Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vile Bellow + Roiling Rhetoric/Obamaphobia + Manchester United Wins

I actually had to laugh at this dithyramb to one of the most overtly reactionary, yet critically praised US novels of the 20th century. Do you know which one I'm talking about? If not, it's Mr. Sammler's Planet, Saul Bellow's relentlessly grim, culturally pessimistic rant, a toxic abyss of fear, anxiety, loathing and hate whose discourse wouldn't be out of place in a volume by Spengler or Weininger, a cobbled-together brew of skewed Platonism and Niezschism, whose objects of hatred and disgust are women (naturally) and Negroes (ibid.), and whose climax involves a scene that has few peers in American literature: a tall, smartly dressed, anarchic and diabolical black thief, or, as Bellow describes him, an "African prince or great black beast . . . seeking whom he might devour," whom the helpless Mr. Sammler has been observing manipulating and robbing poor white bus riders, many of them elderly, over a series of weeks. This embodiment of the racist and sexist unrepressed corners poor Sammler and, in an apotheosis of countless repellant fantasies and nightmares, doesn't stab or shoot or bludgeon him; he flashes him with a large, black, uncut penis, before tucking it away and fleeing.

The novel, a transcript of racist, misgonyistic and classist panic and social declinism, has to be read to be believed--for a copy go to the library, please, don't patronize the Bellow estate on this one--and you may draw your own conclusions, but really, it's so over the top that whenever I read someone lauding--and this reviewer goes so far as to claim that the "black" crime wave of the 1970s and 1980s, attributable to the Enlightenment (I kid you not!), liberalism, etc., and not the particular socioeconomic and political conditions of that era, approximated the terror of the Nazi Holocaust!-- it for any reason other than the felicities of Bellow's prose and his materialist prescience, alarm bells go off concerning the reviewer. In this case, I consider the source. But I also say, if someone suggests to you that racism ended long ago or, despite the many cases studies available even in just the current presidential campaign, do point them in the direction of Magnet's review. I can think of several German publications from the late 1930s in which it would fit without much trouble, just as there are a number of "mainstream" news organs today where it wouldn't be out of place. I'm just surprised it hasn't been elevated to canonical status by the far and neocon right, but then again, I guess there's always time, especially when Obama is elected President. I doubt Magnet and his clique will worry about carrying it around in brown paper covers then.


Speaking of similar rants, this is another gem that you might almost think was an Onion piece, though it's clearly in keeping with the widespread rhetoric on display these days. (In addition to being a homophobe, she also doesn't have a high opinion of...women!) But then, Pat Buchanan (whom I used to call "Putzi" when he was running for office some years ago and giving his Enoch Powell-esque speeches, which, as some wag once noted, were "better in the original German") is a regular "mainstream" commenter on multiple MSNBC shows, so what do I know? I mean, this is a man who, as a colleague noted, uttered the other night without shame or irony hat voters chose Hillary Clinton because she was one of "us," rather than Obama, who was one of "them." Does it get any more volkisch than that?

OBAMAPHOBIA 3.0 (Obama as "Apostate"--Again)
And we ignore this sort of smear at our peril. This is attempt no. 2. The first was in the New York Times, while this one is in the Christian Science Monitor. (This article is now linked all over the web, to blogs, right-wing sites, you name it. That's the point. Is it psy ops or white ops?) Not Fox News, not the Washington Times, not some right-wing rag. That's the point. By printing trash like this in "mainstream," "establishment" publications, no matter how utterly trash it is, the trash gets legitimated.

When the swiftboating begins in earnest, please don't say it took you by surprise. They have been laying the groundwork for over a year.


Au revoir, Florent!


Manchester United defeated Chelsea 1-1 on penalty kicks
in this year's European Championships. I didn't have a favorite in this contest, being an Arsenal fan. Here are some photos. From the London Times Online:

Christiano Ronaldo scores for Manchester United
Christiano Ronaldo heads the opening goal for Manchester United (Graham Hughes/The Times)
Frank Lampard scores for Chelsea
The effort from Frank Lampard hits the back of the Manchester United net (Marc Aspland/The Times)
Manchester United players mob goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar after his save wins them the Champions League
Manchester United players mob goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar after his save wins them the Champions League (Graham Hughes/The Times)


  1. hey john!

    im going to miss Florent..that was the place to go when i was living in NYC..the food was good, and where else could you get a classy meal after a long ass night of extended drunk clubbing at like 4am in the morning..right! :)

    Obamaphobia....i dont know....all three of the candidates aren't spectatcular and obama is the presumed democratic nominee...but the fear that people have over the prospect of voting a Black man into office is quite real and is going to be a massive hurdle for obama to overcome in november...

    have you seen the on set photos of oliver stone's Dubya biopic? i have one up at my site..josh brolin is a DEAD ringer for Dumbya..its uncanny...haven't seen thandie newton (condoskeeza rice) and jeffrey wright (colin powell) but will put them up as soon as ifind them...

    haven't read saul bellow's book but you are one of severeal people who have uttered this title in connection with the current political climate a must read for me after i re-read Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and The Chronicles of Narnia...

  2. So, I have logged many many hours on the infamous nifty website (discovering it as an undergrad was, well, quite wonderful). I need to see if there's a Barack Hussy story up yet.

    Broken record, but I'm really quite astounded by the racism and sexism this election cycle has elicited. It's not an insightful comment, and, in part, I don't know that we can be or should be "insightful" about both.

    Hope you get some vacation time over summer.

  3. Ryan,

    Do you seriously expect any candidate to be "spectacular"? And what exactly would that consist of? They have all given us more than enough "spectacle" to last several campaign seasons, which is what these long pre-primary and primary seasons are starting to feel like. You also say the fear "people" have--but is this a general fear or can you be more specific? ;0

    I haven't seen the Stone film, and I'm starting to dread it. Given how the media are still pulling for the W, they will use this AGAINST Obama (or HRC should she con her way into the nomination) as another sign of elitism. I also fear it'll be pretty bad, which will help to transform the utter horribleness of Bush's tenure into more mediated banality, which is already occurring, but may be furthered irreparably by the nonsense Stone devises.

    Keguro, thanks for the good summer wishes. Lord knows, I need them. My brain hurts.

  4. fear people have, as in many white people will note vote for obama because he's black...i know for a fact that that is how he lost PA..specifically, out here in pittsburgh/western pa....

    the media didn't bother to (or chose not to) show the on the spot people polls they had the day of the PA primary--white folks were publicly admitting they wouldn't vote for obama because he's black...or, they would say that they weren't comfortable with the idea of someone black running the country..that fear.

    as for spectacular, they all suck to me...i haven't been impressed with any of them...honestly, i'm not expecting spectacular--but, i am expecting COHERENT and COMPETENT...NOT BUSH....obama and hillary would fall into this category...

    mccain: not at all...

    and the stone movie is going to be horrible..i just feel it in my bones..stone is such a blowhard liberal that i think he purposely wrote a script which bashes Bush, which in turn will give the bush administration just the right amount of "nostalgia" points and allow them to walk off into the sunset...

    i get stone's point...but, it's just not a good time...if at all...