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:
- FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, by E. L. James
- GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn
- FIFTY SHADES DARKER, by E. L. James
- ORPHAN TRAIN, by Christina Baker Kline
- 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.