An elementary school in Evanston canceled Halloween in order to be diverse and inclusive. It’s like these wokesters are trying to make things harder for immigrants. I haven’t met a single immigrant who’d have a problem with Halloween but now every kid in Evanston will feel resentful against the grinchy “diverse people” who stole their Halloween. And I won’t blame them.
As an immigrant, there are few things I detest more than the efforts of well-meaning progressives on my behalf.
Dumb stupid fuckers.
P.S. I love Halloween even though it doesn’t exist in my culture. Imagine that. And things I don’t celebrate or have any interest in – like St Patrick’s day – don’t wound me either.
The full title of the book is Affect and American Literature in the Age of Neoliberalism, and the author is Rachel Greenwald Smith. I’m sure everybody can guess from the title that I’m wildly enthusiastic about the book. Smith is a very good writer and a talented literary critic. She writes about the way making, reading and thinking about literature changes in the age of neoliberalism. The theoretical part is spot-on. And the evisceration of the deeply obnoxious “affective turn” in literary criticism is priceless.
The actual analysis of the novels, however, is… Let’s say it’s different from what we do in the Hispanic literary criticism. Smith contrasts novels that she decided are bad (or neoliberal) with the ones she thinks are good (or not-so-neoliberal). Problem is, I can argue that the ones she says are neoliberal are actually not and vice versa. We don’t pass this kind of value judgments in my field. We see our job as completely different from what a NYTimes book reviewer does.
But that’s not even the worst part. What really troubles me is that after reading Smith’s very good book I am most certain that I have absolutely no interest in reading any of the novels she analyzes. There’s something wrong in that. Grab any 10 novels in a bookstore completely at random, and I can guarantee I’ll want to read at least a couple. And if you remove any romance or sci-fi books from the mix and only leave what Amazon calls “literary fiction,” chances are, I’d want to read 8 out of 10.
I don’t think Smith chose a bunch of particularly horrid novels to analyze. But there’s something in the way she writes about them that makes me want to do everything to avoid reading them. And that even goes for the ones I already read and enjoyed.
To me, there’s no bigger compliment than somebody telling me they are desperate to read the books I analyze in my scholarship. But that’s how we are trained in my field. We are very strongly discouraged from writing about works of literature we don’t particularly like. And since we are in a non-hegemonic language and literature field in the US (especially in what concerns peninsularists), we are always trying to convince everybody that our field merits interest. I can’t dedicate half a book discussing novels I think are crap. Maybe that’s a bad thing because it comes from a culture of scarcity in my field. Be that as it may, I leave the discussions of the books I hate for my blog.
Smith wrote a really wonderful book. It’s probably the most enjoyable volume of literary criticism I have read in a while. But it’s in a different field, and things are different in it. I’m writing about the neoliberal subjectivity in the Hispanic novel, so Smith’s book is helpful in that regard.
And now for a funny piece of news from South Korea:
The mayor of Jindo County in South Korea had a problem. 600 volunteers were expected to participate in International Coastal Cleanup Day, but there was no garbage for the volunteers to pick up. The mayor solved that problem by arranging for already-collected garbage to be strewn across the beach like a foul Easter egg hunt.
It’s a good thing there’s no fad for helping paraplegics. One cringes to think what that mayor would do to provide some for the volunteers.
North Koreans, in the meanwhile, don’t have this problem because they ate all their garbage. But that’s not real socialism because Twitter says it isn’t.
Zadie Smith wrote a beautiful essay defending fiction from unimaginative, smug wokesters:
The question is: Do we know what fiction was? We think we know. In the process of turning from it, we’ve accused it of appropriation, colonization, delusion, vanity, naiveté, political and moral irresponsibility. We have found fiction wanting in myriad ways but rarely paused to wonder, or recall, what we once wanted from it—what theories of self-and-other it offered us, or why, for so long, those theories felt meaningful to so many. Embarrassed by the novel—and its mortifying habit of putting words into the mouths of others—many have moved swiftly on to what they perceive to be safer ground, namely, the supposedly unquestionable authenticity of personal experience.
The old—and never especially helpful—adage write what you know has morphed into something more like a threat: Stay in your lane. This principle permits the category of fiction, but really only to the extent that we acknowledge and confess that personal experience is inviolate and nontransferable. It concedes that personal experience may be displayed, very carefully, to the unlike-us, to the stranger, even to the enemy—but insists it can never truly be shared by them. This rule also pertains in the opposite direction: the experience of the unlike-us can never be co-opted, ventriloquized, or otherwise “stolen” by us. (As the philosopher Anthony Appiah has noted, these ideas of cultural ownership share some DNA with the late-capitalist concept of brand integrity.) Only those who are like us are like us. Only those who are like us can understand us—or should even try. Which entire philosophical edifice depends on visibility and legibility, that is, on the sense that we can be certain of who is and isn’t “like us” simply by looking at them and/or listening to what they have to say.
It’s a long essay but it proceeds to discuss surveillance capitalism later on, and it’s really fascinating. Partially incorrect but still very much worth reading.