Monday, October 13, 2014

About Don Draper and refusing to grow up


"In suggesting that patriarchy is dead, I am not claiming that sexism is finished, that men are obsolete or that the triumph of feminism is at hand. I may be a middle-aged white man, but I’m not an idiot. In the world of politics, work and family, misogyny is a stubborn fact of life. But in the universe of thoughts and words, there is more conviction and intelligence in the critique of male privilege than in its defense, which tends to be panicky and halfhearted when it is not obtuse and obnoxious. The supremacy of men can no longer be taken as a reflection of natural order or settled custom.

"This slow unwinding has been the work of generations. For the most part, it has been understood — rightly in my view, and this is not really an argument I want to have right now — as a narrative of progress. A society that was exclusive and repressive is now freer and more open. But there may be other less unequivocally happy consequences. It seems that, in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grown-ups."

— From "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture," A.O. Scott, The New York Times, Sept. 14, 2014 

Saturday, October 11, 2014
Saturday, October 4, 2014
In my opinion, literature has no morality. Horrible people have written great books and great people have written horrible books. The art shouldn’t be subject to the same moral lens as the person creating it. Edward J. Rathke (via thatlitsite)
To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage. Georgia O’Keeffe (via thatlitsite)
Saturday, September 27, 2014


Sales for Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four went up by 7000 percent during the first week of the 2013 NSA mass surveillance leaks


Friday, September 26, 2014

Banned Books Week: ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’

“It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out. 

So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter—and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.


I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I’ll GO to hell"—and tore it up.” 

Mark Twain’s classic remains controversial today, for obvious reasons, and taking out the n-word doesn’t really change any of that. 

You don’t have to like the language — I certainly don’t — but to strip one of America’s first literary classics of one of its essential references is to deprive contemporary readers of a necessary understanding of what has made that word so powerful. And so taboo. 

All week long the American Library Association has been marking Banned Books Week

Don’t let anybody tell you what to read, and what to think. 

Even if you’re offended by what you see, don’t prevent someone else from the freedom to read, and think, for himself, or herself.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Banned Books Week: ‘Lolita’

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.

That’s just the opening of Vladimir Nabokov’s daring novel, which was published in the mid-1950s, in the midst of American post-war conventionality.

This hot little literary number has never been off the list of banned classics ever since. 

It still shocks today, but it may not been as inventive or original as first thought. There are quite a few literary critics and scholars who believe Nabokov may have been inspired in part by an early 1950s lesbian classic, “The Price of Salt,” written by Claire Morgan, a pseudonym for Patricia Highsmith, the mistress of suspense fiction. 

Finally, a movie version of the latter is planned for next year, starring Cate Blanchett. Bring it on. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Banned Books Week: ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’


On weekends Heather and her two mommies spend lots of time together. On sunny days they go to the park. On rainy days they stay inside and bake cookies. Heather likes to eat two gingersnaps and drink a big glass of milk….

…”I don’t have a daddy,” Heather says. She’d never thought about it before. Did everyone except Heather have a daddy? Heather’s forehead wrinkles up and she begins to cry.

Molly picks up Heather and gives her a hug. “Not everyone has a daddy,” Molly says. “You have two mommies. That’s pretty special. Miriam doesn’t have a daddy either. She has a mommy and a baby sister. That’s pretty special too.”

Leslea Newman’s children’s book, first published 25 years ago, is a staple near the top of most-challenged lists, and has been for years, and earned some dubious attention from Congress

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banned Books Week: ‘Brave New World’


John protests that if the people of the World State believed in God, they would not be degraded by their pleasant vices. They would have a reason for self-denial and chastity. God, John claims, is the reason for “everything noble and fine and heroic.” Mond says that no one in the World State is degraded; they just live by a different set of values than John does. World State civilization does not require anyone to bear unpleasant things. If, by accident something negative occurs, soma is there to take away the sting. Soma, he says, is “Christianity without tears.”

When it was published in 1932, “Brave New World” shocked for passages like that, and later was challenged for depictions of sexuality, among other “offenses.”

Huxley’s dystopian novel resonates today for so many reasons, as stated below: 

Part of what makes this book so controversial is the very thing that makes it so timeless- we want to believe that technology has the power to cure all, but Huxley shows the dangers all too well.

By removing all of the world’s sorrows and ills, humanity also rids itself of the true pleasures in life. There’s no real passion in a fixed and engineered society; no creativity; and no individuality. To know the pleasure, you must first know the pain. That’s the difference between having a life and living a life.

Here are more resources from the American Library Association about Banned Books Week.