They see us as something to be busted.

How do our cultural elites see us?

I wandered around the local public library of my small, rural town this afternoon when I got done with work, looking for a book to read. Shelves of new self-help books shrieked my inadequacy at me – Clean up your clutter! Clean out your colon! – as I made my way toward New Fiction and finally, in exasperation, toward regular old Fiction. Honestly, I resolved to read six new books this year, but I’ve found myself rereading Barchester Towers instead because there is nothing new that I can stomach the thought of reading; here’s what the New York Times posted today for its paperback bestsellers list:

  1. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, by E. L. James
  2. GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn
  3. FIFTY SHADES DARKER, by E. L. James
  4. ORPHAN TRAIN, by Christina Baker Kline
  5. FIFTY SHADES FREED, by E. L. James

Kinda heavy on the sadomasochism there. I’d probably read Orphan Train, but I didn’t see a copy of it.

But I will try to read something written in this decade, I decided, and leave Trollope on the shelf for today. I idly pulled out books, read the backs, and then reshelved them, which I know you’re not supposed to do, but I’m so careful, you know, it seems a shame to make the librarian do it.

A hopeful choice sporting a bride on the cover turned out only to be the latest Sophia Kinsella Let’s all fantasize about buying lots of stuff and sleeping with rich, hot men! novel but written under her new pseudonym (which is actually her real name); apparently even she must not be able to stand her own books anymore. I must confess that her Shopaholic series having sold nearly six million copies does make me think less of womankind as a whole.

I spotted a book with an interesting looking cover entitled Now Is the Hour by an author with whom I was unfamiliar, Tom Spanbauer, written in 2006, so it fulfilled my must-be-from-this-decade requirement. I flipped it over to read the reviews on the back cover.

Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, writes:

In Tom Spanbauer’s Now Is the Hour, white small-town America gets its cherry busted in an orgy of cigarette smoke and racism.

I stood there in my 96.1% white, nearly crime-free small town, and felt a flash of anger. People here work hard and are generally kind; before the sun comes up, the roads are already crowded with men in their pick-up trucks on their way to work. But you know, Chuck Palahniuk, with his orgies and his cigarette smoke and his racial hatred is clearly so superior to these men.

Something must be wrong here because I find myself possibly for the first time ever in agreement with The Guardian, where Patrick Ness, himself a homosexual man, writes scathingly of the much-lauded Now Is the Hour:

“The plot, if I must, begins with Rigby John Klusener hitchhiking to San Francisco in 1967 from rural Idaho, wearing flowers in his hair. The novel is the story of how he got there, including a devout Catholic upbringing on his parents’ farm, skinny-dipping with handsome Mexican labourers, falling in deep platonic love with rebel girl Billie Cody, and finally falling in actual love with 35-year-old alcoholic Native American George Serrano, who likes dressing up as a woman but who nevertheless is hired by Rigby John’s racist, homophobic father to work solo with his “spineless ass” son. Yes, okay, sure.

This is all told in a flood of Oprah-ready sunny aphorisms (“Miracles are out there somewhere. You just got to find them”), and most grandly emotional scenes end with the participants collapsing in laughter at something funny the reader’s missed. There are fantastically improbable and melodramatic deaths, an excruciating appropriation of pseudo-Native American myth, and three whole pages of Rigby John saying goodbye to his dog.

So the question is, why would such juvenile, navel-gazing nonsense be served up as “a triumphant return by one of America’s finest novelists”? I can only conclude that it’s to do with the novel’s “queerness”, its explicit sexuality blinding otherwise intelligent people to its manifest shortcomings.

Well, no wonder the novel was a runaway hit with our cultural elites, when there are whites to be mocked as evil, racist, bigoted homophobes –  just cherries to be busted. It is rather refreshing that a gay man like Ness took the time to note that the novel is actually a piece of trash and only the fact that it was “queered” made it a best-seller.

This is why you cannot give liberalism and modernity an inch. Not an inch, not a millimeter. They don’t want to live and let live. They see you as a cherry to be busted. And don’t think this is about being white; it isn’t. If you are black, don’t imagine that people like Palahniuk really care about you. They care about using you to validate their sick self-absorption and further their destructive agenda.

So, did I give up? Will I be spending another night with Trollope on my bedside table?

No, I found a book entitled The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, published in 2011:

The Night Circus is a phantasmagorical fairy tale set near an ahistorical Victorian London in a wandering magical circus that is open only from sunset to sunrise. Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams, features such wonders and “ethereal enigmas” as a blooming garden made all of ice, acrobats soaring without a net, and a vertical cloud maze where patrons who get lost simply step off and float gently to the floor. The circus has no set schedule, appearing without warning and leaving without notice; they travel in a train disguised as an ordinary coal transport. A network of devoted fans styling themselves “rêveurs” (“dreamers”) develops around the circus; they identify to each other by adding a splash of red to garb that otherwise matches the characteristic black and white of the circus tents. The magical nature of the circus is occluded under the guise of legerdemain; the illusionist truly transforms her jacket into a raven and the fortune teller truly reads the uncertain future, and both are applauded for their ingenuity.

The circus serves a darker purpose beyond entertainment and profit. The magicians Prospero the Enchanter and the enigmatic Mr. A.H— groom their young proteges, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, to proxy their rivalry with the exhibits as a stage.

I am trying not to let the fact that it spent seven weeks on the NYT Best Seller’s List or that it was a candidate for The Guardian’s First Book Award bias me against it, as the synopsis sounds delightful. I will let you know how it is, but surely it will be better than having my white, small-town cherry busted with orgies and cigarette smoke courtesy of Mssrs. Palahniuk and Spanbauer.

Have you read anything good lately? Tell me about it in the comments or I fear I shall be doomed to reread the entire Chronicles of Barsetshire series.

12 thoughts on “They see us as something to be busted.

  1. Sharon Kay Penman’s Weslh Prince trilogy:

    Here Be Dragons
    Falls the Shadow
    The Reckoning

    Historical fiction, well written. One warning: the first book, while also full of war and political intrigue, also spends a fair amount of time on the love affair of Llewelyn the Great and Princess Joanna, complete with a few intense sex scenes. You can just skip that stuff since you where everything goes.

    The second and third books are fairly free of any racy stuff. But they are very good reads.


  2. I would like to offer a suiggestion but, I can’t. There aren’t any more bookstores to browse anymore. First the little, local ones went by the wayside in favor of the mega-bookstores. Now, the very large ones are gone too.
    Maeve is good at promoting books that she enjoys.

    Off topic but, it should be spread widely
    H/T to Spawny Get


  3. I do keep being reminded of your observation that Christian White Straight Males seem to get served last and picked on first. I have occasion to use this from time to time.


  4. I really liked The Night Circus, it was enchanting. I am somewhat of a book-hound and I tend to read a lot when I have the free time. Some books I enjoyed in the last year, that fit into your last decade category, are:
    The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal
    Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
    The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    I had a book-a-day calendar last year that lead me to a lot of books that I wouldn’t have normally sought out. It was a great way to find some new reads. Also a lot of duds, but there were some that I enjoyed, as well as it gave me a list of books to read in the future.


  5. Well, lots of trash was published way back when. We don’t remember it because it’s long fallen by the wayside and only the good stuff remains. The bestseller list has never been a very good barometer of what’s worth reading. And if you don’t believe me, I point you to the works of Marie Corelli, the first major bestselling author of the modern age. Look her up for a good laugh.

    Don’t dismiss Patrick Ness on ideological grounds. He wrote a book called A Monster Calls, which is simple and delicate, but a quite extraordinary portrait of grief.

    Before asking for recommendations, you should say what you like. Otherwise you’ll get lots of recommendations in genres you don’t read. So: what have you read that you loved?


    • Well, lots of trash was published way back when. We don’t remember it because it’s long fallen by the wayside and only the good stuff remains.

      That isn’t exactly my point. Bad literature, like the poor, is something we will always have with us. But the point isn’t that the literature is bad, which is a forgivable fault, but rather that it has an evil goal, that of destroying anyone who opposes liberalism. Rural whites are not evil, bigoted, racists who desire to slaughter homosexuals, so why does Spanbauer portray them that way? And Palahniuk’s comment was unusual in its candor; the reason why the book was good according to him was because it was insulting and destructive to rural whites. It’s not bad literature, BC; it’s race and class hatred by elites against a group they know won’t defend itself.

      Edited to add: Also, though I’ve not read FSoG, recall that I read and reviewed a Christian book about FSoG last year on another blog. The book goes out of its way to use Christian imagery as a back drop for violence and perversity, including using Christian music during the main characters’ violent sexual encounters. The excerpts I’ve read demonstrate that not only is the book bad literature (i.e. badly written) but it also has an evil goal.


      • I wish I had read either of the authors, so I could put up some kind of spirited defence and get a stoush happening, but I haven’t. Palahniuk has never appealed, and the other chap doesn’t sound promising either.

        With the strict understanding that I haven’t read the stuff and don’t plan to, I will, however, argue that plots turn on conflict, and if you’re going to set your novel in an area populated by rural whites, your fictional people have to have all sorts of pathologies bubbling away or there won’t be any story.


    • Before asking for recommendations, you should say what you like. Otherwise you’ll get lots of recommendations in genres you don’t read. So: what have you read that you loved?

      I’d just like to hear what others are reading because you never know, it might be outside my usual preferences but still be enjoyable.

      Still, I’ll say that although I have a wide range of reading tastes, I do like well-done historical fiction, especially when it’s heavily biographical. I liked My Father Had a Daughter – Judith Shakespeare’s Tale and also The Artist’s Wife (about Alma Mahler, the rather dreadful but interesting wife of Gustav Mahler and illicit lover of a number of other men).

      Some fantasy catches my attention as well: The Prospero’s Daughter trilogy by L.J. Lamplighter was good (nota bene to Christian readers: This series is not to be taken as theology or Christian doctrine; the books mix pagan and Christian beliefs about Our Lord, heaven, and hell. They are at most allegorical but mostly just to be taken as fantasy).


      • I’ll give you an anti-recommendation – I’m dragging my way through Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch at the moment, and it’s one great big mess. How it got the Pulitzer Prize is beyond me!


  6. I would recommend the following ( I cheated and cut and paste from Wikipedia). Anyway, you will t be enthralled by the title character. She makes many of the mistakes you warn young wives about and reaps horrible consequences.

    Olive Kitteridge (2008) is a novel by American author Elizabeth Strout. It presents a portrait of the title character and a number of recurring characters in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine. It takes the form of 13 short stories that are interrelated but discontinuous in terms of narrative. It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award.


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