All posts filed under: Literature

Policing the Creative Imagination

At a time when activist displeasure can sweep through social media and destabilize reputations and nascent careers overnight, publishers are taking unprecedented steps in an effort to mitigate the risks. Among these is the use of sensitivity readers—individuals tasked with reading a work of fiction prior to publication in an effort to determine whether or not offense is likely to be caused by an author’s portrayal of characters from demographics considered marginalised or historically oppressed. Many readers, I suspect, will have become aware of this emerging trend following a series of nasty controversies in the world of Young Adult publishing. In 2017, a fantasy novel by Kiera Drake entitled The Continent was attacked for its allegedly racist portrayal of Native Americans. The novel was hastily rewritten following guidance from sensitivity readers. In January of this year, Amelie Zhao’s debut novel Blood Heir, set in a fantastical version of medieval Russia, was denounced online because its portrayal of chattel slavery was deemed insufficiently sensitive to America’s own racist history. In response, Zhao thanked her persecutors profusely …

Bret Easton Ellis Nails Contemporary America

A review of White, by Bret Easton Ellis, Knopf. (April 16, 2019) 272 pages. With his new book, White, Bret Easton Ellis not only takes on Hollywood and contemporary culture, he establishes himself as the voice of an overlooked generation. The Gen Xer whose satirical works include “American Psycho” and “Less Than Zero” also grasps the true essence of Donald Trump and our times in a way that eludes commentators on the Left and Right. Unlike his previous seven books, White isn’t fiction.  As it turns out, to parody the absurd times in which we live, fiction isn’t necessary.  In American Psycho, Ellis critiqued 1980s New York culture through his invention of Patrick Bateman, a rich, beautiful, insincere, emotionally isolated investment banker by day and serial killer by night. No such literary device is necessary to satirize American life today. Like the rest of us, Ellis lives in world where “Everyone has to be the same, and have the same reactions to any given work of art, or movement or idea, and if you refuse to join …

Headline Rhymes

Before believing it’s helpful For kids to skip school for the climate Consider the wisdom level That surely must be behind it If I’d been an activist at 16 I would have made your head spin As leader of an airtight regime Based on the songs of Led Zeppelin Why not speak truth to power With a snack over your lunch hour? How about you teach us After afternoon recess? Or a bake sale So you don’t fail Out of school? Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: Self-Harm Versus the Greater Good: Greta Thunberg and Child Activism Teenage Climate-Change Protestors Have No Idea What They’re Protesting For more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Headline Rhymes

We rightly imagine the pain Of kids separated at our borders But tend to ignore the same Happening in other corners I’m talking, of course Of the halls of divorce Where false claims Are part of the game It’s no myth, the silver bullet But the trigger, let’s not pull it Because there may be nothing worse Than failing to put children first Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: Divorce and the ‘Silver Bullet’ For more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

George Faludy: Hungarian Poet and Hero for Our Times

Had the poet George Faludy not written in his native Hungarian—arguably the most impenetrable of European languages—he would, as many have argued, be world famous. He died aged 95 in 2006, his life spanning the First and Second World Wars, the Russian revolution, and the Nazi and communist takeovers of his country. Having achieved literary fame at 20, he would be imprisoned by both regimes and spend much of his life as an exile in France, Morocco, America (where he was a tail-gunner for the U.S. Airforce), and Canada, where he fled communism, only to find his lectures picketed and disrupted by campus leftists to whom his experience was an inconvenient truth. A ladies’ man all his life, he surprised the world by suddenly entering a gay relationship with Eric, a Russian ballet dancer, who’d fallen in love with Faludy in print and then rushed across the globe to find him. In his 90s, after communism fell and Faludy, returning to Budapest, achieved living legend status, he married a poetess 70 years his junior with …

Michel Houellebecq: Prophet or Troll?

A review of Serotonine (French Edition), by Michel Houellebecq. French and European Publications Inc (January 3, 2019), 352 pages. Michel Houllebecq, the bestselling French novelist and provocateur, has a knack for predicting disasters. His sex-tourism novel Plateforme (2001) featured a terrorist incident at a resort in Thailand that was eerily similar to the 2002 Bali bombings. Soumission (2015) was released on the day of the al-Qaeda-linked Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris; the novel’s subject (an Islamist takeover of France) made the coincidence distinctly uncomfortable. Now Houellebecq’s most recent book, Sérotonine (2019), appears to have foreseen the ‘gilet jaune’ (‘yellow vest’) protests that have rocked France since November. Clearly Houellebecq saw something like this coming, and understood that it was inevitable. Yet for all his perspicacity, Houellebecq is often dismissed as a mere literary troll. Certainly he has a troll’s gift for identifying weak spots in his targets, and then attacking them relentlessly. He is not above this sort of nihilistic glee; but unlike a normal troll, he focuses his rage and disgust, not on random individuals, …

In the Culture Wars, Be a Sancho Panza, Not a Don Quixote

“Look there, friend Sancho, and behold thirty or forty outrageous giants, with whom, I intend to engage in battle, and put every one of them to death…for, it is a meritorious warfare, and serviceable both to God and man, to extirpate such a wicked race from the face of the Earth.” “What giants do you mean?” said Sancho Panza. “Those you see yonder,” replied his master, “with vast extended arms; some of which are two leagues long.” “I would your worship would take notice,” replied Sancho, “that those you see yonder are no giants, but wind-mills; and what seem arms to you, are sails; which being turned with the wind, make the mill-stone work.” “It seems very plain,” said the knight, “that you are but a novice in adventures.” Miguel de Cervantes’ 1605 novel The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote de La Mancha is about a middle-aged nobleman who spends his leisure time reading tales of knight-errantry. Well-bound tomes of epic romance cover his library walls. Chivalrous quests of valiant knights vanquishing evil foes invade his …

Albert Camus: Unfashionable Anti-Totalitarian

Today, it is not unusual to see Albert Camus celebrated as the debonair existentialist—the handsome hero of the French Resistance, a great novelist, and a fine philosopher. But this reputation was only recently acquired. For much of his life, and in the years since his untimely death in 1960 aged just 46, Camus was deeply unfashionable among France’s leading intellectuals. In many quarters, he remains so. Camus came to widespread attention in 1942 with his publication of his novella The Stranger and a philosophical essay entitled “The Myth of Sisyphus.” The Stranger portrays a solitary passionless man wandering through a world without pattern or purpose. “The Myth of Sisyphus” grapples with the question, “Why not commit suicide?” Camus argued that we should not, but he finds little evidence of a justified purpose for human beings. If we cannot prove that some choices are better than others, he concludes, we can at least dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of experience. The austerity and boldness of these two works struck Camus’s contemporaries as remarkable and, within a …

Headline Rhymes

Pulling Jordan Peterson’s book off the rack In the wake of the New Zealand mosque attack Is like banning the Don’t Look Back in Anger song After the Manchester concert bomb “12 Rules” is a balm to calm the dangers That might drive one to kill innocent strangers The next time a terrorist act hits Might they ban the Ten Commandments? Views on the news, delivered so smooth. Click for last week’s edition. And for more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Headline Rhymes

Trump was over the moon For his buddy Kim Jong Un This squabbling’s picayune For the Loon and the Buffoon I hope they make up soon Stay tuned Views on the news, delivered so smooth. Click for last week’s edition. And for more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.