The Arts and Culture

Neovictorian reviews “Love in the Age of Dispossession” by Loretta Malakie

Love in the Age of Dispossession
Loretta Malakie

This is a deceptive book.

Oh, it delivers what it promises, and more, but in the beginning there’s a little essay about the decline of rural America, farm country (in this case, Upstate New York) and Le Grande Remplacement. Then for a while it plays at being a Generation X teen romance. A high school Goth girl is sitting on a park bench in a small town in Upstate New York: “It’s 1993, and when a boy loved a girl he made her a mixtape.”

Catherine “Kitty” Burnes is an Irish-Catholic wannabe rebel who’s been accepted at Ivy League schools, but there’s a sense that Something Is Not Right with her world. The first part of the novel subtly hints at the coming troubles, the emptying and degradation of small town America and the great White die-off that would follow. But on first reading you might think it’s something else, an almost photo-realistic description of one young American woman’s life, upwardly mobile, out of the sticks and away from the hicks and on to New York City, the vibrancy and the multiculturalism and the thousand different ethnic restaurants. The media ecology around her—and us—relentlessly tells us this is what we want, the pinnacle: Freedom! Freedom from, from neighbors who know your business, your stupid high school friends and limits on your “self-expression” and, most of all, freedom to have sex when you want, with whom you want, without pain or fear or guilt. By the time Kitty arrives to live as an adult in New York, the relentless propaganda for Erica Jong’s Zipless Fuck is well into its second generation. And instead of fulfillment, it delivers anomie.

The sequence of events here is a deadpan, devastating parody of what Cosmopolitan and Sex and the City and a score of network comedies have sold to rest of America as The Good Life: Kitty goes to Cornell, Kitty goes to Europe (though we read only the barest details of her time there), Kitty goes to New York City, Kitty goes to law school and clerks for a federal judge. And none of it satisfies or fulfills or brings any real happiness, because she’s detached, from her people and her nature as a woman. She knows something is wrong. Always something is missing.

It’s tribe that’s missing, the home ground, people who know you, knew you as a towheaded child and still see that sun-kissed hair when you pass them on the street as an adult, people who know what to expect from you. New York is the land of constant, wearing uncertainty, except for those for whom it is the home ground. Read more

Doubling Down on the Art of Dying Review of Tito Perdue’s novel, “Philip”

Philip
Tito Perdue
Arktos, 2017

Each autobiographical novel conveys a writer’s hidden quest for his cryptic double. As a rule, the double always resides in the author’s close proximity. In the same vein a reader will fall in love with the author’s novel if he can detect in it bits and pieces of his own strayed-away double. In all of his novels Tito Perdue’s lead character, Lee Pefley, mirrors not just the author’s own feelings of gloom and doom, but also bears witness of what he sees as the unstoppable death of the West. Although the lead character is Purdue’s own double, he wisely avoids the personal pronouns ‘me’ or ‘I’, never indulging in his own hidden ego trips. Instead, Purdue uses a gallery of characters from everyday life—characters that an average reader can easily identify with. Surprisingly, in his latest novel, Philip, we do not meet much of Purdue’s double, i.e. his doppelganger Lee Pefley, although, toward the end of the novel, Lee does briefly show up, his main role being to berate Philip on ars moriendi—the art of dying.

The hero of the novel, Philip, who is past the age of 30, is a well-educated, well-groomed, and a good-looking Southerner. He holds the enviable position of a supervisor in a subdivision of a company dealing with international trade. Most of Philip’s employees are women who swoon each time he walks by their cubicles and who would be willing to strip naked in public in order to secure a romance with their boss. Philip, however, is not a womanizer; nor is he, despite his Southern charm, a sex-obsessed macho man. He is not after women; they are after him. Philip is quite content, however, with his choice—a rather aged New York hooker well-versed in the art of caring for his biological needs and who never ever bothers to investigate his hidden transcendental thoughts. Read more

Jewish Leftist Activism in Children’s Fiction

“From the very beginning—that is, from the publication of the first book specifically for children — the intent was to mold and shape the mind to accepted standards of behavior.”
Saul Braun, The New York Times, June 7, 1970.

This article is the product of research originally conducted for a recent article titled “Jews, Obscenity, and the Legal System.” Given the significant amount of material discovered and the uniqueness of the subject matter, I decided there was enough material for an article devoted to children’s literature. During research for the obscenity essay, I consulted the American Library Association’s list of “Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000–2009” with a view to assessing the nature and extent of the Jewish presence. The first fact to become apparent was a marked Jewish over-representation in the production of books deemed controversial or perverse by parents, schools, and other institutions. Jews are notoriously shy of the census, but are probably somewhere between the 2.2% of the U.S. population suggested by the Pew Research Center and a maximum of around 5%. Even accepting a grain of truth in the apologetic argument that Jews are disproportionately attracted to literary professions (to say nothing about motive), one might very generously expect a Jewish representation of around 10 books on the ALA’s list.

However, my biographical checks on all authors on the list, some of which were indeterminate, revealed that 22 books on the ALA’s list were penned by 17 Jewish writers.[1] Jews are thus significantly over-represented in producing contemporary literature deemed oppositional by the surrounding culture, and are even more radically over-represented when older, White-authored, entries such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (now often opposed as ‘racist’) are taken out of consideration. Since the majority of entries on the list were children’s books, and taking into account my previous discoveries concerning Jewish manipulation of demand for ‘diverse books’ in the school system, it occurred to me that children’s literature is an important, but sometimes neglected, front in the cultural conflict we see played out daily. This article is therefore intended as a brief introduction to some of the most pertinent personalities and themes in the area of Jewish Leftist activism in children’s fiction.

A great deal of Jewish radical activism in the cultural sphere comes under the umbrella of the general relationship between Jews and the Left. This relationship can historically be understood as involving Jewish innovation of, or support for, social, cultural, and political causes likely to weaken the cultural structures of the host society and make it more amenable to Jewish interests. In the chapter titled “Jews and the Left” in The Culture of Critique (p. 50 )Kevin MacDonald cites Stanley Rothman and S. Robert Lichter, who remarked in their Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians, and the New Left (1982): “Whatever their situation…in almost every country about which we have information, a segment of the Jewish community played a very vital role in movements designed to undermine the existing order.” MacDonald argues that superficial divergences between Jewish religion and radical agendas are negated by the fact many ethnically Jewish radicals have persisted in adhering to a strong Jewish identity, and have often explicitly pursued Jewish interests. MacDonald writes (p. 51): “The hypothesis that Jewish radicalism is compatible with Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy implies that radical Jews continue to identify as Jews.”

I argue that the material presented in this essay should be seen firmly within the same theoretical framework proposed by MacDonald. For example, several of the Jewish writers under consideration here are homosexuals, radical socialists, and feminists. A common apologetic from “Jews on the Right,” is that such figures are anathema to Judaism, or that as adherents of the Reform movement etc., they are unrepresentative of “true Jews.” The contention here is that the situation is quite the opposite, and I stress that many of these writers are demonstrably committed to Jewish tradition and the Jewish group. Read more

“Envying the cruel falcon”: The Anti-Liberal Poetry of Robinson Jeffers Part Two of Two

This America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire “Shine, Perishing Republic”

Go to Part One.

Modern man’s spiritual and physical weakness, in the understanding of Jeffers, is not just a cause for despair, but is mortally dangerous. In “The Purse-Seine” (1938) the poet recalls watching sardines being gathered in by fishermen at night, and is reminded of this again one evening while looking over a city from a mountain-top. Like the sardines, he imagines the masses of weak and dependent people below being gathered in and controlled by an all-powerful government:

Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top
On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light:
how could I help but recall the seine-net
Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how
beautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible.
I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together
into inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now
There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable
of free survival, insulated
From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all
dependent. The circle is closed, and the net
Is being hauled in. They hardly feel the cords drawing, yet
they shine already. The inevitable mass-disasters
Will not come in our time nor in our children’s, but we
and our children
Must watch the net draw narrower, government take all
Powers — or revolution, and the new government
Take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls — or anarchy,
the mass-disasters.

Read more

“Envying the cruel falcon”: The Anti-Liberal Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, Part One of Two

 

Only the most ardent followers of the right wing nationalists, the lunatic fringe, and the most ardent of Roosevelt haters could, after reading The Double Axe, welcome the return of Robinson Jeffers.
                              St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1948

In two previous essays I explored the nature of academic ethno-activism in the deconstruction of the cultural legacy of the Modernist poets Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. Such deconstructions, which are ongoing, target the posthumous legacies of creative thinkers deemed by the current dispensation to have held quasi-Fascistic socio-political views. The essays on Eliot and Pound were intended as broad overviews of this process of deconstruction, emphasizing the scale of successive critiques and, to some extent, illuminating the psychology of those behind them. Analysis of the actual poetic content produced by those creatives was peripheral. This was partly because, although they have been subjected to withering criticism with the ultimate intention of consigning them to distant memory, neither Pound nor Eliot have yet disappeared entirely from view, and their works continue to be widely sold in bookshops, studied in colleges, and read in libraries. Thus, while Pound and Eliot are being “phased out” culturally, or held up as examples of “bigoted old White men,” the depth and intensity of their fame have meant that they continue to put up a spirited resistance to being forgotten.

Robinson Jeffers (1887–1962), the subject of this essay, has found this task much more difficult. Despite once adorning the cover of TIME magazine (April 4, 1932), Jeffers’s fall from grace began earlier, and has been more complete. Studied only rarely in colleges and almost entirely exiled from bookshops and popular discussion, Jeffers and his poetry are a niche literary interest at best. Even within our circles, aside from a single lecture by Jonathan Bowden (which takes the form of a brief cultural biography and glosses over the content of Jeffers’s poetry), he remains largely ignored or unknown. In part to rectify this, the focus of the present essay will be mainly on the poet’s biography and content, with the deconstructive element relegated to the background.

There are a number of reasons for Jeffers’s descent from the heights of popularity, and these reasons make both the man and his work an interesting study. Within a decade of his appearance on the front cover of TIME, Jeffers found himself pilloried as an isolationist opposed to American involvement in World War II, and even as a “fascist sympathizer” who produced “unpatriotic verse.” Jeffers had attracted increasing interest, and then suspicion, from liberals who reacted with horror to his scathing rebukes of, and deep pessimism towards, their schemes for “human improvement.” A close inspection of the reclusive Jeffers’s works revealed a man railing against the decadence of the inter-war period. Piercing that maelstrom of cultural degeneration, his poetry was a furious cry against cherished concepts like “equality,” “progressivism,” and “social justice.” In Jeffers’s unflinching vision, God and Nature were intertwined, inseparable. Man was “nature dreaming,” and the further Man distanced himself from Nature, natural instinct, and natural law, the further Man descended into weakness and decay. Violence, of a noble, natural kind, is glorified in Jeffers’s poetry, as is normal, healthy, and natural sexuality. Read more

“What’s Up, Dr. Mack?” Martians Go Home and the Ordeal of Civility

Martians, Go Home
by Fredric Brown
Dutton, 1955; Bantam, 1956
Ballantine Del Rey, 1976
Gateway Essentials, 2011

“But wherever they arrived and however they were received, to say that they caused trouble and confusion is to make the understatement of the century.”

Many a science fiction book or film has a theme, or a debate therein, dealing with the question of whether “aliens” who are advanced enough to master space travel would, ipso facto, “come in peace.”[1] Are they like E.T., or Klaatu, or more like the Martians of the Wars of the Worlds of Wells and Welles?[2]

But what if they were smart, and indeed not warlike, but instead, just really, really annoying?

Such is the premise of this pulpy little novel by Fredric Brown,[3] whose alien visitors are described by Wikipedia thus:

The story begins on 26 March 1964. Luke Deveraux, the protagonist, is a 37-year-old sci-fi writer who is being divorced by his wife. Deveraux holes himself up in a desert cabin with the intention of writing a new novel (and forgetting the painful failure of his marriage). Drunk, he considers writing a story about Martians, when, all of a sudden, someone knocks on the door. Deveraux opens it to find a little green man, a Martian. The Martian turns out to be very discourteous; he insists on calling Luke ‘Mack,’ and has little in mind other than the desire to insult and humiliate Luke. The Martian, who is intangible, proves to be able to disappear at will and to see through opaque materials. Luke leaves his cabin by car, thinking to himself that the alien was but a drunken hallucination. He realizes that he is wrong when he sees that a billion Martians have come to Earth.

And here’s some more very suggestive details about these alien visitors:

They consider the human race inferior and are both interested and amused by human behaviour. Unlike most fictional Martian invaders, the Martians that Brown writes of don’t intend to invade Earth by violence; instead, they spend their wakeful hours calling everyone ‘Mack’ or ‘Toots’ (or some regional variation thereof), revealing embarrassing secrets, heckling theatre productions, lampooning political speeches, even providing cynical colour commentary to honeymooners’ frustrated attempts at consummating their marriage. This nonstop acerbic criticism stops most human activity and renders many people insane, including Luke, whose stress-induced inability to see the little green maligners divides opinion on whether he should be considered mad or blessed.

If this seems somewhat familiar, you may have had the misfortune of seeing the 1990 film, directed by David Odell and “starring” Randy Quaid and Margaret Colin — a movie so bad it hasn’t seen a Region One DVD release.[4]

But let’s stay with the book. Again, it may seem somewhat familiar, but for another reason: read with a Certain Eye, there are plenty of clues that these Martians are rather Semitic. Read more

Wagner Reclaimed: A Review of “The Ring of Truth” by Roger Scruton, Part 2

A scene from Neil Armfield’s 2016 Melbourne production of The Ring

Go to Part 1.

“Sarcasm and satire run riot on the stage”

Productions of The Ring in the modern era have invariably sought to satirize the drama to subvert the message Wagner attempts to convey. Scruton observes that, notwithstanding the increasingly tiresome preoccupation with dissecting the tetralogy for anti-Jewish and proto-fascistic themes and images (and counteracting them), The Ring is also, on a more basic level, problematic for opera producers because its “world of sacred passions and heroic actions offends against the sceptical and cynical temper of our times. The fault, however, lies not in Wagner’s tetralogy, but in the closed imagination of those who are so often invited to produce it.”[1]

The template for modern productions was set with the Bayreuth production of 1976, when Pierre Boulez sanitized the music, and Patrice Chereau satirized the text. Scruton notes that:

Since that ground-breaking venture, The Ring has been regarded as an opportunity to deconstruct not only Wagner but the whole conception of the human condition that glows so warmly in his music. The Ring is deliberately stripped of its legendary atmosphere and primordial setting, and everything is brought down to the quotidian level, jettisoning the mythical aspect of the story, so as to give us only half of what it means. The symbols of cosmic agency — spear, sword, ring — when wielded by scruffy humans on abandoned city lots, appear like toys in the hands of lunatics. The opera-goer will therefore very seldom be granted the full experience of Wagner’s masterpiece.[2]

This certainly describes the Ring I attended in Melbourne in 2016. While the soloists and the orchestra were excellent, Neil Armfield’s postmodernist, Eurotrash-inspired production detracted from the power of the music and drama. Following established precedent, Armfield set much of the action in a space akin to an industrial wasteland. He lampooned the heroic forging scene by setting it in a tawdry apartment replete with fluorescent lighting, microwave, bar fridge and bunk beds. Fafner (meant to have transformed himself into a dragon) was depicted as a transvestite-like figure smearing make-up on his face and later appearing naked on the stage (see the lead photograph).

Productions like these deliberately sabotage Wagner’s attempt to engage his audiences at the emotional level of religion. They let “sarcasm and satire run riot on the stage, not because they have anything to prove or say in the shadow of this unsurpassably noble music, but because nobility has become intolerable. The producer strives to distract the audience from Wagner’s message, and to mock every heroic gesture, lest the point of the drama should finally come home.”[3] Read more