Book Notes: Belén Gopegui’s Novel on Surveillance Capitalism

Belén Gopegui is a favorite among literary critics because her novels – while utterly devoid of any artistic merit – serve as a pretext to justify all kinds of really fun research.

Gopegui (a writer from Spain) creates novels that are political manifestos and not works of literature. Her writing is extremely pompous, the plots are mind-crushingly tedious, and the characters are like plastic figurines, boring and interchangeable.

But hey, it’s not all bad. Gopegui’s novel Quédate este día y esta noche conmigo is like a fictional rendering of Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism. It gives me the perfect excuse to write about this important topic while pretending to do literary analysis. I love literary analysis but it’s not my fault that there’s less literature in this novel than in a double cheeseburger at Red Robin.

Please do not read this writer because life is too short to suffer like I had to while plodding through her unreadable prose. Do, however, read Surveillance Capitalism and, better yet, come to my talk in Boston and read the article I will publish on its basis.

I hope I don’t read anything worse than this novel in 2020 because there’s a limit to how much suffering I can bear.

What’s Good About Boston?

Folks, I’m going to Boston on March 4. I’ve never been before. Can anybody tell me if there’s a dish associated with Boston?

Baltimore has crab cakes (amazing!), Philadelphia has those horrific cheesesteak sandwiches, Louisiana has gumbo (meh), St Louis has Imo’s pizza (not horrible), Chicago has hot dogs (any hot dog is a good hotdog), Florida has key lime pie (yuk but that’s any pie I didn’t make myself). What do I get in Boston?

Also, aside from Harvard and the ballet (and my evisceration of hashtag feminism at the conference I’m going to, obviously) is there anything that’s an absolutely must-seen?

If you are going to NEMLA, my talk will be in English, so feel free to come by. Details provided on request. Or just look it up in the program. I will be announcing a book series I’m launching, it will be good.

Parenting Success

Steven Spielberg’s 23-year-old adopted daughter, Mikaela, has announced to the world that she wants to be a porn star — or more euphemistically, “an adult entertainer.” In an interview with The Sun, Mikaela recounted her sad history of sexual abuse, and long periods away from her family at a boarding school, where she says also suffered from anorexia, borderline personality disorder, alcoholism and depression from the age of eleven.

It’s no secret that people in the creative fields make the worst parents ever.

You can know a lot about the quality of a human being by looking at their adult children. Mind you, I said adult children. Little kids are all cute. It’s in the adulthood that the truth comes out.

Trump’s kids, by the way, turned out a lot better than Biden’s. They are all working, they are all productive, nobody is shtupping their brother’s widow while clutching a crack pipe in a back alley and refusing to recognize some poor abandoned baby of theirs. I’m obviously deeply opposed to Ivanka’s views and her oversized presence in US politics but, compared to Hunter Biden, she’s a gigantic parenting success.

Former Liberals

Jonathan writes:

I’m sure it’s happened to many people. They consider themselves mostly liberal in their leanings, but maybe have a contrarian streak. There are some ways of stating the liberal positions that are off-putting. Generally, these will be minor annoyances at first. These people consider themselves open minded, so they welcome the more intelligent commentary from the other side, and are willing to consider other points of view. We know the saying about a liberal not being able to take his own side in an argument.

At some point, the intelligent position on the other side starts to seem appealing, in some ways. The person starts a lot of sentences with, “I’m liberal, but…” For some people, there will a tipping point, where the old liberal positions don’t seem as appealing. They will be former liberals.

This is totally me. I was a very typical academic leftie simply because I never encountered any alternative. There was no opportunity for me to discover what “the other side” thought about anything. I simply accepted my side’s narrative about what the other side believed.

Then, my side went collectively nuts over Trump. I couldn’t watch any of my favorite TV shows or read any of my favorite periodicals or authors. I can’t quit all political reading and watching, though. It’s a great hobby of mine, and I feel deprived when I don’t get any.

So out of sheer desperation I decided to check out what “the other side” was saying. Mostly, I just wanted a confirmation that it was even crazier than “my side.”

And that’s when I discovered that the other side’s worldview was a lot more coherent and a lot deeper than my side’s. The biggest thing for me is that the other side’s explanation of the opponents wasn’t that they are all stupid, bigoted, racist haters. The idea that everybody who disagrees, even in some minuscule way, is beyond the pale and needs to be hounded out of existence wasn’t there. It’s a more nuanced worldview, and I’m all about that. Plus, there are no speech codes to observe, so the writing is a lot better.

Many people never get to hear the other side. They hear their own side’s fantasy of what the opponents believe. I guess, I feel like a person who grew up in an evangelical cult and was schooled to think that everybody outside the cult is a perverted evildoer. And then left the cult and found out that it was all a lie.

Class Vindication

Journalist Mark Steyn’s brutal mockery on Tucker of Bloomberg’s flaccid performance at the debate is one of the most enjoyable instances of class vindication I have ever experienced.

Maybe Bloomberg should be hired to undergo ritual public humiliation. People will enjoy, and he seems quite fine with it. As Tucker said, rich people have been known to have unusual sexual kinks.

The Interview

I just spent five million hours being interviewed by Rod Dreher for his new book. He’s the first professional journalist of this caliber to interview me, and it’s a really unusual experience. You can see the professionalism at work, and it’s invigorating.

It’s only because of Rod Dreher that I go to church today. He didn’t inspire religious belief in me, obviously. I always had that. But I understood from his painstaking explanations why people might want to go to church and decided to try.

The book is going to be about the experiences of the Soviet people under totalitarianism, and why so many of us recognize totalitarian strategies at work in the US today. I feel stunned and almost painfully grateful that somebody in the US is interested in our experiences because ours is the kind of genocide and the kind of totalitarianism that is of no interest to anybody.

P.S. In case you feel like you already read this post, that’s because this is not my first interview with Rod.