Sunday, March 12, 2017

I went to my spam file and counted, yesterday and today I received 31 pieces of seething, angry hate mail over what I said yesterday.  

That's enough fun on this topic.  

Update:  Best one line book review I ever read (of the Tolkien Ring cycle ) was, 

"Not another f****ng hill!"

Update 2:  It is so hilarious for someone who has been libeling me as an antisemite for the past five years to whine that Edmund Wilson had the gall to point out that the viciously racist, antisemitic, old-line WASP nativist, homo-hating, (you just know he'd have voted for Trump and read if not written for Breitbart if he were around today) H. P. Lovecraft was a crappy writer.  Here's the news, bunky, he was. 

I think the elevation of even low level pulp writing to some kind of status as high lit, something that's supposed to be some expression of social leveling is, in fact, it's opposite.  It's an insistence that crap read mostly by mid-brow college grads who don't read a lot be given some kind of canonical status.  

If I'm luke warm on most who-done-its the horror racket is even worse.   It's just stupid, vulgar and in poor taste.  Make believe horror? No, the news is horror BECAUSE IT'S REAL. 

Update 3: I found the Hitler or Lovecraft quiz online.  I got two wrong but, then, I've read a lot of Hitler in researching my eugenics series.  

Update 4:  I'd suggest you look up the topic of Lovecraft and, racism antisemitism, etc. only when you do that you'll come to neo-Nazi websites that quote him.  He sounds remarkably like Steve Bannon and his ilk.   He'd fit right in on the neo-Nazi end of thing today. 

Update 5:  I asked a friend of mine, a well respected expert on science-fiction what he thought of Lovecraft,  "A few of his stories are OK, he wrote them badly.  He wasn't a very good writer."  

I also looked into his late - life, alleged repudiation of his bigotry and found it was far less that than it was the kind of regrets that a 46-year-old man who knows he's dying of cancer might have for some of the nastier things he said, right up till the time he was not much younger than that.  I think he knew he was dying and he was hedging his bets if his atheism turned out to be wrong.  I read an apologetic article written by a fan about how, as he was in dire straits in Providence, he as so many others, became a fan of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.  Lots of people in the arts and in the "arts" had a similar, self-interested conversion.  I think the article is rather weird in that it credits Robert E. Howard, another racist pulp writer, with broadening his New England WASP parochialism, though I think the author is trying to make bricks without straw in this case.  If Lovecraft moderated some of his viciousness in some of his late letters - the one that is held on to like a life preserver was, apparently, to a stranger to whom he might not have wanted to vent so unattractively - it does force the question of how his often racist writing from earlier when he wrote the horrifically racist letters is, somehow, cleansed of that.  Which was, actually, something I was going to touch on in a piece I had planned on posting on Saturday but which hasn't been finished yet.  Maybe next weekend. 

I think a writer has to have more virtue than that he influenced later writers in a really low-level literary genre.  Someone brought up Poe's tales of horror which I've never liked.  He was a great poet, one of the most original and great American poets of the 19th century,  but other than leading to other horror writers, I don't see anything great about much of his stuff.   He wasn't as great a poet as Whitman or Dickinson.  I like Whitman's prose better, too. 

6 comments:

  1. I'm a bit baffled. I mean, I like Chandler, but I've never read Orwell or Wilson on the subject. I consider him a guilty pleasure, like comic book movies, and move on. Yes, some are better than others, but none of it is timeless literature.

    So the reactions just baffle me. At least as an indicator of where people put the boundaries of their identity (which determines what is precious to them).

    People are a wonderment.....

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    1. It's like when you tell people you don't watch TV, they're always hostile to you if you don't have a wall screen.

      I think it's because the kind of people who don't read anything more challenging have been given permission to pretend that this is as good as great literature or, more accurately in the people who are flipping out, great movie adaptations.

      While I would agree with anyone who wanted to point out that Chandler could produce really great dialogue, at times, and a few good one liners, anyone who claims even his best book is a great one is just being silly. I really did mean it when I said In a Lonely Place was a better book than Chandler ever wrote.

      I admitted I did it to goad Simps and the Eschatots and such others like them and they're still flipping out. That number is up to 36 pieces of hate mail. Which I find hilarious.

      But enough fun is enough fun and it's time go get back to attacking Trump-Putin.

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  2. And I would still champion Chandler as a great American writer. I think he created a style and an atmosphere that may be so common now that in retrospect he himself looks commonplace. And I don't find his attitude so much cynical as world-weary, which I don't think is quite the same thing.

    It's been a good thirty years since I read "Farewell, my Lovely," so my memory of it is undoubtedly much faded. I do remember being uncomfortable with its portrayal of the interaction of different races, but I remember thinking at the time that such language and attitudes, as portrayed, were truthful to their time and none the less ugly for that. Perhaps I cut Marlowe a little too much slack; if I like him, I'll make excuses for him, look for irony where the literal truth would diminish his character.

    Still, I like the fact that, though Marlowe's values are not those of his big dumb ox of a protagonist, his sympathies are with him. Like LeCarre's Karla, in the end he is brought down, not because of his viciousness, but because of his one redeeming feature, the love of one person in a very unlovely world.

    Not intending to argue. Don't know if there's really a right or wrong of this. We just see it very differently.

    And, for the record, I've always been a Lovecraft fan because I loved his stories as a kid. I've since learned what an awful human being he was, and, having read a few of his stories about ten years ago, I think much less of him as a writer. Still, other than his overarching misanthropy, I don't recall his stories displaying any overt racism. He pretty much revels in the thought of the whole human race being exterminated by the return of the Elder Ones.

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    1. I think some of his books are like books that would be great if he had a really good editor who knew how to get the gold from the dross. I genuinely liked The Long Goodbye, though I don't know if I could read it again, now. He had real ability but I'm afraid what I see mostly, now, is a mind poisoned by alcohol and his own unwillingness to deal with what in him led him to do it.

      Thinking about Lovecraft and how he owed his literary career to a different area of pulp publishing, I think the pulps probably hurt him as much as they helped him. Other writers who wrote for some pretty bad newspapers at least got the discipline that editors provided them.

      Though I did confess that I was pushing some other peoples' buttons because their lying about me had annoyed me. Which was bad of me but, I'll admit it, fun.

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  3. Regarding Lovecraft: without doing any research on him (he's an okay writer, but never a favorite of mine), I recall both the words of OWHolmes about imbeciles and generations, and the fact that the Nazis learned a great deal of what they knew about genetics and eugenics from America, and American laws in the several states (those good ol' "laboratories of democracy" which were clean and pure until the GOP turned into the Tea Party; except, not so much).

    The connection to H.P. is the times and the culture. I'm sure he swam in it and drank from it and ate under its shade with the best of his time.

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    1. He liked to think of himself as a man of the scientific age, he's reputed to have read a lot of science, and in the pre-war period, under the regime of Darwinian natural selection, that almost always and, I'd say, inevitably led to racism and ranking of people, individually and in groups, according to schemes of economic valuation. I think he mixed that with the Yankee WASP attitudes that pre-dated Darwinism and his own resentments of not being able to make a way for himself in the world, largely through a mixture of psychological disability and snobbery.

      I have to wonder how much of what he imagined, as a "man of science" could have been physically possible. The giant green land mollusks in one of his stories mentioned by Edmund Wilson strike me as being physically improbable.

      I think a lot of his cult is based on him being an easy read, if you don't care about bad writing, and that he appeals to a lower-mid-brow kind of atheist-materialist of a pretty low order. Much is made about his abiding faith in the inconsequential status of human beings, reducing human beings to that status of inconsequentiality seems to be one of their great emotional needs. Though every single thing about their program, none so much as their elevation of the human invention of science, belies their dogmatic declarations. I also wonder if that emotional attraction to assertions of human inconsequentiality isn't related to the Darwinian habit of demoting other people to a state of inconsequentiality. I've never found a Darwinian who was really willing to believe that about themselves, their loved ones, their professional colleagues and, least of all, the status of their own faith, dogmas, doctrines and its professional product.

      I think the several horror stories by more accomplished science fiction authors are a lot better and more disturbing. I think a lot of them aren't as popular because you've got to pay attention to it instead of just consuming it like TV. Wilson pointed out a woman who wrote to him after his first article about detective novels who said she read hundreds and hundreds of them but couldn't really remember them. Which makes me think me using some of the better ones to get relief from Trumpian fascism is probably not going to last long. I think maybe I should read Graham Green and non-fiction, instead.

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