freely and dream about something larger was transfixing.

Unlike Jamie, I churned through the city’s public schools without attracting much notice. My teachers did not seek genius. In high school, they were too busy keeping us from killing each other. I learned nothing and barely graduated. After Jamie went off to a university in Manhattan, we lost touch. I attended a local public college and came out with degrees in Business and Philosophy, graduating shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The business major was a concession to my immigrant parents. But Wall Street was in ruins. And philosophy obviously wasn’t much help. I worked a string of odd jobs, ultimately landing a writing gig for a consumer magazine that paid less than what I’d earned parking cars.

In 2009, I joined Facebook and looked up Jamie online. He had graduated from a prestigious Master of Fine Arts program in fiction. He also was awarded a coveted fellowship that came with a brief mention in one of the country’s finest literary magazines. He was married, and had a toddler son. Though surprised at first, he seemed happy to hear from me.

I was eager to catch up. We hadn’t spoken or seen each other in more than a decade. But the conversation invariably steered itself toward our young new president, Barack Obama. I’d voted for him and felt a swell of emotion when he spoke at his 2008 inauguration. Like Jamie, Obama was bi-racial, raised by his white mother, with a penchant for rhetorical flight.

Jamie and I would speak on the phone, discussing how refreshing it was to finally have a man of eloquence and grace in the White House. We railed against obstructionist Republicans who undermined Obama—like Joe Wilson, who shouted “you lie!” during the 2009 State of the Union address. We were living in momentous times. At last, the nation had elected its first black president, and Jamie and I were friends again.

I met Jamie’s wife, a blue-eyed blonde who looked, as Jamie was inclined to mention, like Scarlet Johansson. She taught middle-school English full time in one of the city’s toughest public schools. Jamie was a part-time adjunct lecturer at a university. He took the rest of the time off to work on his novel. The two of them shopped exclusively at Whole Foods and lived in a Manhattan apartment with their son, three cats, rustic-looking furniture and lots of Apple devices. They often hosted parties where I got to meet his friends, mostly attractive women who had moved to New York City from all over the country for school or work. They liked the off-color street idiom Jamie and I naturally fell into, two quirky friends from Brooklyn—one dark-skinned, the other light. His wife didn’t seem to mind, as she usually was busy with the toddler in another room. One time, I arrived late. “Finally,” Jamie exclaimed. “The clown is here!”

For a time, this urban menagerie dictated my new sense of who I wanted to be. I didn’t ask questions. It was too dazzling to stain with doubts. Soon, I was going with Jamie to readings and literary events where authors whose books I loved stood in the flesh before us and read from their stories and novels. I watched in awe as Jamie approached them as if they were casual friends. By then, I had worked as a journalist for a few years, covering everything from gadgets to crime to local political races in Brooklyn. Just as English itself had once been a swirl of mysterious sounds to my native Russian-speaking brain, this new language of agents, publishers and quarterly reviews was just as foreign. Jamie spoke it fluently. During conversations, he would bring up, all in one breath, his fellowship, the college where he taught, his forthcoming novel—beginning sentences with “the last time I talked to Junot…”

Jamie could tell how all of this impressed me. It was one of the most exciting times of my life. He encouraged me to enroll in an MFA program. We planned to write a book together. Late one evening, still buzzing with excitement from one of these events, we returned to Jamie’s apartment. His wife and son already asleep, he leaned back in their Pottery Barn sofa and said, “You know, when I walk into a room, I know I’m the best writer in that room.”

A few months later, Jamie fell off the grid for a few days. His phone was off, and he didn’t answer email. When Jamie finally resurfaced, it was with an unsettling text message: “My wife wants a divorce. I am losing my family.” Later that day, when we spoke on the phone, Jamie told me that he’d spent the last few days in a hospital mental ward, where he’d been taken by police.

He went on to tell me that three years earlier, while his wife was pregnant with their child, he’d been with another woman. Burdened by guilt, he confessed immediately after it happened. Being parents to a newborn had kept their marriage intact, but things had been on a downward slope ever since. They argued about money, too. After Jamie won his fellowship, his wife, also a writer, put on hold her own creative ambitions so Jamie could finish his novel. The Manhattan lifestyle of a genius writer was being financed by her full-time job as a teacher, help from her parents, and ballooning credit-card debt. Meanwhile, Jamie, who was barely working or writing, had been avoiding his wife altogether—mostly by hanging out with me. It all came to a head during a heated argument, when she’d finally asked for a divorce. At one point during all of this, Jamie’s behaviour frightened her and she had called the police.

I defended my friend. I knew Jamie. I knew that he would never hurt his wife or, God forbid, their son. I thought it was unfair that he had to spend three days locked in a padded room with potentially dangerous, criminally disturbed people.

As I later learned, Jamie was lucky—lucky that the police took him to a mental ward instead of the police station. Lucky that, even with all that resentment between them, his soon-to-be ex-wife allowed him to continue to see their son. Still, my instinct was to take his side. After she threw him out of their apartment, I came in my car to pick up his things. I took them to his mother’s house in Brooklyn. For a time, Jamie and I were closer friends than ever.

Less than a year later, I took out loans and moved to Manhattan to pursue an MFA. A Master of Fine Arts in fiction program typically is based on a workshop model: Once a week, a student submits a piece of prose, usually a short story, to a group of roughly 15 classmates who take turns discussing the work and providing feedback. These workshops are led by professors who are established authors. MFA students also are given a chance to teach undergraduate English and, upon graduation, can become adjunct instructors like Jamie. These programs emphasize the “craft” of writing, and tout access to contacts in the publishing industry—agents, editors and famous guest writers who are invited to speak at panels and events.

Like our old Brooklyn neighbourhood (by now, gentrified out of existence), the students varied stupendously by race and culture. I was excited at first, but soon began to sense a disconnect. Too often, their reasons for being there seemed to have little to do with a love of books. Some only read within a single genre. Others actually bragged about not reading at all. And the social climate could be tense—something I learned for the first time when a gay black classmate warned me to “be careful” before commenting on his story, which was centered on a gay black character. I thought of the verve and confidence that Jamie had always shown when discussing his identity as an author and, as politely as I could, explained that I didn’t have to be careful, because I could say whatever I wanted. Then I went on, as I’d initially intended, to praise the story for its vivid language.

A few weeks later, while scouring the racks at the school’s annual library book sale, I bumped into my professor. I held up a used hard-cover of E. L. Doctorow’s 2005 novel The March, which I’d scored for just a dollar. He looked at the book and asked, “Who’s he?” Doctorow was arguably the greatest living historical novelist in America. The professor, who taught a class on the role of history in narrative fiction, would later become the director of the school’s MFA program.

Similarly telling episodes followed, and I came to realize that I’d been burying myself in student debt so as to gain the feedback of people whose opinions didn’t matter. I dropped out at the end of the year. But before doing so, I met Junot Diaz—the Junot of Jamie’s casual braggadocio—who’d been invited to address us as a guest speaker. He talked about the importance of reading, and told us that he didn’t hang out with other writers. His only friends, he said, were those he grew up with in New Jersey. He seemed like a good role model.

Jamie, meanwhile, was pursuing a relationship with a new woman. After less than a month, he told her that he was in love. We saw each other less frequently. When we did, it was at readings and literary events, where Jamie flirted openly with other women, including one of his former female students. One time, on a train, he and I sat next to a young woman who was reading Gillian Flynn’s bestseller Gone Girl. Charming as always, Jamie asked if she was enjoying the novel. The woman looked up and smiled. “She is my colleague,” Jamie said, before launching into a list of his accomplishments and famous friends. (To the best of my knowledge, Jamie and Flynn had never met.)

Later that week, I confessed to Jamie my growing unease with his behaviour. Torn between moral discomfort and loyalty to a close friend, I explained that I felt complicit in his pretenses, especially in the company of others. I assured him that he was a talented writer—the best writer in any room—that he didn’t have to posture or prove anything. I also expressed concern about him jumping into another relationship in the midst of his divorce, and about his cavalier behavior around female students. He was, after all, still legally married and fighting to keep custody of his son.

“Sometimes I think you have a problem with women,” he replied, and told me his plans to move into his new girlfriend’s apartment. We spoke less and less, and soon stopped communicating altogether.

When I did run into Jamie again, it was late 2015. Doctorow had recently died, and a New York real-estate celebrity named Donald Trump was preparing a run for President. I’d been translating death records from Russian by day, and driving a flatbed delivery van at night. Nevertheless, I’d made progress with my writing, getting a number of stories published in literary journals, and even winning a few awards. I had an agent, and was finishing a book-length manuscript. Jamie, on the other hand, was in a difficult place. He’d been writing in fits and starts, ultimately joining a private workshop composed mainly of former MFA classmates. After one of them criticized Jamie’s writing as vague and poorly plotted, he’d decided to quit the group. “I need a more supportive community,” he told me.

Jamie and I then had a heart-to-heart, in which he offered something approximating an apology. He talked about his biological father—a black man whom he claimed to have never met. Jamie told me that his dad was a crack cocaine addict who repeatedly beat his mother, a slight Jewish woman, while she was pregnant with Jamie. As a result, Jamie was born dangerously premature, barely surviving the first few weeks of his life in an incubator. Jamie also talked about how his stepfather’s neglect had affected his treatment of his own son. One of only a handful of dark-skinned kids at his Catholic all-boys high school, Jamie recounted being bullied by other boys. He also brought up his older sister’s mental illness, and suggested that she may have been raped by a boyfriend, who later turned to alcohol and now lived on the streets.

There’s no question that Jamie’s family had hard luck. But I remembered Jamie’s stepfather as an amicable, even gregarious, neighbour who told stories while walking their large husky with pale blue eyes. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors, of course. But I began to question my own memories—and Jamie’s, too, even if his recollections seemed sincere.

Over time, I seized on Jamie’s stories to help explain the chasm between the giant Jamie I idolized in Brooklyn and the shrunken Jamie who stood before me. There was a political undercurrent: The idea of Jamie as a victim of not just the circumstances of his own household, but also systemic racism more generally, seemed very much in keeping with America’s history of persecuting black boys and men.

“Forget them,” I said, referring to the members of Jamie’s unsupportive workshop. “Let’s start our own.” My futile MFA attempt behind me, I imagined the two of us engaging with the books we loved back in our childhood, in an environment free of social friction. Rather than nibble at the edges of style or craft, we could interrogate the moral choices made by enduring characters in history’s great novels: Why was it wrong to kill old women in Crime and Punishment? Who was this Gatz before he became Gatsby, and what was it that really motivated him? Together, we could trace the contours of the divine in Isaac Bashevis Singer and Flannery O’Connor, or the specter of war in John Cheever and Walker Percy; we could expose madness in Chekhov’s placid stories and Santiago’s courage in The Old Man and the Sea. A hopelessly old-fashioned reader, I wanted us to revisit Hamlet, the saddest moral clown of them all, as well as Chaucer’s lustful pranksters, no less juvenile than Jamie and I once had been on Brooklyn’s streets.

“Let’s start with Lolita,” I said.

But Jamie said that Lolita bored him after the first few sentences, so he stopped reading: “Maybe it was a bad translation.”

It brought me no joy to have to tell him that while Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian émigré who wrote his first nine novels in his native tongue, the later Nabokov of Lolita fame was one of the great prose stylists of the English language. What followed was a contentious exchange in which it became clear that Jamie has never read or finished many of the great books that I held dear. When I asked, in all sincerity, how he could teach writing to college students, he shot back by rejecting my beloved texts as artifacts of white, male European hegemony.

It wasn’t long before tirades against the Western canon—against my use of terms such as “Shakespearean” or “Dickensian” in reference to Ralph Ellison and Zora Neale Hurston—spilled over onto Facebook pages, where they turned personal, especially after I critiqued Ta-Nehisi Coates’ politics of nihilism and doom.

“I take offence to that as a man of colour,” Jamie wrote in response.

I read Coates’s 2015 book, Between the World and Me, then newly published, and judged his vision of America as dark and hopeless—more of a provocation than an accurate take on an open society that had welcomed millions of immigrants, like myself, fleeing despotic regimes. I was equally put off by Coates’ blithe dismissal of Martin Luther King Jr. and other influential intellectuals. Like many prominent black scholars, I questioned Coates’s analysis of history.

“That comment,” Jamie replied. “And other things you’ve said to me…have me asking you to think more about whiteness, privilege, and how it affects every moment of our lives.” In that moment, I realized that the frank and evocative language that once had brought Jamie and me together as children had been replaced by brittle ideological boilerplate, copied and pasted from social-justice Twitter accounts.

But I refused to nod in agreement to Coates, who “could see no difference between the [police] officer who killed [Coates’ friend and classmate] Prince Jones, and the police who died [on 9/11], or the firefighters who died. They were not human to me.” Many of the surviving 9/11 first responders are now battling cancer. These were also some of the same uniformed officers who for years stood guard protecting my father, a retired New York transit worker, while he fixed MetroCard vending boxes full of cash amid the grime and madness of the city’s subway system.

My small acts of revolt against the political orthodoxy that now filled Jamie’s social-media world represented my first steps outside the New Faith to which the two of us had jointly pledged allegiance during the Obama years. With his stunning division of America into oppressed and oppressor, Coates seemed to be tapping into a moral world that lay beyond traditional Western ideals—a moral world that, in some respects, began to remind me of the one my Russian family had fled in the 1980s.

Things only got worse when I expressed reservations about voting for Hillary Clinton, whom I had found to be duplicitous and out of touch with the modern American left. This was not a defence of Trump, whose misogyny and lack of integrity require no elaboration. For the first time in my adult life, I considered sitting out a presidential election. That, too, can be an act of resistance. Just ask any refugee from the Soviet Union, where voting was compulsory.

To save what was left of our crumbling friendship, I pointed to the words of the man we both revered, Barack Obama, who’d declared in his last State of the Union Address that “a better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests…But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us.”

Jamie was unmoved. To not take sides against Trump was, as he put it, “the epitome of white privilege.” I responded that our friendship had survived every presidential election since George H. W. Bush. Surely, it would survive this one.

It didn’t.

After Trump was elected, I continued to seek the company of bookish kin, without fully realizing that they were in the process of excommunicating me. Something shifted in late 2016—and not just with Jamie. An author I’ll call Daniel, who’d solicited my critical feedback in the past, sold his novel to a top publisher, earning a huge advance. I was happy for him, and he was kind enough to thank me in the book’s acknowledgements. But the novel didn’t sell well. And Daniel found a way to blame the bad numbers on Trump’s presidency.

“I hate every Republican, good or bad, with every fibre of my being,” he declared to the world. Trump’s supporters, he said, were all “soulless troglodytes.”

While Brooklyn is known for liberal silos such as Park Slope and Williamsburg, the Brooklyn I’d known as a child was politically diverse. A number of my former classmates and colleagues remain Republicans. And some of them have come to my aid at the darkest, most tragic times in my life. Many are still my friends. They are police officers, nurses and combat veterans; they are Jews, immigrants, Asians, Latinos and African-Americans. Some would vote for Donald Trump: Conservative Jews who liked his pro-Israel stance; Wall Street workers who liked his business background; rank-and-file police who wanted to stick it to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; visible minorities who liked his “America First” rhetoric, and imagined that he’d bring back secure manufacturing jobs. These promises may have been empty and dishonest. But they resonated with a lot of people, not all of them “troglodytes.”

I also witnessed something else that alarmed me. The charges of Russian collusion against Trump’s campaign—while being a completely legitimate (and ongoing) political concern—were curdling into Russophobic hysteria among some members of the New York literary caste.

“I think Russians have been at the root of our discord for years,” Daniel announced at one point. “I think they own the government and the NRA.…They are the true enemy…Seriously, #russia, fuck you.” Caught up in these negative reveries, he would lapse into Swiftian absurdism, declaring at one point, “I hope we deport every single one of you motherfuckers back to Russia where you’ll live in gulags.” Eventually, Twitter deleted Daniel’s account after he allegedly posted threatening tweets against other users.

On another occasion, after I refused to discuss my Soviet immigration experience via Facebook and suggested we talk in person instead, the daughter of a renowned American novelist told me to “honestly fuck off. Go translate media monitoring kits for Trump… How did you all get into our country? Jesus Christ…You are a great reason why we need immigration reform now.”

As a New York writer, I’m supposed to be reflexively hostile to Trump voters—a political breed that often is caricatured as a bunch of racist Appalachian hillbillies. But because of what I do for a living, and who my friends are, I’ve learned that Trump’s enemies can be every bit as Manichean and hysterical as Trump’s supporters. As with a massive gas giant orbiting a smaller body, the gravitational field of Trump’s symbolic presence has come to draw in the petty grievances, career anxieties and existential dread of a whole generation of intellectuals. I hate my boss: Fuck Trump! My spouse hates me: Fuck Trump! No one will buy my book: Fuck Trump! Please, I want somebody to love me: Fuck Trump! Here, at last, was somebody we could freely hate more than we hate each other or ourselves.

“I have to say this for Trump,” Daniel wrote once. “All the hate and anger I had against the coffeemaker and at myself for backing my car into a tree, etc.., well, that’s all gone thanks to our imposter-in-chief. So…thank you, Mr. Trump, for channeling all my anger.”

As shown by the arc of my relationship with Jamie—and the many other Jamies who populate the New York writing scene—Trump is as much a symptom as a cause. His appearance in American politics coincides with a larger trend on the left that now serves to elevate every form of personal disappointment into a symptom of “systemic” abuse. The result hasn’t just been that my erstwhile friends are afflicted with debilitating persecution complexes: It also has destroyed their ability to exercise independent thought. For free thought requires the free use of language, which is impossible when smart people like Jamie or Daniel are required to push the round peg of art and creation into the square hole of political sloganeering.

“The objective conditions necessary to the realization of a work of art are, as we know, a highly complex phenomenon, involving one’s public, the possibility of contact with it, the general atmosphere, and above all freedom from involuntary subjective control,” wrote Polish poet Czesław Miłosz in The Captive Mind. “‘I can’t write as I would like to,’ a young Polish poet admitted to me. ‘My own stream of thought has so many tributaries, that I barely succeed in damming off one, when a second, third, or fourth overflows. I get halfway through a phrase, and already I submit it to Marxist criticism. I imagine what X or Y will say about it, and I change the ending.’”

Is this process of submission—and the resulting discordance between ideology and one’s own authentic stream of thought—what drove my friends to states of miserable, anti-social agitation? I don’t know, because I am no longer in touch with either of the two men. I also have parted ways with my long-time girlfriend, who got swept up in these same currents, and who once literally wept in my presence because I had made a flattering reference to Camille Paglia.

I thought of that episode recently, when I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Paglia at a speaking event. Her restless intensity that evening, her encyclopedic command of ancient culture and myth, always will stay with me. At one point, Paglia, who identifies as a lesbian, banged her tiny fist against the podium and shouted, “Give women the freedom to risk rape!” Her presence was electric, a blazing amaranth of inquiry and knowledge. As I helped Dr. Paglia, a small woman with a noticeable limp, back to her car, a group of students followed. Even those who found fault with Paglia’s views kept asking questions. We simply couldn’t let go of her.

But let go we must. For any form of idolatry—or idolatry’s opposite, demonization—always will bind an intellect in the shackles of some New Faith. The price one pays for acceptance by the congregation is, and always will be, one’s intellectual freedom.

Miłosz wrote: “It is not hard to imagine the day when millions of obedient followers of the New Faith may suddenly turn against it.” This will happen in Brooklyn, as it happened in Europe after my family came to America. Until then, I write pseudonymously, afraid to lose what little ground I have gained while taking flight from the apostles who once called themselves my friends.


Lester Berg is a pseudonym. The author is a writer living in New York City. 

Featured photo: Brooklyn, photographed in 2016 by Jason McCann.

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  1. Peter says

    Extract from a yet unpublished text. chapt : The dehumanization process: cause and examples. sub chapter The root for mass dehumanization.

    Karl Popper expresses the same issue on what irrationalists think about rationalists. “They are the poor in spirit … pursuing soulless and mechanical activities…unaware of the deeper problem of human destiny”….

    Note on Karl Popper

    You haven’t heard much from Karl Popper lately. He is known for his critic of the scientific method and his falsification method, but after WWII he wrote a political book “The enemies of the free society” which appears to be today the best explanation ever given on the grand conflict we are facing and its consequences on our civilization. In that work, he is clear minded on Marxism and collectivism and he is explicit about what he thinks about reason. He chooses rationality. He stated it, he wrote it and defended it. He also makes the hypothesis that irrationalism is a long-lasting struggle in our civilization (since Plato and Aristotle) and that our time will have to settle the question. History proved him right. Instead of erecting new statues of Karl Marx, Germany should erect statues of Karl Popper. The first name being the same, it shouldn’t be that hard to get used to it.

    Marxism is a chimera, a Freudian nightmare – macabre and powerful – where everything is interpretation but from which you never wake up.

      • Jim Matlock says

        I will second that! His is a name we just don’t hear enough of these days.

    • John Ashton says

      The book is called “The Open Society and it’s Enemies”!!!! I’ve read it 4 times. Why pretend to have read a book that you don’t even know the title of?

      • Peter says

        Sleep of the tong perhaps. But the need to assess that you know that i don’t know the book instead of asking why i got the title wrong shed light on your motivation.

        let see. the note 52 of chapter 11, Popper quote a philosopher saying that we have enter the age of dishonesty. Who is that philosopher? In the 1961 version after chapter 25, Popper add a addenda. What is the title of that addenda?

        • This “age of dishonesty” is really just a description of humans evolving to possess and practice a supremely advantageous evolutionary trait: deception.

          But it’s not linearly advantageous. The game of poker best exemplifies the never-ending pursuit of arriving at the optimal level of deception to use. Zero deception = you die; 100% deception = you die (it’s no longer deceptive)

          The ability to optimally use deception is probably right up there with delayed gratification as a predictor of success.

          • The Ulcer says

            I like this perspective. Macro-level descriptions of human behavior are almost comforting.

      • Actually, the title doesn’t have an apostrophe and the I is capitalized in “its”. Why pretend to correct someone when you don’t even know the title yourself?

    • Popper’s The Enemies of the Open Society (the first volume deals with Plato and the second volume with Marx and Hegel) is a great, and highly prescient, work of political philosophy. Popper’s contributions to the philosophy of science has taken a few hits though, for a critique of that see David Stove’s Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists

    • Your comment is fascinating and has me thinking about the parallels with Marxism and what is happening currently. Thank you!

  2. Alexandru says

    To New York liberal crowd has to be the douchiest group of people on the planet.

    • Lightning Rose says

      And it’s a very, very small bubble. Rapidly taking on attributes of a circular firing squad, or a snake swallowing its own tail (see AOC and Linda Sarsour). Meanwhile, back in the real world . . .
      no one pays the slightest attention to any of these people’s mental gymnastics.

      Personally, I think we need 95% fewer “intellectuals” and a whole lot more who know how to fix a light switch or a toilet.

      • Tome708 says

        You might get that. Seems the intellectuals are the first ones rounded up, when this reaches completion. Not sure why they advocate for it so badly.

        • C. L. H. Daniels says

          Probably because at least a few of them get to be Pol Pot or V. I. Lenin. They either think it will be themselves, or they’re so naive they’ll never see the likes of Comrade Duch or Laventriy Beria coming for them.

          • Every revolutionary thinks they are going to be one of the nomenklatura, not one of the poor slobs scraping in garbage bins for food.

      • V 2.0 says

        Yup…awaiting the implosion with glee and popcorn. Hopefully literary fiction (is there anything more tedious?) will go down with the ship and we can go back to reading books that are both good and entertaining.

      • Delbor raymondo says

        When someone tells you they are a genius, or the bestwriter in the room, or the smartest person, run away as fast as you can and delete them from your life.

    • Nonnewyorkerwho caresnot says

      After reading this, I have to agree. I’ll never get back the time wasted reading it. It’s so hard to find interesting sites these days. I can scratch this one off.

    • Joan Schaller says

      Duncan Smith, I respectfully disagree wholeheartedly with your statement! Artists are individuals, first and foremost; as with any and all vocations, skills, occuption, hobby, passion! I am a fiber artist. I was a ballet dancer, I am currently a fashion and interior designer by trade; so, I am extremely artistic and have spent the better parts of my life, in the arts world! One of my fiber art pieces won a statewide, juried competition, two others, regional!
      I have belonged to artist’s groups, council’s. I have also been vilified, lied about and blacklisted by most of these groups; not all, but, most. Why? Because I never have, never will submit to ” group think”, ” group politics”,; ultra- liberal ethos! I am a conservative, anti- feminazis, pro- life, pro- 1 A, 2- A, Christian; a left-handed, very petite and white, redhead! I am an anomaly in the art world!!! I am repulsed by vagina depictions in art works, and refuse to show in any such venues! Ditto for piss on The Virgin Mary, although I am not Catholic! Or any art event that gives the ” hee hee hee ” and nod to boarder line smut, porno, vulgarity, etc.; I will have no part of that!
      I believe art should be beautiful. Art can be beautiful and evoke deep, raw emotions! There is a late fiber-quilt-embroidery artist, a lady who survived the Holocaust, Poland invasion, torture, murders, talk about child separations from parents!!!, destructions of entire towns, cities, etc… who created an historical, visual, needle- work depictions of the horrors of the events! Deeply emotional, deeply raw, deeply vivid; rated PG11, if needed! In fact, her works are shown mainly in children’s museums!!l For the sole purpose of educating children about The Holcaust,; her works are astonishing beautiful, albeit, deeply tragic and profound! ( Google it; you will be amazed)!
      While it hurt me deeply to be vilified and blacklisted by these arts groups, and, yes, I was stunned, I know now, it is just as this astute author has written; an elite group of singluar thinking sheep.. group think, speak, vote, act, embrace, celebrate, condone, join, do as they all do and say…..! Not for me!!! I am, thanks be to God and the Bill of Rights, my own independent person!!!
      NO! Not all artists are kooks and lunatics!!!

      • Joan,
        I admire your willingness to travel in those deeply unfriendly circles, but I question your wisdom in doing so. I hope that you live in a place where you can carry concealed because the people on the left DO hate conservatives and think “punching Nazis” is a great idea and a punishment said people well deserve (cf Eric Clanton and his bike lock in Berkeley). You, as a petite white woman, are physically unsafe around those people and would do very well to NEVER forget that.

        Good luck; you sound like a wonderful person!

  3. Interesting piece, and well-written, if perhaps a little skewed by your desire to stick it to ‘Jamie.’ 🙂

    But as a fellow writer, I have to ask: why do you care? About the ‘scene’, I mean. It sounds like Junot Diaz was the wisest person you met. I read this long piece but I saw nothing about your writing, your books, your words, your art. I only saw concerns that you were surrounded by fools. You seem to care very much what theswe fools think of you. Why? The literary ‘scene’ has always been this way – back-biting, bitchy, conformist, careerist – just as other ‘scenes’ are. It’s no coincidence that most great writers did not spend their time at metropolitan parties, but lived and wrote from the edges.

    Go to the edges, and stop caring about them, would be my small piece of advice. The great writing of this era will be written, as it always is, by outsiders with a clear eye. As Orwell put it: ‘good novels are written by people who are not frightened.’

    • Stoic Realist says

      I believe the author was only using ‘Jamie’ as an example around which to structure his piece. Rather than ‘sticking’ it to Jamie he was putting his original experiences into context. By using these experiences in his explanation he put a human frame on his story and made it relatable. It also served to paint the literary scene and its standard characters for his audience. An audience whom, if I had to guess, is meant in part to be aspiring authors for whom he wished to say ‘If you are having these problems you are not alone. If you can not bring yourself to agree with these people you are not necessarily a terrible person.’ His article does a good job of pointing out that there are many ways to think and that there is no one mandatory ideology necessary to be a writer. I am glad that he wrote it.

      As far as ‘how to write’ goes it is best to keep in mind that writers also need to be exposed to real people to help them keep their human interactions in their work real. If by edges you mean asking people on the outside I half agree. (Though if you are writing a story set in the NY literary scene it would be helpful to experience it.) If you are suggesting a Dickinson style hermitage I would advise against it. Even if it would be easy to manage my just expressing a few ideas that go against the current ‘religion’ of the times.

      To the author I say good work. You have courage and I hope you stay strong in your convictions.

      • Well, as I say, I am a writer myself, and I can advise, based on experience, that narrow ‘scenes’ like this don’t reflect anything outside the life of the 8%, if that. If you want to write a satire about it – great! Good place to be. But most people have nothing to do with this elitist world, and you realise that as soon as you step outside of it to where the normies have always been.

        I humbly submit that in the age of populist rebellion, we could do with more writers embedded amongst, or ideally emerging from, the demos, not ensconced in Brooklyn apartments.

        Having said all that, I enjoyed the piece, as I originally wrote. But now – back to your art, sir!

        • Peter from Oz says

          ”But most people have nothing to do with this elitist world, ”

          If you are a writer you should know how to use adjectives with care. “Elitist” is definitely the wrong word in that sentence. From the article it is clear that we are in the modern equivalent of Grub Street among the hacks and hackettes.
          Evrybody is doing dead end jobs whilst hoping to make it as a writer. They are poor and not influential at all.
          Hardly of the elite. The opposite I’d say.

        • Roman says

          Well, how about us readers, what if I learned a great deal of truth from this piece? I think it is primary to write sincerely, based on one’s experience. It was very interesting to learn about Jamie and his problems. And personally, I have lost some friends in the process of Trump age political side-.taking. And it is definitely not about a few elitists or intellectual, it is a virus affecting the whole American society and those who have affinity for America and its culture.

    • Philip Horner says

      I was thinking the same thing. He gets it. He will be helping to make America great again too.

    • xyz and such says

      I agree, I liked the piece except for the lengths he went to disparage his former friend. Seems like that could have been done a little more tactfully without losing the thread and the meaning of that relationship in reference to the article. It felt to me like he was trying to ‘stick it’ to ‘jamie’ as well..

    • Johan says

      Always stay out of coteries. Especially if you want to be an original writer.

  4. Cesar says

    We’ve been living situations like these in Brazil. Being able to perceive the complexity is probably one of the most important virtues in the present days (and it also makes you lose a few friends in the process).

  5. Reverend Wazoo says

    An excellent, wide-ranging piece and thanks for contibuting it. The sense of tragedy comes through well as we see otherwise capable, laudable people sow the seeds of their own demise, not least your ex-partner whose rigid ideological blinders cost her a much more meaningful relationship.

    My condolences on the melancholy state of affairs in your country which necessitates you unable to sign your name to an otherwise innocuous observation of the human condition.

  6. Emmanuel says

    Really good article, the kind of moving and intelligent reflexion you only read on Quillette.
    Also, let’s be honest : how could anyone not be fascinated by Camille Paglia ?

    • Camille Paglia , that ” amaranth of enquiry and knowledge”…? Here, the botanist and stylist in me is surprised, isn’t an amaranth a bitter (amaro) tasting herb/vegetable? I wonder what here can be meant, something positive, obviously, but what? is it a new stylistic concoction or an old style figure??

      • Barney Doran says

        Second definition ‘a flower that never fades.’ Needless to say, I had to look up that one.

        • Thanks, sigh, I was going to look it up but enjoyed a laugh out loud when I read that you did instead. -grin-

        • amaro is the italian for -bitter-. the best film I ever saw was Rizo Amaro (Bitter Rice), great, the scenery, the rice planting women groups, in the mud, skirts bound high up, and the tragical end, that’s why, maybe I remembered the word, because, Italian is not my language.

      • augustine says

        He wrote “blazing amaranth”. My guess is it pertains to celosia (a type of amaranth). Web photos give an indication of this literary reference, a very satisfying one at that.

        • I dived into the amaranth once again, very interesting, all kind of stories. What I thought amarum-anthos (bitter flower) is probably not correct. The -h- is also wrong, it is a-marantus never dying (mar same root as mortal), and an imaginary eternal flower, mythological, as are so many immortal plants, animals (the herd without new births and dying off), humans (and Gods). The name has been given to the family Amarantaceae (Celosia, cocks comb is an ornamental in the family) by taxonomists, maybe because the red flowers can stay a long time upright and red as dried specimen. Recently, they got more fame as super foods, seeds and leaves (of some varieties) are edible (often bitter) and rich in iron, fibres and stuff. Thanks to challenges and side stepping here on Q., I learn a lot.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Around me amaranth is an agricultural weed, colloquoially known as ‘pigweed’. The tender portions are tasty when cooked. The spiny species is an good indicator of overgrazing.

  7. The phenomena you describe is certainly not limited to New York’s literary crowd. A great description of an experience we are all sharing in one way or another.

  8. In Flushing, Queens in the 1980’s we were diverse and proud- even without having a template to follow on how to get along. We just ragged on each other all day, and built lasting friendships.

    The collectivist, deconstructionist left wing is destroying all that.

    I can count as my friends when I was young in Flushing: Croatian/Yugoslavian, Iranian/Persian, poles, jews, irish, italian, puerto rican, chinese, korean, indian, albanian, and more.

    • augustine says

      Before “diversity” was weaponized. Diversity can be something wonderful, as you indicate, but its appreciation excludes it being a ruling social principle.

  9. I notice a new kind of SJW style here on Quillette, of the kind of …..oh, oh, oh….., read me, and judge for your self, how unjustly I have been treated and confronted by my friends/ambience/somebody in the elevator, and how wrong are those other people. This is again one of the known type, about the 12th or 13th in line now this year (though, I’m not yet a year following this site).

    • Daath says

      It’s not surprising that a movement growing steadily more insane will keep alienating some of its more reasonable members. It can take a while for reality to sink in. This writer appears to have been a fellow traveler, and those aren’t immersed in the craziness the way core members are. When it comes to your friends (who once were probably sane), you can find all kinds of explanations for what’s in retrospect obviously foul. Or maybe “Orange Man Bad” starts playing on loop in your head, convincing you that you need to stick with them, because the other side is so much worse. There are all kinds of reasons. Nothing is more human than fooling yourself.

      I don’t pity the author for what he went through. It wasn’t too bad for him (or years ago, me). But I see even less reason to sneer at him because it took him a while for to see that something’s wrong. I don’t see articles like this as SJW style self-absorbed whining, either. There are progressives out there who have doubts about where the movement is going, but feel isolated in a sea of true believers, and in any case don’t want to abandon liberalism completely. Autobiographical exit pieces can be a lifeline for such people.

      Failing that, at least these have some nice anecdotes about how obnoxious and self-righteous that scene can get. I’d rather be a soulless troglodyte, to be honest.

    • This sort of exposure of the morally pretentious is not published in many places, and so still seems fresh to many of us. It may be that you don’t encounter this level of leftist anger in your family or workplace, in which case you might count yourself lucky.

      You might also put your effort into content rather than how to be most clever in your insults.

      • Leftist anger in family or workplace?? I dont know that, because I don’t take my family and workplace (of once) serious. You live a lot better by that! Hakuna matata, they say in Swahili!

    • Injustice to the author is not the author’s point in this story. It contains no self-pity that I can see. What he is pointing out is how the friends who have chosen to attack him have compromised their understanding of the world by blaming everything on Trump. He has also provided a character sketch of a friend in deep emotional trouble who has fallen into a potentially self-destructive way of coping with it, again by using ideology to explain his problems.

  10. peanut gallery says

    Jamie sounds like a narcissistic douche in the first few descriptions of him. The only response to Narcissistic injury is often violence, so I was surprised the author didn’t report a discovery of spousal abuse. Either way, it’s not surprising that narcissism afflicts so many in the New Left and out society.

    Trump IS the perfect representative for a country of narcissists.

        • “It’s amazing how many heads President trump lives in, rent free.”

          “The real-estate magnate perfected the art of the deal.”

          Thanks for the laugh ‘guys’!

  11. Martin28 says

    The New York literary crowd, like many artistic communities of writers and actors and comedians today, has made a Faustian bargain in reverse. They have given up knowledge and artistic freedom for the intoxicating feeling of being part of a mob with a common enemy—attacking while simultaneously feeling like a victim, and being part of a noble cause fighting for justice. For that they have given up being true artists.

    • Cindy Satwell says

      Well, maybe they weren’t true artists to begin with. Thought that was the point of the article, actually–failures feel successful when they attack [Trump/old white males/their parents’ generation etc. etc.] And what’s wrong with whining?

      • V 2.0 says

        Some have lamented that there are not enough conservative writers. This is not quite true. The arts/literary scene is bursting at the seams with conservative people. They are just conservative about different things. Hopefully this is a sign a cleanup operation in progress which, while unpleasant for its victims, will make room for new ideas at least some of which will not align themselves with traditional progressive values.

      • Martin28 says

        That’s not quite fair. Maybe the former friend of the author does or doesn’t have artistic ability (it sounds like he does), but this mindset has taken over the New York literary scene and more. There are a lot of very artistically talented people in New York.

    • This is an highly insightful comment, Martin, a very powerful summary of the current social dynamic. When I read it, I immediately thought of The New Yorker and Saturday Night Live. Keep up the good work.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Members of #Resistance badly need to talk to the few remaining members of the real Resistance. The ones who fought the Nazi’s during the Occupation. Especially the survivors of Gestapo interrogations. Or at least read some of their accounts of resistance, interrogation, and intrigue amongst the Resistance (who betrayed Jean Moulin?). It might be educational to a few. Chanting in unison blocking streets in ANTIFA-friendly cities just doesn’t cut it.

      • Joan Schaller says

        TarsTarkas! Exactly!!! Excellent comment and observation! Hubby and I have been saying this for quite a while! He experinced the hideous, toxic, dangerous perils of East Germany as a wee lad! He was used as a smuggler to help family behind The Wall! He will never forget the reign of terror, silence, trains stopped with travelers frisked, or worse, removed, the dead silence in the streets, the blank stares in lifeless eyes, the propoganda everywhere… he was only 5-9 and it left an indelible impression on him!
        We cracked the champagne when The Wall came down; a defining moment just like 9/11 for us!
        These liberal lunatics have not been taught history, and it’s a very dangerous thing! We fear for our future because of their abject ignorance, rosy- glass lenses perspective of the way they think things should be, their existentially unrealistic expectations and demands! Hope lies in the fact that the pendulum swings… and authors such as this article, who boldly refute the lunatics!

  12. This is a very well written article. It touches on a number of disturbing trends that are cracking our society. The slow creep of both doublespeak and doublethink are, in my opinion, the most disturbing of the pathologies discussed here.

    Donald Trump is a narcissist and a media whore. There is little point in denying the damage he is doing to this country, both within and without. That being said, it is important to note that he was not elected in a vacuum. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton left a nation filled with angry, disaffected people who were willing to vote for anyone, even Trump, who promised something different. That’s why we are stuck with this chap now.

    • Philip Horner says

      We aren’t stuck with anybody. It’s you who are stuck… meanwhile the rest of us will make America great again. (see how easy it is?)

    • Lightning Rose says

      Please elucidate the “damage.” Most of us live in a financially-mandated world. Our checkbooks, not our ideas, delineate the borders of our lives. Or perhaps you’d LIKE 1.8% growth back again?

      • I’m not suggesting that a return to the days of a stagnant economy are in any way worthwhile. That would be a terrible idea.

        However, what good is everything the administration seeks to accomplish if by antagonizing large portions of the electorate it doesn’t survive the next election? Or do you think the return to power of the far left is a good move?

    • A C Harper says

      Looking on from outside the USA I can’t help wonder if Trump, for all his faults, is not a necessary corrective for social themes getting beyond reasonable control.

      The leftish/liberal style of government has had a good run and now seems to be struggling to make more progress. There are people who think that history runs in (approximately) 50 year cycles. Perhaps Trump is the reset button for the next cycle?

    • stevengregg says

      Well, you have a strong argument to call Trump a narcissist and a media whore, which is not like Obama at all, right? Trump is an unlovely man, yet he is doing the country good by blocking the damage being done by the Democrats. I am amazed how the economy turned around just by swapping a socialist president for a capitalist president. That’s doing a lot of Americans good, like the jobless steelworkers I taught in junior college who seemed stunned by their situation. It’s doing the neighborhoods I saw there good, all boarded up. And Trump will stop the insane Democrat plan to plant welfare families in middle class neighborhoods via Section 8 housing, turning suburbs into ghettos.

      • If what he is doing won’t survive an election cycle because of his antics, it won’t matter for very long.

      • Vincent says


        “I am amazed how the economy turned around just by swapping a socialist president for a capitalist president.”

        You must live in a strange echo chamber if this is you assessment of the U.S. economy. It’s continued a pattern of growth over the past few years—growth that needs to be controlled via higher interest rates and taxes to avoid overheating. I don’t know what subject you taught in junior college but it obviously wasn’t economics.

        • stevengregg says

          I taught math in jc after I got my MBA, which included a healthy dose of economics. My professors seemed to think I mastered economics and I value their opinion more than yours, which is to say, more than a trash-talking troll. We are in an employees market, with employers starved for qualified employees and recruiters hard pressed to find them and get them hired. That’s opposite of the Obama economy where recruiters had hundreds of applicants for each job opening.

          As for controlling economic growth with higher interest rates and taxes, the last thing we need is for Big Dumb Gummint to intervene in a hot economy. The market is smarter than the gummint and can manage itself far better.

        • @ Vincent

          I think the statement about a Capitalistic president making a difference after so many years of Progressive policies is a matter of general observation, not an assessment of the economy. At the moment, we cannot even believe what we are told about anything by our beloved media, whether economics or policies from one day to the next, but I am aware of rising wages among workers in my community, and a sudden dearth of people to fill starting level jobs people were scrambling to get only two short years ago.

    • Πέτρος says

      “Donald Trump is a narcissist and a media whore. There is little point in denying the damage he is doing to this country, both within and without.”

      There is a staggering contradiction here I would like to point out in the spirit of healthy discussion:

      Left and Right, many people are saying something like, “The US government is a catastrophe has been for a while.” Some pound on the government for disastrous international errors like the Iraq war and Afghanistan. Some point to the far-Left and their pronoun policing and their pivot to postmodern victimhood culture, Marxism, and the like (Quillette is a hub of this). Still others criticize the “Deep State”, or America’s soi-disant white supremacy, income inequality, disastrous immigration policy (which means different things to different people) etc.

      Yet many–including the author–seem to take it as *axiomatic* that a bull in the china shop is BAD. In our current situation, why is damage BAD? If the fabric of the state is a mess by almost everyone’s definition, why keep patching it? Why not tear it apart and reweave it? It’s scary, sure. But I remain unconvinced that just because something makes me uncomfortable, it’s ipso facto wrong.

      So which is it? Is the system broken beyond repair; or do you want the mean man in the big white house kicked out by any means necessary so that it can be repaired?

      Moreover, how do we know that’s not precisely what Donald John Trump is engineering? The chaos he evinces looks awfully well orchestrated from an outside standpoint. Maybe he believes that the machine is so messed up that taking the usual steps through the usual channels is a fool’s errand. Perhaps he has decided that it’s time to start so many fires that the establishment exhausts themselves putting them out and tear each other apart in the process, allowing some deep shifting to occur.

      I can’t read his mind, so I can’t prove any of this, any more than I can diagnose him with mental illness from watching CNN (*cough cough*). But I do wonder whether it’s wise to assume we DO know the mind of a man who became a billionaire twice, bedded a succession of the world’s most beautiful women, and won the presidency against overwhelming odds. Based on his results, I feel pretty comfortable concluding DJT is a whole lot cleverer than I am, or anyone writing on this anonymous comments board.

      • From the way this last election went, I don’t think the tea leaves look very good. If everything he does get reversed by a left wing victory in 2020, what’s the point?

        • Ned Flanders says

          You still haven’t provided any evidence of damage though, other than saying Trump antagonizes the public, which is at best an over-simplification. I don’t want to assume anything, but is it possible that you’ve heard so often that Trump is damaging the country, that you’ve come to believe it without knowing why?

          • Polarizing the political process to the point that a reactionary movement develops is not a good move. I don’t disagree with much of Trump’s economic program. But constantly poking the bull with his mannerisms already gave us a divided Congress that will likely cause serious problems

      • Yep. Many people voted for Trump because they DID want someone who wasn’t a Washington insider, and would hopefully ‘shake things up.’

  13. Quilty says

    Here’s what I dread. Really, this is all just fashion. The vast majority of these writers are progressive ONLY because they think New York writers are supposed to be progressive. Any day now they’re going to start catching on to the reality that liberals have become oppressive thought-police and a huge buzz-kill. But these New York writers won’t catch on to it as an intellectual epiphany but as a fashion trend. Over the next few years, a “real” writer will increasingly become someone who is “brave” enough to take stabs at identity politics. The same people who are appalled … JUST APPALLED … that you think Kevin Williamson is fun to read … the same people who treat you like some anti-intellectual hick for saying that you don’t believe that the police go out of their way to shoot black people … these same people will suddenly be peacocking about as avatars of a new skepticism. There will be just enough people making the switch, so that there will be no risk in making a #MeToo joke. It will make you rakish and edgy and sexy.

    • Dragons says

      “These same people will suddenly be peacocking about as avatars of a new skepticism…”

      I definitely see this happening in 2-3 years, as more and more people exit communities like the one this article describes. 2020-2021 it will reach a head.

    • Villagedianne says

      Very possible. In the 70’s it became cool to trash the 60’s ideals and to make very un-PC jokes.

    • “liberals have become oppressive thought-police”

      Please try harder to be less tribal. Anyone with an open mind can clearly see extremist thought policing coming from many sides. From the left there is a lot but on the right we have anything from the ludicrous “war on Christmas” to cries of “white genocide” or “male wussification” and other absurdist identity micro-aggressions that trigger conservatives. Seriously, go read a typical Breitbart or Federalist article and tell me the right isn’t triggered by stupid identity issues as well.

      Claiming identity politics is only a left wing problem is lazy. Identity is a core human trait and all of us react to having our identity challenged. If we want to combat the thought police we’d be much more successful if we worked to errdicate the tribal bias we have in spotting it.

      The author of this article is pointing out thought policing on the left. David Frum wrote a similar piece years ago in his article about the “Fox News Geezer Syndrome” that he and many of his fellow conservatives have witnessed in their Fox News watching parents and their irrational anger and lack of persective.

      “Search for nothing any more, nothing
      except truth.
      Be very still, and try and get at the truth.

      And the first question to ask yourself is:
      How great a liar am I?”
      – D. H. Lawrence

      • The thing is….How many people care about ‘getting at the truth’ to begin with?

  14. Heraklion says

    Your story about Jamie reminds me of a former friend, a few years older than i am.

    We both undertook difficult studies, Law for him and Medecine for me. I met him while i still was in Med School, and he had already graduated and landed a job in the real estate sector.
    As i would learn later, though his job was an high income job, it wasn’t the “dream” job of Notaire (a highly prized position here in France) he had studied and longed for. I considered him a very fine person, very cultured and knowledgeable on a lot of things, although a bit arogant and cocky.

    When i met him, my friend was definitely on the Right : during a day spent at an amusement park, i heard him ranting aloud about how abnormal it was than they served turkey sandwiches instead of ham sandwiches (so that muslims could buy them, indeed).

    As the years went by, i witnessed him turn into a bitter person, as prompt to boast about his (rare) successes than to denigrate the successes of other.
    As so many people consumed by jealousy and ressentment, my friend slowly turned into a Leftist : constantly virtue-signaling on Facebook (about how concerned he was about the ecology, animal rights, the rights of women and minorities…), and berating others.
    One of his favorite hobbies was to scout the Facebook walls of friends and acquaintances to track any discourse diverging from his leftist views. A contrarian by nature, he posted lenghty and aggressive messages to destroy the posts he didn’t like.

    Though this friend had once tried (and failed) to get one of the most highly paid jobs you can find in France, it was obvious he was jealous of my success in the Medecine sector, and jealous of “rich people” in general.

    The point of no return in our relationship came a few weeks ago, after another vicious attack on my Facebook page :
    I took a look on his own Facebook wall, to find myself confronted with a word that is still relatively unknown here in France, but that i have come to fear thanks to sites like Quillette or Areo :

    My ex-friend was boasting about how Woke he was.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I have noticed the same phenomenon amongst my friends too. If they fail at something and don’t have a fall back plan, they seem to get very angry at those who succeed. They also become more and more left-wing and tedious.
      Fortunately most of my old friends are apolitical or slightly to the right.

  15. Dark Matter says

    I found this an absolutely engrossing read – thank you!

  16. Stephen J. says

    “The price one pays for acceptance by the congregation is, and always will be, one’s intellectual freedom.”

    This is true, but I think it should be pointed out that to some extent it is true of any kind of philosophical commitment. To join any faith, religious or not, is to commit to upholding its precepts, which by definition means you have forsaken the freedom to defend or uphold others; as a matter of simple logic, you can’t regain that freedom and still maintain the original commitment. And if you want to be a member of a community which requires that commitment, asking to keep the membership while refusing to pay the dues is just hypocrisy.

    Put simply, you can’t eat your cake and still have it too. So much of modern moral argument seems to me to be an attempt to get around that basic logical truth.

    • Martin28 says

      How about a philosophy that advocates free speech and thought, true diversity of opinion and culture, at its core? That philosophy is at least tolerant of difference of opinion and life choice, although it may strongly disagree with another opinion.

      • TarsTarkas says

        To a Leftist you are describing the philosophy of unwoke knuckle-dragging deplorables, hillbillies, members of the NSDAP, and other extreme right-wing dregs of society. Toleration is a dog whistle for racism and bigotry; wrongthinking must always be assiduously sought out and liquidated. You will be made to care, made to bow to the General Will which is always correct, or you will be destroyed. Selah.

        • Sorry, I just don’t have sufficient sympathy to go round to all these easily wounded people who expect to have their boo-boo’s fixed…by others.

    • Kevin says

      I Googled the quote in question out of curiosity, and was redirected back to this comment. It makes quite a nice tagline.

  17. Being part of a ‘scene’ necessarily means aligning yourself to those shared elements which define it. In this case victim politics which allows those that believe it to be pure blameless victims responsible for nothing including their own success or failure. None of that is very surprising although naively I am shocked by a literature professor who lectures on the role of history in literature and did not know who E.L.Doctorow was. It says something quite sad about the state of american academics in the arts fields.

    It may be a bit pednatic but I think it is wrong to describe Trump as a misogynist. It is quite clear that he treats everyone badly and has no consideration for anyone but himself. The misogynist label comes from the victim culture which ignores the poor treatment of men and focusses only on his behaviour towards women or other designated victim groups.

    There is a link between the election of a president who is so tempermentally unsuited for office and the crass victimhood narrative of identitfy politics. Away from a narrow segment of the population who enjoy wallowing in their own victimhood or supposed privilige it is deeply unpopular and leaves a vaccum for anything and anyone who seems to oppose it.

    • I’m confused. Doesn’t a misogynist hate women? Doesn’t Trump love women, maybe too much? We used to call them rakes. But I guess it’s better newspeak to call a ladies’ man a lady loather.

      • Peter from Oz says


        Well said.
        I’m heartily sick of left-leaning wankers misusing the word ‘misogynist’ and right leaning wankers misusing the word ‘misandry’.
        The number of misogynists and misandrists in the world is probably very, very small. On does not have a hatred of the other sex just because one dislikes the politics of the activists claiming to stand up for members of that sex. One doesn’t hate men or women as a group just because one likes the idea of them conforming to certain sterotypes or norms.

        • Farris says


          I agree with your assessment of the over use of the terms misogynst and misandry. However teaching that masculinity is toxic would qualify as misandry in my opinion.

        • I tend to agree but whereas it is almost impossible to find any truely misogynistic statement it is relatively easy to find truely misandric statements. Jeremy Corbyn muttering unde rhis breath after prime ministers question time ‘Stupid Women’ is not misogynistic despite the claims that it is. ‘Why can’t we hate men’ the title of an article in the washington post clearly is misandry.
          It is true that only a minority of feminists are misandric and feminism is itself a minority view so misadnry is rare but not nearly as rare as misogyny.

          • Heike says

            Misandry isn’t even a word. My spellchecker underlines it in red. Misogyny works just fine, though. Thus we can stop talking about misandrists (another squiggly red underline) because they don’t exist.

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        Yea, we used to call them “rakes.” We’d also call them creeps and rapists by today’s standards.

        You probably think blacks had it better under slavery too, don’t you?

      • @ benita…

        I notice the word ‘misogynist’ quite overused too…Trumps daughter would definitely disagree he is a misogynist, since he sent her out at fifteen to ‘learn the ropes’ on construction sites, etc. He definitely treated her well, and wanted her to be a capable woman.

  18. Winston Smith says

    This is an interesting piece. However, I suspect the author is taking disparate themes and trying to connect all the dots. The theme most relevant to Quillette readers will be Jamie as a portrait of the SJW who didn’t read the classics (despite being a writer) because “those are just dead White European males.” This is important. However, mostly the piece is a study on three different topics: 1. Writers tend to be narcissistic, pretentious womanizing men; 2. The literary scene is full of shit; 3. The humanities departments of North American universities are in decline.

    As for falling out with people due to ideological differences, I’ve been experiencing that in New York for decades. It’s only recently that I’ve realized left-wing university indoctrination to be the cause. Before Trump was relevant or the term “SJW” existed, I lost friends over arguments about making Spanish an official national language in the US. I also lost female friends because I wasn’t interested in gay culture or didn’t like hearing their complaints about (straight white cisgender) men. Those people didn’t openly and proudly label themselves the way left-wingers do now. Nor did they use terms like “the patriarchy.” It was more subtle. But now it all makes sense. I was in the company of self-loathing whites and feminists.

    • Peter from Oz says

      ”…self-loathing whites and feminists”

        • Heike says

          Oikophobia is the opposite of xenophobia. Xenophobia is an irrational fear of the unknown, while oikophobia is the irrational fear of the known. Oikophobia is widespread among the literary types discussed here and in DC as well. An oikophobe

          Big-city liberal punches down and lets rural Americans know what she really thinks. Speak truth to the powerless!

          Note to Melinda: San Francisco is actually you know, somewhere where people shitting on the street isn’t uncommon. This actually IS uncommon in middle America. That would literally make SF an actual shithole. Just pointing that out for clarity.

    • I am beginning to find learning a new vocabulary via Google and Wikipedia offensive to simply please a small group of non-normative people…whomever they may be. Whatever happened to the King’s English? And please don’t tell me it can only be found in the KJV!

  19. This was pretty interesting. The protagonist is battling a bit of a stereotype of the over the top anti-Trump rhetoric that people are doing as an artform these days. I can only imagine how tiring it must be to live in that world. Failing the purity tests thrust upon him shouldn’t be so destructive. My guess is that all the anti-Trump artisans secretly respect those who have the courage to battle the groupthink, it’s no longer radical to be overtly anti-Trump. It is downright common, and boring.

    • @ tds

      I don’t think there is any hidden respect within the histrionically inclined anti-Trumpers no matter their political ideology. They are too busy emoting to think of anything that deep,,,or even to think, at least in a logical manner.

  20. Signe James says

    “… my long-time girlfriend, who got swept up in these same currents, and who once literally wept in my presence because I had made a flattering reference to Camille Paglia.”

    Back in 2005, at a small dinner party we hosted, one of the guests exclaimed to me “Don’t you want to save the world!?” When I answered, seriously, “No, I don’t”, she rose from the table, rushed into the bathroom, and fell into a bout of sobbing.

    It was the canary in the coal mine, but we did not see it, back then.

    • Lightning Rose says

      I’d have responded to that, “Who says the world is in danger of needing “saving?” From what?

      • stevengregg says

        Then Communists would have accused of having false conscience, not seeing the oppression in the world. The hipsters would say you’re not woke.

    • There was a time not that long ago when asked “Don’t you want to save the world!?” I’d say “of course, I recycle!” and that was enough fresh air for the canaries back then.

    • stevengregg says

      Not wanting to save the world was the difference National Socialists had with Communists.

      • TarsTarkas says

        The real difference between the NSDAP and the Communists was based on biology, not economic policy. Schicklgrubr’s acolytes believed men and women were made of stone, that genetics and genetics only made people what they were, nurture had nothing to do with it, and nothing could be done with them except keep or discard. The Communists believed that men and women were made of clay and could be molded into proper Soviet people (Lysenkoism), and if a few broke in the kiln (actually more than few, as history shows), well, you had to break eggs to make omelets.

        • Are there similarly succinct differences between the Progressive Left and the Conservative Right in America?

    • Laura says

      I had a similar experience, and also around 2005, when I was in my late teens. I was part of a writing group (this was back in the LiveJournal days) and we’d share our writing, questions, and general musings to the LJ community. One day I innocently shared an observation that now that I was in a happy relationship, I was less inspired to write poetry, because my poetry stemmed from sad and negative feelings. (Don’t laugh, I was eighteenish… a young eighteenish.)

      No sooner did I click Post that I got a whole screed from someone I never interacted with before and barely seen in the community at all. Several paragraphs oozing with disdain, to the effect of “I can’t see all the suffering in the world without my heart bleeding, who cares whether or not you’re in a relationship, you selfish [sexist expletive removed].” At that point I realized the writing community had peaked, and left it.

      I now know this was an early prototype of an SJW. Funny, if you’d asked me back then which of my acquaintances would turn into SJWs (after explaining to me what an SJW is, of course)… I would have predicted with 99% accuracy. No career, no relationship, no real goals (apart from wishful thinking, princess/rockstar stuff)… Only oversize egos with nothing to back them up.

      • stevengregg says

        Sounds like a sad lefty spinster living alone in a house full of cats.

  21. Cornfed says

    During my 20+ years in publishing, i rubbed shoulders with a few well known writers/tv personalities (within my narrow field). Mostly, the experiences were deflating. These larger than life characters only seem that way until you hang out with them in person, then they’re just regular people. Some that I knew were very nice, down to earth folks, others were just plain yucky. Suffice it to say, if you don’t know someone personally, you don’t know them at all.
    One thing was almost universally true in my experience, however: the disdain that the artsy crowd has for anyone/anything politically right of center is boundless and irrational. To listen to these types extol the stupidest ideas — they would believe just about any absurdity, as long as it was fashionable–then turn around and mock anyone who doesn’t think like they do….uggh. I’m glad I’m not part of that crowd anymore.

    • V 2.0 says

      Have a degree in English Lit. Ended up in tech because being a barista does not pay enough to retire on. Ever. Feel like I dodged major bullet. Yay!

  22. Dragons says

    “Until then, I write pseudonymously, afraid to lose what little ground I have gained…”

    I find this statement sad, perhaps because I have a similar fear of ruining my career prospects in the literary world by expressing my honest views. I admire the writer and am glad someone wrote this piece.

    • Stephanie says

      @Dragons, sad indeed. I have a similar fear about ruining my prospects at an academic career. In communities supposedly about free thought and creative expression, the homogeneity of opinion is oppressingly absolute. I thank God every day that I am not attracted to the soyboys who dominate universities, and ended up someone outside the bubble who can keep me grounded.

  23. TINSTAR says

    Am I the only one that laughs at a bunch of New York intellectuals (lovers of Trotsky, Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini and Mao) calling for Russians to be deported? They act like they didn’t have an obscene love for all things Communist or Fascist.

    Also, I am glad someone else Taneisha Smokes for what he is; an hack writer whose message happens to assuage the guilt of elite intellectuals and their sycophantic messengers, and one that also happens to feed an anger filled separatist narrative. Maya Angelou, who I thought was second rate at best, could run circles around Ta-Neisha, and she was not a trim figure. Just saying

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Lovers of Mussolini, Lenin, Mao? How fucking stupid are you? What a ridiculous cliche. Yea, a bunch of trust fund baby assholes are big into Mao. They all run around in their Che Guevara t-shirts playing hackey sack all day with daisies in their long hair. What decade are you living in?

      These people are rabid capitalists. You think they give a shit about the working class or equality? They LOVE that idiots like you think they’re far left; it helps them hide how craven and soulless they really are.

      • Paula says

        Well put. Globalists. Let the cheapest labor in the world make your crap. We’ll pay you off with welfare. But men don’t like welfare. They voted for Trump because they WANT TO WORK.

  24. Morgan says

    “When we first met, Jamie (not his real name) told me that he was a genius—that his Catholic school teachers said so after he wrote a poem about vaginas and read it aloud in front of the whole class”

    Modern art has come a long way. Not sure you need to keep praising him as a good writer. Acceptance by the writing community might as well be proof of your inability to write well. Though it may be proof of your ability to write mechanically.

    Hope your friend, the so called writer, can find a good english ‘translation’ of Lolita.
    And how can you hate Lolita after the first few lines? They’re some of the most famous lines. How can you read “She was Lo, plain lo in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock.”, and not want to read more? A disinterest in Nabokov is, in my opinion, the biggest sign of a bad writer.

  25. Knight says

    You didn’t lose your friends because of trump, you lost your friends because they became misguided and doubled down on it.

    sounds like you shed off the negativity that was holding you back, hope to see you in time square someday writing and looking! cheers!

  26. Richard says

    Terrific Article thank you!!! Loved it…my favorite part
    “But let go we must. For any form of idolatry—or idolatry’s opposite, demonization—always will bind an intellect in the shackles of some New Faith. The price one pays for acceptance by the congregation is, and always will be, one’s intellectual freedom.” Genius!

  27. M Johnson says

    Sorry, but you should have dropped “Jamie” and his whole crew and every bit of (bad) advice he had ever given you, the moment he said “The clown is here.” WTF did you think he meant?

  28. yandoodan says

    Your portrait of The Novelist is striking. The Novelist wants to produce important art, and craves praise from the people they admire — professors, reviewers, novelists they see as superior to themselves. They lust for affirmation. What they don’t do is enjoy writing novels; witness Jamie, who has spent years in writing a single novel, to no effect other than getting praised for it.

    I write novels because they are immensely fun. Each page is a delight. I spent a day researching trains into communist East Berlin, then knocked down a dozen pages about an armed confrontation on one of them. Did you know that the East Germans made you pull the shades down as you transited their country? True. These novels of mine aren’t very good, but writing them is a kick. Publishing them is secondary; it’s really nice, but I’d write novels anyway.

    I think a lot of poets get it. Poems don’t sell; you do it for love. My models are two different aunts who left their heirs with boxes of dreadful greeting-card poetry — lifelong passions filled that filled them with joy.

    • says

      What an awesome comment. Wish these comments weren’t anonymized. I’d look up your books and read them.

    • V 2.0 says

      Thanks for making the comment of the day and telling me something I didn’t know. Like the other replies I wish I could read your books (you had me at ‘trains in communist East Berlin’.

    • DiamondLil says

      “boxes of dreadful greeting-card poetry — lifelong passions filled that filled them with joy.” More successful as writers than a dozen joyless NYRB strivers.

  29. Quilty says

    What an awesome comment. With these comments weren’t anonymous. I’d look up your novels and read them!

  30. Tome708 says

    All I will say is I enjoyed it, thank you. Literary critique is out of my wheel house. I also enjoyed the commentary. (As usual)

  31. Jules Sylver says

    This started out as an interesting article, and ended up as a cookie cutter Quillette perspective about the ossified leftists who are stifling intellectual liberty in contrast to the lone braveheart who sets out to defend free thinking.

    Many personal relationships have also broken up as a direct consequence of the Trump administration, with the fault lines running perpendicular to those described by Mr. Berg. In such cases divergent political affiliations which once existed comfortably between dear friends has been replaced with such strident accusatory apocalyptic angry right wing rhetoric, the 2 dear friends have finally parted and gone their own way.

    • Harland says

      Ossified leftists aren’t stifling intellectual liberty? Really? Since when?

      has been replaced with such strident accusatory apocalyptic angry right wing rhetoric

      This is a strawman argument, a deliberately inaccurate restating of the opponent’s position. You are a bad person and you should feel bad.

    • Paula says

      My only criticism of the article is the extremely (too extremely) careful way he distanced himself from any true praise of Trump. Listen to Coffee With Scott Adams. Not saying he doesn’t go the other way too far, but I’d rather see joy and explanation than doubled-down hatred of a man who has accomplished a LOT.

    • michael farr says

      hey Jules
      i don’t think of Jamie as an “ossified leftist” but a pathetic failure, spouting the lines that he thought would most appeal to those he thought had power. I think he believes in nothing.
      It is sad when friendships end because one or the other could not agree to disagree.

  32. Farris says

    Your so called friends in the literary community were not friends, they were allies. When you only wanted friendship, they ceased to be interested.
    Jamie wanted neither a friend or ally. He wanted a wingman or side kick. When you ceased playing Tonto to his Lone Ranger, he was no longer interested.

  33. “Until then, I write pseudonymously, afraid to lose what little ground I have gained while taking flight from the apostles who once called themselves my friends.”

    I sincerely hope that you choose the life perspective that allows you to laugh at the absurdity of this. Madness all around …

  34. stevengregg says

    This madness did not start with Trump. I saw it with Bush as well at the anti-war demonstrations during the Afghan and Iraq wars. The demonstrators were pretty happy when our troops appeared to bog down in a sandstorm a couple weeks in. We looked like we were losing and it filled their hearts with joy.

    A couple weeks later, we took Baghdad. The demonstration after that was angry, so angry you could feel it in the air that some violence could break out at any moment. They were outraged that we were winning. I witnessed about a hundred protestors standing at the temporary fence erected in the park next to the White House and shouting every dirty word they could think of at it. They were spitting as they shouted in rage so that the spittle was wetting their shirts. It looked like some sort of medieval mass exorcism.

    And they did the same thing to Reagan. This is not a hate specific to Trump but rather a feature of leftism which hates, hates, hates. The object of their hate changes but the hate marches on.

    • Stephanie says

      @stevegregg. How very true. I’m (barely) old enough to remember just how vehemently the media and the left hated Bush, and the ubiquitous characterisation of his supporters as rednecks and racists. They think 8 years of a Democrat is enough for people to forget, and believe their ridiculous claim that THIS TIME the Republican really is horrendous.

      I predict in 10-12 years, the media and the left will be saying that the new Republican president is worse than Trump.

    • Paula says

      They throw their shadow onto others (who have their own shadow to contend with) so are purer than Jesus. If there are demons, demons that move into where their shadows should be. Where’s that herd of swine when you need them?

      I’m reminded of Carl Jung’s definition of a neurotic: “A neurotic refuses to LIVE his own suffering.” A neurotic constantly baits people, feeling relief when his unseen hell contaminates them. Then he is relieved, for the nonce. “A neurotic refuses to LIVE his own suffering.”

  35. Peter from Oz says

    I’m not very clued up on the American literary scene, but I know that in Oz and the UK there is a heralthy and very influential centre right media. Is there such a think in America. If so, shouldn’t our writer start submitting his work in that direction.?

    • michael farr says

      hey peter, how about a spell check mate to really drive the point home. 🙂

  36. “I hate my boss: Fuck Trump! My spouse hates me: Fuck Trump! No one will buy my book: Fuck Trump! Please, I want somebody to love me: Fuck Trump!”

    Funny, I explicitly recall conservatives blaming all the ills of this world on Obama when he was president.

    Plus ça change plus c’est pareil…

    • No. Really no. I knew lots of people who disliked Obama and did not blame all the ills of the world on him, nor the random irritations of life, nor personal tragedies and losses. I occasionally met such people but they were usually ill-educated and unable to account for their troubles in other ways. What is so terrible when the elite of whatever political side does this is that they really ought to know better and set a better example. What is also terrible is that for all the political elites’ hatred of each other (I’m speaking of the upper echelons of power here, not literary types) they apparently shared almost exactly the same beliefs about foreign wars, immigration, and abortion. They just pretended to have different views to get elected by their constituents, who never noticed because they voted by brand in the end rather than by policy. Electing Trump was part of an effort, unsuccessful alas, to break this pattern.

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        Yea, really, yea. It was so common to hear Obama blamed for everything it became a tired joke very quickly. How disingenuous (and convenient) for you to pretend otherwise.

    • Heike says

      The difference is power.

      When Jazz Nobody blames zis problems on the President, it doesn’t affect anyone but zim. When media elites, widely read writers, and publishing agents blame all their problems on the President, it affects all of us.

      Odd how you can’t see the difference. It was Leftists who lectured me about power differentials and how they change everything. Now suddenly that’s out the window?

  37. damn the content on this platform is getting better and better.

  38. Laura says

    Fantastic article! I was cringing and agreeing all at once. Unfortunately, this toxicity is now starting to trickle into genre fiction as well. I’ve seen too many examples to list them here. A lot of people, publishing professionals included, see it for the lunacy it is… when you talk to them privately. But of course no one can speak up, because no one wants to lose their career.

  39. Just Sayin' says

    It sounds as though the author’s friends are unbearable cunts.

  40. The clown image is precious. Well done! And the pendulum swings . . .

  41. Mattheus says

    You seem to be a member of David Brooks’ “exhausted majority.”

    It also seems that a lot of people missed the point of the article. Much of it does focus on Jamie, yes, but the insight about people channeling hatred irrelevant to Trump onto Trump is one of the main observations at work. At the exact time when SJW rhetoric was growing up around police shootings and flooding the internet, Trump was elected. I think this piece does a pretty good job of showing how this perfect storm has created our current national bad mood.

    I could multiply his stories along these lines tenfold. Many people who were previously multifaceted friends who loved art are now one track minds who center on destroying Trump and his followers as though he and they are the horcruxes for all the evil ideas there ever were.

  42. large living louie says

    I appreciate this glimpse into a world I might otherwise not be able to know.

    I’m kind of enjoying the spectacle of SJW-dom and the left now hitting into some kind of outer bound that appears to be set by nature on the further elaboration of its ideals.

    I think we are being informed by the universe that idealism is not the only ingredient in the soup that we are hungry for. It takes realism and humbleness to actually do anything, and perhaps other hard-won traits and qualities.

    Also the anti-society bias of utopians in general, is something that becomes more and more clear. The obsession with the poor is something I noticed, in studying the history of Marxism. It appears so unimpeachably virtuous, to have the poor and down-trodden on your mind all the time. But what if this is cover for some other psychological discontent? The plight of the poor is great cover for remaining constantly in the mindset of ‘calling out’ society on its iniquities. Actually if you were to seek an excuse to remain in a permanent adversarial stance vis-a-vis society in general, taking upon yourself the cause of the poor and downtrodden would be a great way to maintain that stance indefinitely and to ennoble it. Society is not perfect, and the poor / outgroups / the Other are the proof of that. As long as they exist, the Inquisition can go on indefinitely, as a factory for manufacturing Heroes (and discontent). Not to overlook the wealth of well-intended positive energy that has no darker sheen to it and is directed in this vein, because that certainly exists as well. Still I wonder…

    Society historically has not favored outgroups. Now, we reflexively idealize them.

    The wheel of fortune spins and who once was up, is down; who now is down, will at some point be up again. Here’s hoping we can all weather these changes gracefully.

    • Stephanie says

      @living large louis, South Africa should be a lesson on how oppressed groups can turn the tables and become oppressors.

  43. Coffee Klatch says

    Nobody gives a fuck about the canon, dude. Get over it. There’s so much more interesting and innovative writing being produced right now, you could never read it in your lifetime. Certainly, as a teacher, it’s good to know the lineage, but no college writing program is concerned about how much time you logged in with Shakespeare. Barely Hemmingway. Maybe Joyce.

    I’m sorry it offends your huwhite sensibilities, but literally — this is just another case of the WASPworld reinforcing its ownself. When it’s stripped of power, it goes away. Poof — ephemera. Did you know that your body completely recycles your atoms every seven years?

    You go read some Swineburne or the Faerie Queen or the long and tedious introduction in the unabridged Ivanhoe. Students in classes all over the world will have written something more hot and important than even the most rollingest of green hills.

    • Nate D. says

      @ Coffee Klatch

      The great thing about avoiding the Canon and the Classics is that it allows you to delude yourself that your writing (and that of your contemporaries) is hot and important. The Classics have pioneered the great ideas, withstood the test of time, and provide a yardstick for greatness. Ignoring them allows you to pretend you’re the one doing the pioneering.

      You must know the rules in order to break them. You must know the Classics in order to surpass them. For example, you used the word “innovative”. Perhaps you are unaware of the irony. Without the Canon, that word is perfectly useless.

    • northernobserver says

      You can pare it down but there are still some unavoidable works if you want to “know” instead of guess or fabricate, unless your agenda is culture genocide which is the blood dimmed tide I see behind your words.
      Come back when you’ve contended with the stories and themes in the Bible, the Iliad, Don Quixote, The Inferno.
      Until then, you’re just so much foam on the sea, or a cheap ass commissar in a smelly uniform.

    • @Coffee, I’ll be blunt: You speak from pure ignorance, which is very obvious to anyone who is educated in world literature and its very long history. I speak as a college professor with my MFA. This ignorance of yours is so great you dont’ even know that you’re ignorant. It gives you hubris and a false inflated sense of worth that is unconnected to reality. For instance, you write, “No college writing program is concerned with how much time you logged in with Shakespeare.” Well if they’re not, they should be. But how do you know? Did you take a survey to find out?

      IT’s sad and pathetic that you call the Western canon – note: this has little to do with “Wasps” – ‘ephemera’ and then facilely compare it to recycling atoms like a good 6th grader mimicking a teacher.

      Your final sentence is just sad. I think you think it’s good writing?

      READ read read read read. Everything, from all cultures. To not read Western literature is just silly and childish.

    • @ Coffee Klatch

      I doubt Lawrence Olivier would have felt challenged, and inspired in his craft to recite one of those ‘more hot and important’ whatever’s.

      Excellence anyone?

  44. Sander Malschaert says

    This piece is a beautiful and sad story. It reminds me of similar stories where people lose friends and family to addictions.

  45. Sander Malschaert says

    “Did you know that your body completely recycles your atoms every seven years?”

    Did you know that is both not factually true and also devoid of meaning. Your personhood is made by the information in the arrangement of your attoms. Swappong none, one or all for identical ones matters not one bit.

  46. Coffee Klatch — I didn’t realize that WASP stood for Russian Jew.

    • Micha Elyi says

      WASP also stands for Italian Catholic (Dante) and Pagan Greek (Plato).

      Hey, Hmmm, I see the start of a party game here. Let’s call it “Coffee Klatch”.

  47. Michael says

    “Here, at last, was somebody we could freely hate more than we hate each other or ourselves.”

    That’s what’s going on in America, isn’t it. They’ve finally found a target upon which to place all their hatred and self-loathing. It had nowhere to go under Obama, even with all the warmongering, bombing, spying and corporate malfeasance that administration engaged in.

  48. Peter J says

    I love the writing in Quillette and this piece reminds me why. A great read. Thanks.

  49. beermug69 says

    “These promises may have been empty and dishonest.”

    Actually Trump has already kept every one of those promises and he’s only two years in. Mr. “Berg” is slowly losing his religion, but he’s still hanging on to a few strands of liberal orthodoxy. Baby steps, Mr Berg, baby steps.

    • @beermug69

      You cannot expect someone barely shedding the bonds of being swathed in the cultural ethos of SJW’s in utero to keep up with the more practical reportage of non-mainstream media, can you?
      After all, who is reporting that our current POTUS has accomplished anything in the MSM? I don’t think there is that much intellectual honesty in the accepted and formerly revered media, thus you have to hunt for the information, and most people in any said formerly revered media are simply not interested in Trump’s success…only the lack of it.

  50. Jwvansteenwyk says

    One would have to have a heart of stone to read about Jamie’s total professional, emotional and personal collapse without laughing.

    • But, Jan, realise here that this collapse is only (partly?) so in the view of Lester himself. As was the case with the professor in the elevator and his remark on lady’s lingerie, it would have been nice to also hear the other side of the story, as is the case in any jury and law case. Then, you will always see that it isn’t as black and white as it is if seen by the adversary himself (adversary without maybe even realising well that he is one).

    • northernobserver says

      I started grinding my teeth when I saw Jamie reach for the African American victimization narrative from omniscient white supremacy. What. A. Cop. Out. What. an. excuse. It’s like old fashioned antisemitism.

      • Not strange at all, also here in the NL, journalists and columnists with a (however slight) color immediately know that this color is not always negative, you can change it in something very positive as well, just start scorning the white patriarchy, the racist in all whites, and all the other colleagues, and all readers, are at once terrified, stupefied, and without speech, it works…… and it’s quite easy! You just need some color, that’s all!!! Simple comme un jour!!

    • Stephanie says

      I cheered Jamie’s demise as well. Someone who cheats on his wife, particularly while she’s having a baby, deserves nothing but scorn and misery.

      I also doubt Jamie ever had any real talent. Someone who squandered such early success and failed to ever produce anything of merit was probably only getting early encouragement (on a story about vaginas?! Give me a break) from teachers because he was black. Maybe he wouldn’t have grown up to be such a narcissist, and found something he could actually be useful in, if his teachers hadn’t blown smoke up his ass.

      • omega bit says

        To quote another president that was ridiculously compared with Hitler 20 times a day, that is “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.

  51. Tom67 says

    Hi Lester
    Read your article and liked it a lot. Reminds me of a Russian friend of mine whom I helped to establish herself among the very literati you write about. Now my friend is completely clueless about the US. She is an innocent abroad with imperfect English. She lives with an off broadway producer and one time she wondered why she had never met anybody who had voted for Trump. So the producer packed her into a car and they drove to some McDonalds in New Jersey. Pepole there looked very different she told me. Much fatter and badly dressed. Here, the producer told her, are the idiots who voted for Trump. He might have said the “deplorables”. The liberal elites have it coming. It is a class thing.

    • Sometimes, I wonder, Tom, how the commenters here on Quillette (unvisible, and often anonymous) are looking, fat/thin? well/badly dressed?? I myself am thin and badly dressed.

      • Stephanie says

        @dirk, I wonder as well, since most everyone is using pseudonyms. Particularly about how many women there are. I’m slender but curvy, aggressively well-dressed for a geology department, and a redhead.

        • Titania, at least, came with picture, Stephanie, type of Disney punk, giant black glasses, snowwhite hair. But of all the real authors and commenters, no image at all. Red hair, nice!

          • Micha Elyi says

            Red hair, green eyes, and freckles on ruddy skin makes one more of a “person of colour” than any brown-on-brown poseur like Ta-Nehesi Coates.

        • @ Stephanie

          And tiny, I believe you stated earlier. I happen to be aged, disabled, rather stout, and badly dressed…but so far those qualities do not affect my view of myself until I see my reflection, upon which occasions I blench, and wonder what happened to the person I was before I glimpsed my reflection.

          Until then, I feel 23, slender, fit and sharply attired, as indeed I once was at that age. Alas that youth is fleeting, and health even more so.

          Most of us writing under pseudonyms do so because of the rampant abuse on the internet in the various forums of thought we discourse within. Consequently, we build our identity solely on what we write about, and how we write about it, and only our psuedo-anonymous names and our opinions matter.

          I do not hope to be as well known as Plato or Dante or Shakespeare, as I do not even attempt to assail those heights, but even an anonymous person’s collected opinions can influence thought none-the-less, and that, I believe, is the sole point of writing anything.

          • But, Questor, look at the bustes or pictures of Plato, Dante and Shakespeare, all old and respectable, not thin, slim or young, mostly with grey beard. This whole adoration of youth is not so very old, al least,not even in my youth was there a reverence for the babyfaces , youngsters and toddlers, like right now is the rule, never mind! I also think, it is something of the US culture, before, here in Europe not the young, but the old were estimated and esteemed.

    • stevengregg says

      Most of the “liberal elites” are remarkably plump and badly dressed. Like Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Brian Stelter, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, et al.

  52. Regan says

    Mediocre fiction stuffed with cliches.Self-indulgent exercise.
    I don’t buy the rationale behind the use of a pseudonym.
    I guess you could say that Jamie is the writer.

    • @ Regan You apparently have never posted in an unfriendly environment where the differences of opinion have daggers attached to them, and poison laces every word…or if you have, you do not have sufficiently tender places in your psyche to suffer from such attacks.

  53. johno says

    What surprises me is the level of vitriol, and the superficial factors it is based on.

    I’m no big fan of Trump… honestly, if he’d just delete his twitter account, his popularity would soar. The greatest problem I have with him is the childish off the cuff remarks. Nothing that most major politicians probably haven’t thought at one time or another… but are wise enough not to say in public.

    However, if you look at the actions he has actually taken… nothing really horrible there. We’re not sending our finest young people off to die in pointless wars. The economy is doing well. In the software field I work in, he has raised the employability of senior developers considerably… for that, I am grateful.

    And so far, he hasn’t flat out lied to the American people the way some other presidents… including Obama… did. (your health care costs will not rise. Mine went up by 10x, in three years)

    Yet, the people who don’t like him, utterly revile him, on at best superficial grounds. He’s rude. Gauche. Paid off women (an improvement over Clinton, who just ran his dalliances into the ground). Everything the left slams Trump for, they’re guilty of as well. Russian ‘collusion’? They utterly ignore the extensive financial dealings between H Clinton and the Russians, at the time the Russians wanted to buy a good deal of the US uranium reserves, and she was secretary of state.

    And they slam you if you don’t agree. Ask them what Trump has done that’s so bad, and you’ll get apoplexy like you’ve never seen before… but not a coherent answer. You’ll also get tagged with the cretin label just for asking what might be a rhetorical question that intelligent people normally can ask each other.

    I’m puzzled by that. I can understand not liking him, but the level of hatred just seems way out of proportion to what the person actually has actually done.

    And how ostensibly intelligent people can just turn off the open mind that I once admired them for.

    • augustine says

      Your comment is spot on. I’m not sure, however, that Trump would be enjoying the level of support he now has if it were not for the effects of his brusque manner of communication. Some say it is a calculated ploy to send people over the top, as a distraction tactic, while he gets much of what he aims for in the meantime. Somehow I don’t think a more orthodox presidential demeanor, all else being equal, would enjoy as much political success.

      • omega bit says

        augustine is dead on. Whenever I hear people complain of how Trump tweets, or how he seems to make a fool of himself, I think:
        There’s someone that doesn’t get it: He does this deliberately, and he’s not the first (Obama and Clinton would also troll the opposition). He has a Herculean task: Not only does he have as many enemies within as without, but practically the entire media, including even large portions of bastions of the GOP establishment (i.e., Fox News) are actively working to discredit his agenda. They control the mics, so he manipulates them by always ensuring they are talking about what he says on Twitter.

        Look at this whole Khasogi affair: Trump doesn’t want to disrupt a major weapons sale to one half of the alliance that’s increasingly boxing in the Persian Genie unleashed by Bush, but unlike Bush, he doesn’t *need* Saudi Arabia, because the US now exports more oil than they import. But still he stands by them… and now, a month before he “precipitiously” decided to pull out of Syria, it comes out that the Saudis are moving forces in to reinforcing the Pergamesh that the other ascendent wannabe empire was all but salivating to crush upon news of US withdrawal. Something tells me their plans will need to be called off.

        Who else could pull this off? Our wealthy “allies” are stepping up to protect their own backyard, while he quietly withdraws from the quagmires left by Bush and Obama. The man is obviously a genius, but perhaps his greatest gift is the seemingly magical ability to reveal the corrupt alliances and hypocrisy of the K street mandarins, and get them to constantly make fools of themselves defending the indefensible.

        • michael farr says

          the most interesting thing about Trump is that he continually does things he said he was going to do. That seems to drive “the swamp” into apoplexy.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Coolidge was a narrow-minded bigot. Hoover was a doofus callous dolt. Eisenhower was a bumbling idiot. Ford was a stumblebum. Reagan was an empty-headed actor who constantly muffed his lines. Bush Sr. mangled the English language. Bush Jr. was an stupid fool. All of them were members of the NDSAP if not founding fathers. Nixon is the only Republican President who the Leftists think was intelligent, and he was simply Evil personified. Whereas FDR, JFK, Clinton, Obama were all nonpareil geniuses, dazzling in their brilliance. The Othering of non-Leftists goes back a hundred years.

  54. Filius Roma says

    The writer: I didn’t like Ta-Nehisi Coate’s book because it was gloomy and pessimistic.
    Also the writer: We’re all doomed. Brooklyn will become Stalingrad.

  55. G Steinguard says

    Funny. Lester Berg, theoretically, could be a famous writer. We don’t know. So it’s fun to read these comments with that in mind. Imagine the comment is being addressed to a genuinely successful, famous writer.

  56. Greg B says

    Just for the sake of Rep. Joe Wilson’s reputation and history: he did not shout out “You lie” at the State of the Union address. It was at a speech that Barack Obama gave to a joint session of Congress eight months later. It was quite a different setting.

  57. Mark Beal says

    “…Jamie […] told me that he was a genius—that his Catholic school teachers said so after he wrote a poem about vaginas and read it aloud in front of the whole class.”

    Dude, there were your warning signs, right there!

  58. Pizza Pete says

    This is a bit off topic but I am impressed by how truly poisonous the American Left has become and by their ability to almost immediately destroy whatever it is that they touch. As a professional New Yorker I can think of perhaps twenty nonfiction books that my peers were engaged and excited by in the past five years and exactly zero novels. Entire humanities disciplines have become garbage that can be safely ignored. Add to that many venerable media institutions are shells of what they once represented (New Yorker?).

    When the entire project is malevolence and intellectual vandalism, it’s not surprising that little is created that others find compelling or beautiful, much less worth their attention. The sad irony is that the Left is killing what could sustain it. Fiction could easily go the way of poetry, history as an institutionalized academic pursuit could shrivel up and disappear, and it seems that contemporary art has already been reduced to the hawking of conceptually regressive tchotchkes for the global elite.

    And these are just the external, institutional manifestations. It appears that a whole generation is profoundly ignorant and hasn’t been taught to think. In particular, upper middle class women who go to better schools seem to have been the most effectively indoctrinated and incapable of critical thought, much less interpreting statistics. Who could have predicted that so many would voluntarily trade in everything we’ve been bequeathed culturally and intellectually for the cancerous epistemology of Foucault, Adorno, and the Frankfurt school?

    • These weeks before Christmas, I only hear american X-mas songs on the radio, why? No Dutch, German or French (not even one, only jingle bells and rendeer and open sleighs), what’s wrong? Therefore, I,m greatly surprised by Pizza P.s complaint about the Frankfurter Shule and frog Foucault, at least, there is some continental influence and impact, there, far away, overseas, even if negative, we stil have a voice somewhere. Bravo!

  59. steve says

    There is 20 minutes of my life I will never get back. Thanks.

  60. R Henry says

    I understand how the NYC “literary scene” matters to many. That said, NYC is its own city-state, and what passes for “normal” there is anti-social and offensive virtually everywhere else.

  61. TheSnark says

    Back in the late ’60’s and into the ’70’s, we would have heated political arguments, sometimes calling each other fascist pig or Commie pinko. But while the arguments were real, the name calling was treated as a joke. Afterwards, we would go have lunch, drink a beer, whatever. We took it as an intellectual challenge to try to change someone’s mind, sometimes we even succeeded. And those were the divisive days of Nixon, Vietnam, and race-riots.

    These days most people are incapable of and/or unwilling to argue the issues; they either withdraw in fear (of what? offending someone? having their bubbles popped?) or descend into humorless name-calling. It’s hard to have friends with different political views.

    That is sad, and very dangerous for civic discourse and civic life (which is a fancy way of saying how we get along with each other). Maybe in a few years we be able to call someone a “lib-tard” or a “deplorable” and laugh about it, and then get on with a serious political discussion. I hope.

    • I notice very clear resemblances with the biological process of subspeciation, as described and explained by ornithologist Ernst Mayr (mentioned by me in earlier threads, in another line of reasoning, but even here, in the cultural field, it seems at work and taking over the landscape and identity formations). Absolutely something noteworthy, and potential studyfield for sociologists.

      • Of soulless troglodytes versus that basket of deplorables. A nice bunch of tribes it really is, and still ripening, I guess.

    • R Henry says

      How do contemporary times differ from the 1970s? The Internet.

      Western Culture is struggling mightily to adapt to new communications technologies. Implementation of new technology has ALWAYS been disruptive to human society. Heck, Martin Luther took advantage of the then-new printing press to disseminate his radical views, and subsequently sparked the Protestant Reformation, which forms the foundation for the last 500 years of Western Culture.

      I view this moment in history as transitional. We are observing to collapse of the Post-Reformation West. Our great-grandchildren will exist in an entirely different cultural paradigm.

      • Will that different paradigm be a better one than what we live in now, Henry? I am a structuralist, believing that every improvement goes at the cost of some loss, so, am not convinced at all, and maybe, it will be not even better at that time, but much worse! Though, of course, I don’t know for sure, it’s just suspicion! What I have seen uptil now in my (rather long)life, absolutely no progress, I’m sorry.

      • I recall University in the 1970’s as a place where one could discuss anything, passionately, and be politely scorned for doing so, not verbally knifed, and shunned thereafter. Of course, there was etiquette involved, or one didn’t get into University…or a decent job afterwards.

        I particularly recall being hired in the early 90’s at a time when the financial industries in California were badly impacted by a real estate triggered recession merely because I stood at the entrance of the (same sex) Human Resources worker to the room. I needed the job, but I never thought old fashioned habits were the key to obtaining it, and was surprised when I was told that had been the deciding factor.

        Naturally, I would have preferred my brilliant personality and stunning resume to have clinched the deal, but I wasn’t offended. I was grateful I had been automatically polite in rising for my elders.

  62. RebeccaH says

    Perhaps Lester Berg should get out of New York for a while and meet some writers in other regions, even so-called racist, ignorant Appalachia, and find some freedom from the stifling ideological landscape.

  63. Samuel Fondren says

    I read this reluctantly; but found myself coasting toward the middle and end. It is so good to read something written HONESTLY, even if the author was forced to submit it pseudonymously.

    His prior author-friend had the best advice for any author:

    ” . . . the importance of reading, and told us that he didn’t hang out with other writers.”

    The author is learning—it’s a long process.

    I am older—I voted for Jimmy Carter in a similar mistake; I also voted for Obama in his first election. I subsequently voted for Reagan and Trump. Intellect and profundity are wonderful tools, but they seldom make for a good President. Consider Nero.

    We live in a day of the ‘pseudo-intellect’; where ‘Froot Loops’ intelligence is passed-off as the fibrous ‘Shredded Wheat’; and nothing ‘sticks to the ribs’ . . . where everyone has criticized Hemingway, but none of them have read The Old Man and the Sea.

    I seldom waste perfectly good words on the Internet, especially the word ‘brilliant’. But this qualifies.

  64. Sydney says

    That’s just a great piece. I nodded, I laughed out loud, I shook my head, I smirked, I think I drew an audible breath in shock somewhere. Thanks to the author!

  65. Artists and Intellectuals have always been easily corrupted by dictators providing them thunderous applause and telling them that they are on the forefront of a righteous cause.
    The people working hard for their money were always much harder to bribe. Look back to the sixties. Workers in the west were not convinced that Pol Pot or Mao are the future of the world.
    Students and Artists cheered those mass murderers.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      True, except for a majority of the time when it isn’t true. Artists and intellectuals are also typically the ones deriding tyranny and oppression. People “working hard” for their money are harder to bribe? Hilarious. You should write cheesy cliches for the local union, or the chamber of commerce, or whatever the fuck you think you stand for.

      Did an undergraduate communist beat you up in the sixties or something? You really need to expand your worldview a little bit.

      • You need to learn some manners, because to an unbiased observer you’re a rude and obnoxious keyboard commando. I very much doubt you would have the courage to say what you wrote to Bill’s face. Quillette would be better if you took yourself and your “contributions” away to some fora you might find more welcoming.

      • omega bit says

        Oh, please list for us the long history of the proletariat stepping forward and driving any Communist movement. No, it’s always students, and pseudo-intellectuals, and other fools and failures at life that would starve in a week if left to their own devices that are used by these psychopaths.

        And “Deriding tyranny”? You’ve watched too many cheesy 80’s Hollywood movies. They are almost always at the forefront of perpetuating tyranny. They’re the statist equivalent of a marketing department.

  66. The debts of “Blue ribbons for everyone” pandering have become due. Trumpism is the exposure of pretense and ignorance. Trump is screaming you’re fired!” to the chattering crowd of unread MFA’s and others in other “disciplines” that pass out degrees for dollars. They all cry out that they are being marginalized but they started out marginal.

  67. It’s a beautiful arc. Many artists get stuck in one of life’s many twists and turns. The twists and turns can be politics, religion, self-pity, or believing your own self-created illusion. Ultimately, we just move on. There’s always more to realize. Creativity is never stagnant. It sounds like the author kept going while Jamie got stuck.

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  69. It’s all just fashion. The vast majority are ruled by fear and greed. They lead lives of transparent but unspoken desperation.

    It’s a crazy, insane game in which one’s crazy insanity is ignored as long as one continues to play.

    This is not confined to literary in-groups. It is universal. And, as long as humans remain human, it will never change.


  70. It’s all just fashion. The vast majority are ruled by fear and greed. They lead lives of transparent but unspoken desperation.

    It’s a crazy, insane game in which one’s crazy insanity is ignored as long as one continues to play.

    This is not confined to literary in-groups. It is universal. And, as long as humans remain human, it will never change.


  71. From this point on, “The two of them shopped exclusively at Whole Foods …”, one thing was very clear to me: not a word of this tendentious twaddle is persuasive – much less believable. What level of desperation are you operating on, Q, that you would publish this?

    • michael farr says

      i am surprised you find the story unbelievable and tendentious. Haven’t you met a few “Jamies” for yourself. They scrabble at the edges of many different fields.

    • Joe Average says

      ‘From this point on, “The two of them shopped exclusively at Whole Foods …”, one thing was very clear to me: not a word of this tendentious twaddle is persuasive – much less believable.’

      Do you live in New York? I do. I know people who do all their food shopping at Whole Foods. It’s not unusual. Whole Foods has a big selection, so it’s pretty convenient if you have the cash to spend. That’s the point of mentioning it: the author’s friend was living pretty high for a writer.

    • Walter Younger says

      Not desperation, manipulation. The story is obviously contrived to promote a narrative. The over the top stereotyping of liberals (“shopped exclusively at Whole Foods”) is the dead giveaway.

  72. Paula says

    [ am- uh-ranth]

    an imaginary, undying flower.

  73. Paula says

    (Plato’s Republic, tr. Bloom, 492A)

    “…and be such as they are.”

    “But WHEN do the biggest sophists turn out young and old, men & women, JUST the way they want them to be?” Glaucon asks.

    Socrates answers,

    “When many gathered together sit down in assemblies, courts, theaters, army camps, or any other common meeting of a multitude, and with a great deal of uproar, blame some of the things said or done, and praise others, both in excess, shouting and clapping; and, besides, the rocks and the very place surrounding them echo and redouble the uproar of blame and praise.

    “Now in such circumstances, as the saying goes, what do you suppose is the state of the young man’s heart? Or what kind of private education will hold out for him and not be swept away by such blame and praise and go, borne by the flood, wherever it tends, so that he’ll say the same things are noble and base as they do, practice what they practice, and be such as they are?”

  74. Paula says

    “When I look out at what’s happened, it’s the same thing that happens within our families when the Scapegoat speaks the truth in front of the Enablers and The Golden Child and The Narcissist.”

  75. Keith says

    Intellectually, I don’t think I am at the level of most responding here. I just want to say this story brings forth the words of my personal laments and struggles to life. I deeply appreciate the honesty and the integrity with which it was written.

    Thank-you, Lester Berg. (Whoever you are)

  76. To use from his title, “literary friendships” ain’t all that is falling apart, and here is the evidence.

    “A few weeks later, while scouring the racks at the school’s annual library book sale, I bumped into my professor. I held up a used hard-cover of E. L. Doctorow’s 2005 novel The March, which I’d scored for just a dollar. He looked at the book and asked, “Who’s he?” Doctorow was arguably the greatest living historical novelist in America. The professor, who taught a class on the role of history in narrative fiction, would later become the director of the school’s MFA program.”

    Really? It is that bad in fine arts “education”? I am not surprised but I hate to see it confirmed.

  77. michael farr says

    Poor Jamie. What a pathetic loser.
    One wonders how he developed his delusions of grandeur and perhaps more interesting, how he could con those around him to buy into the same fantasies. One wonders if his “identity” had something to do with it.
    Now i will guess that his malice and bitterness seep out into the world around him contaminating all those he encounters..

  78. estepheavfm says

    Leftist control-freak intellectuals work 24/7 to destroy Western civilization and the natural (“biological”) family. The power was not gained through by electoral politics but through disciplined long-term-planned institutional cultural subversion. The various opposing positions (“conservative,” “libertarian”) made the error of relying upon electoral politics or or presenting facts (think tank studies, etc). This is a failing strategy.

    Only a comprehensive and disciplined pro-Western movement that emphasizes small units (family, town, county, nation) can reverse the rot. Remember anti-Jewishness in1920s Germany? By the 1960s there was a powerful pro-Jewishness infrastructure and public face. The same must be done with “anti-whiteness” and the “privilege” blood libel (and maleness, heterosexuality, etc.)

    The yellow vests might be a landmark in the pro-Western struggle. A fulcrum with which to to build.

  79. estepheavfm says

    Trump a misogynist? Hardly! When a man has conflicts with some men and harmony with others a misandrist? No. Why is a man who has conflicts with some women and harmony with others. Answer: Chivalry, white knight bias towards women by men. backed up by peer-pressure responsive virtue signalling. Have you ever heard a woman who has conflicts with some men and harmony with others a misandrist? Never, or very rarely.

  80. DexterSka says

    This guy sounds like a classic narcissist. He is also a compulsive liar. If you discount the idea that he isn telling the truth and look for the motivation behind them it is obvious.

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  82. TheTruthWillOut says

    I think this was a great article; written in the spirit of sharing a personal story. Any creative person–or person observing the life of people in the arts–who thinks the opinions of peers / critics doesn’t cause an artist to reflect on their ability by varying degrees, is either being dishonest or foolish. What matters is that the artist sees these contours of societal constructs and hangs on to their voice and hones their craft come hell or high water.

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  84. Some would vote for Donald Trump: Conservative Jews who liked his pro-Israel stance; Wall Street workers who liked his business background; rank-and-file police who wanted to stick it to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; visible minorities who liked his “America First” rhetoric, and imagined that he’d bring back secure manufacturing jobs. These promises may have been empty and dishonest. But they resonated with a lot of people, not all of them “troglodytes.”

    2 years later: Trump DID move the US Embassy to Jerusalem (Obama, Bush, Clinton lied / failed);
    Trump DID have big tax cuts, good for business, more hiring;
    Trump continues to support police verbally, and he DID get the First Step legislation;
    Trump’s America First HAS helped create lowest US unemployment in decades (3 step “magic wand” that Obama refused: lower taxes, lower regulation, less illegals), and he DID bring back some manufacturing jobs.

    Dem media PC slaves who call these promises “empty and dishonest” are, themselves, being empty and dishonest. No surprise, most bad characteristics the Dems claim Trump has are projections onto him of the bad characteristics of rich and powerful Dems.

    “Lester”, please keep looking for the truth, as you see it and know it. There’s a 3 axis model of political language with talks about Oppressor-Oppressed axis; plus Civilization-Barbarian axis; plus Coercion-Freedom axis. (Arnold Kling). The Dems are twisting all personal failures into “oppression”; that’s a path following Venezuela’s lead. Crazy bad.

  85. sausage says

    Lester you have so many issues, its hard to know where to start.

    The combination of envy and fawning,the clinging, the comparisons, competitions, ‘frenemy’ behaviour, faux concern and ‘humble bragging’ comes across like a wannabe Tom Ripley.

    Deeply creepy, and so Oprah.

  86. Actually, Geo, there’s probably more of a point on the right being triggered than you dismissing it. (And of course you never fail to blame the right when the left is being pounded because, well, let’s face it you probably hate the right more than you do the left. Goodness forbid a social conservstive makes a sound point.)

    Dare I say Breitbart is still relatively decent and the Federalist even better when they’re having a good day. Rightists have a right to comment on what they perceive as unfairness just like the left . You may not always agree with what’s written but try to understand (not empathize) where the complaints are coming from.

    As someone who’s moved to the right I’ve observed that the right is more steady in their observations. They’re are susceptible to the same vices and lazy thought as many people who comment on politics are, but at least they have some sort of capacity to recognize these negative traits and aren’t bearing themselves over it.

    Also, as a non-white the white genocide is an interesting narrative. Geo, of you’ve been paying attention to migration patterns alongside birth rates in both the US and Europe, it’s hard to say the white genocide narrative doesn’t have substance. Oh, and it’s mostly minds within the alt-right who tend to push this narrative.

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