Twenty Years Ago

I Was at a Rally, Too

I went to my favorite clothing store today and when I entered there was a spontaneous political mini-rally going on. Two store assistants, a black public school teacher, a small business owner, a nurse, and two other people were expressing their deep disgust with COVID lies, the inflation of COVID numbers that two of them witnessed in person, the financial distress of empty hospitals, the damage to kids’ schooling, and the political manipulation of the COVID scare.

The popular consensus is that Governor Pritzker needs to be voted out ASAP.

Why Readers like Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind is a novel about a woman who makes her own money, stands up to public opinion, survives great calamity, and preserves her right to her own inner life throughout several marriages and childbirth.

How incredibly shocking that it would be massively popular among the overwhelmingly female readers of novels. I have absolutely no explanation for this strange phenomenon.

P.S. This is in response to the big Twitter discussion of the book’s popularity.

Some of My Nation-State Posts

This is a collection of some of my nation-state posts for those who missed it:

The rise and fall of the nation-state model.

A recap of what the nation-state is and why it is collapsing.

Why did the nation-state educate everybody?

Why the nation-state was doomed from the start.

How we walked away from the nation-state.

If you are still hoping to preserve at least some vestiges of the nation-state, here are some practical things you can do.

What’s next after the nation-state? And Part II.

The worst-case scenario of the post-nation-state.

The death of nation-state is not all bad. Here is a positive side, kind of. And this is also sorta positive, maybe. Or not.

The costs of fluidity.

The Post-national World

Five or so years ago, I wrote at length on this blog about the coming disempowerment of the nation-state model of governance. Everybody thought I was a lunatic when I said that the nation-state and its institutions are withering away. And not because there’s an evil conspiracy but because that’s what people overwhelmingly want. It’s not good for them. The future they are ushering in will not be kind to them. But they will still insist on doing it.

Now we are seeing that this is exactly what’s happening. “Defund police” isn’t a plot by a few rich evildoers. There are real crowds who are really clamoring for it. There are even bigger crowds who sit vapidly by, not caring much. And there’s nothing the mayors, the governors, or the president can do. They don’t have the legitimacy needed to send the troops against the looting bastards.

Philip Bobbitt warned in The Shield of Achilles that once the nation-state institutions lose their legitimacy, it will all be about who can afford to live in a gated community and hire a private little security troop.

Only a few years later, this is exactly what we are seeing. The people who kept assuring me that the nation-state should go because that will do away with violence were already granting legitimacy to the new order.

This is the post-national world. Raging, looting, violent crowds, and the elites egging them on like Roman nobles egged on gladiators in the circus because it’s funny to see the dumb bastards pummel each other.

Freedom to Write Badly

Here’s what’s interesting, though. I hated Grandes’novel. I found it offensive to my sensibilities as a reader, a literary critic, and an ethnic Jew. But I don’t want her to be hounded, persecuted, or prevented from publishing more novels.

To the contrary. I want Grandes to keep writing with complete freedom. I want readers to decide if they want to read her novels. I want people to be able to write honest reviews if they do read and publish them freely. I want to be able to hear from readers who loved the novel and perceived it differently. I don’t want anybody to be shut up or forced to apologize. It would be a lot LOT worse if that happened.

Book Notes: Almudena Grandes’ Frankenstein’s Mother

Here’s a true story for you. A 1930s feminist murders her own daughter because the daughter wants to live what we today call “a traditional lifestyle” and not be a feminist. How can you possibly go wrong with this kind of material? You can’t, right?

Well, if you are Almudena Grandes, you can.

Grandes is a Spanish writer who keeps churning out doorstoppers about the Franco dictatorship. Again, the Franco dictatorship offers tons of fascinating material. But Grandes’ thing is that she populates Franco’s Spain of the 1950s with characters who think and feel like extremely liberal people of year 2020 and they spend 780 painful pages feeling outraged about how everything around them is not progressive enough for their liking.

Grandes is a good storyteller, so I can usually get over this annoying habit of hers but in this novel Grandes as a storyteller loses out to Grandes the ideologue.

But wait. There’s more.

As a good 2020 liberal, Grandes hates religious people. The religious people she chose to tear into in this novel are Jews. She approves of the Jews who are completely secular, who have changed their names, and don’t even observe Sabbath.

But practicing Jews really get her goat. She goes on, page after painful page, ridiculing the speaking of Hebrew, the kippah, the Sabbath, the hair, the food, everything. Now, please remember that it isn’t just any Jews she’s ridiculing. In Grandes’ novel, it’s 1953, and the Jews are German Jews who have just survived the Holocaust. If there’s ever been a group of people who are not funny, it’s these Jews. Seriously, lady, first you create characters whose son was murdered on Kristallnacht and then you ridicule their yarmulkes? Why is that necessary?

There’s a terrible scene where the novel’s angelic protagonist who’s so tolerant he supports gay marriage and abortion in 1953 taunts a sad Holocaust Jew, telling him it’s stoooopid to experience any discomfort to avoid converting. The Jew isn’t given an opportunity to respond, of course.

It gets so bad that Grandes even uses the expression “a final solution” to describe the thought process of a kindly character who is trying to figure out how to make these annoyingly Jewish Jews less Jewish. I don’t believe Grandes used this expression consciously but I’m not surprised that it pops up when people are indulging their feelings of annoyance against Jews.

What’s particularly bizarre is that this plotline is completely unnecessary. The novel is already very long and tiresome. There’s absolutely no need to bring in a character who is a Rabbi in the last 80 pages only to ridicule him. The poor Rabbi clearly has nothing to do with the murderous feminist.

The treatment of the murderous feminist (who is a real historical figure) is also bizarre. The way that the murder of her daughter is dismissed and the killer mom is presented as completely justified brings to mind the trope of “post-birth abortion.” Since the novel is passionately pro-abortion, one begins to think that the fictional treatment of the daughter-killer is pointing in the direction of “hey, I mean, if the kid is really annoying and doesn’t even share your very progressive values, there are all sorts of good final solutions…”

It’s a bad novel, people. I don’t think it makes sense to write about an era you so thoroughly despise with the sole aim of communicating how much you despise it because you are so much more progressive and evolved. Especially if you aren’t even that evolved and think that Holocaust Jews make a good subject for ridicule.

Almudena Grandes is the real Frankenstein’s mother, and this novel is her deformed, ugly child.