Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Men Behind Closed Doors; or, David Gilmour's Stupendous Misogyny

I'm occasionally in the company of a) men I don't know very well, or b) men who forget / don't care / think it is quaint that I am a feminist. So, from time to time, I get to experience the ugly unfiltered version of American male identity. Which is why David Gilmour's recent statement—admission? boast? challenge?—came as no surprise:
I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth. … I teach only the best.

Notice the rhetorical chicanery: the incendiary / confrontational statement is framed as an impassioned personal preference—I suppose he's become used to using that as an unimpeachable defense—and then made synonymous with quality later. Something reflects a formulation of his desires / fears / fantasies, therefore it is acceptable within the sphere of his power; his ego is the measure of this society vis-a-vis the structures of sociopolitical power, therefore what reflects some formulation of my ego is also the best / the right / the good. And although this instance is relatively benign—except for his poor misinformed students, and what are you doing University of Toronto?—the basic structure appears in most forms of sociopolitical domination, exclusion, and violence.

In my experience, this is the norm behind closed doors. Obviously not for all men everywhere, etc. But quite often. Plenty of work left to be done.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Horrifying Chart of Race and Book Reviews

Courtesy of Roxane Gay at The Nation. I feel like I ought to do something in response to this, as a reviewer. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

“To the extent that our culture still indulges in the fantasy that knowledge is disinterested or that technology is inherently progressive, to the extent that we accept financial institutions’ definition of the creditworthy individual (or nation), and to the extent that we accept the massive paper claims of the rich on the total social wealth, we have been duped by this ruse of history which gives all spoils to the victors.” — The New Inquiry

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seamus Heaney on Eliot and the Task of Poetry

What one learns ultimately from Eliot is that the activity of poetry is solitary and, if one is to rejoice in it, one has to construct something upon which to rejoice. One learns that at the desk every poet faces the same kind of task, that there is no secret that can be imparted, only resources of one’s own that are to be mustered, or not, as the case may be. Many of the things Eliot says about poetic composition are fortifying because they are so authoritatively unconsoling.