Monday, September 20, 2010

Comment Trail September 20 - 27

Jonathan Franzen's novel, Freedom, and the return of literary antisemitism?


1. "a wizened person” with “turkeylike cords in his neck” and “the almost shrunken smallness of his skull that made his white, white smile so prominent”

"A small flat-nosed Jew raised his large head and regarded me with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril. After a moment I discovered his tiny eyes in the half darkness" (The Great Gatsby)

"in a corner by himself a Jew, muzzle down in the plate, was guiltily wolfing bacon." (Orwell)


So what else is new?

2. "The fact that such a wizened person had sired the amazing Jenna seemed to Joey of a piece with his eminence. "

So the conniving old shyster has a lovely daughter. It's reminiscent of Franzen's perhaps unconscious model, Shylock, whose daughter, Jessica, is also beautiful, though, unlike her father, virtuous, as demonstrated by her religious conversion."

Jessica is not virtuous in Shakespeare's eyes though she is a smidgen better than the Venetians she courts (she tips the servants). However the model for Franzen's character's amazement at the fact that such an ugly specimen would sire such beauty is contained in the MofV, in the ugly figure of:

* Launcelot Gobbo. Yes, truly; for, look you, the sins of the father
are to be laid upon the children: therefore, I
promise ye, I fear you. I was always plain with
you, and so now I speak my agitation of the matter:
therefore be of good cheer, for truly I think you 1845
are damned. There is but one hope in it that can do
you any good; and that is but a kind of bastard
hope neither.

* Jessica. And what hope is that, I pray thee?

* Launcelot Gobbo. Marry, you may partly hope that your father got you 1850
not, that you are not the Jew's daughter.

* Jessica. That were a kind of bastard hope, indeed: so the
sins of my mother should be visited upon me. "

I wonder if the author had meant to lead his readers to this suspicion.

3. "... whose father is described as “the founder and luminary president of a think tank devoted to advocating the unilateral exercise of American military power to make the world freer and safer, especially for America and Israel.” ... this man—”a wizened person” with “turkeylike cords in his neck” and “the almost shrunken smallness of his skull that made his white, white smile so prominent”—holds forth to Joey:

“He spoke of the ‘new blood libel’ that was circulating in the Arab world, the lie about there having been no Jews in the twin towers on 9/11, and of the need, in times of national emergency, to counter evil lies with benevolent half-truths.”

I wonder if Ahmadinajad read Franzen's book or vice versa:

"... some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime.

The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view."

What do you think? Don't the two men share certain positions concerning the genesis of the Iraq war, Israel's perfidious collaborators, Jews, etc?

What does this tell us about Franzen's authorial wisdom? Why would anyone try to exculpate such opinions, even when they are dressed in the beautiful words of literary fiction?

I have a theory that with the onset of enlightenment, liberalism and political correctness, laws quarantining Jews and imposing discriminatory treatment on Jews by way of curtailing their exuberant ambitions were no longer a feasible proposition. So hatred of Jews and resentment of their success have found shelter in fiction. As long as it is "fictional" then anyone complaining about the antisemitic myth and loathing can be ridiculed as paranoid, the ultimate uncool.

More on the same

Mad Men on TNR


How intensely aware were the denizens of the 60's that they were living through a social and cultural paradigm shift? I'm not sure I fully understand the author's beef that "the arms-length respect paid to African American sacrifice feels like an evasion posing as an acknowledgment. "

People who lived in the middle ages did not know they were living in the "dark ages" and 15th century Europeans did not look out of the window and say to themselves: oh, look the renaissance has begun. How wonderful. We understand better how the cosmos works and what's real perspective.

Language always lags behind the events. By the time language catches up to it, the reductive narratives have already set in. In this 60's period piece I suspect the intention is to reverse what has become the conventional wisdom about that decade. They try to divest the language of its excess baggage, strip the sentimentalized patina, refresh the meanings, in order to lend us back bang into the midst of it, with the innocence of ignorance of the world to come.

It's almost Miltonian in its ambition. And I think as least as much I have seen of this series, it has worked.

It's another Deadwood.

And it is very much in opposition to what I've seen coming out of the BBC, whose dramas of late tend to inject 21st century sanctimonious sensibilities and cliches into period dramas.

After watching the latest episodes of "Foyle's War" for example I can appreciate all the more the great intellectual work that has gone into the preparation of "Mad Men". Quite apart from the brilliant visual recreation of the sixties.)

The overstated case for peace in the Middle East

Mosque backlash

@ Bob's: Chomsky, Holocaust Denying, genocide relativizing


At 11:28 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Fadl issues his opinion:
"...In his new statement, Sayyid Imam expresses opposition to the proposed construction of Cordoba House near Ground Zero in Manhattan: "Although the 9/11 bombings were contrary to the teachings of Islam, they have been attributed to Islam. Osama bin Laden deceived people, saying that he works to champion Islam. Then there appeared a contemporary Islamic preacher [or "a promoter of discord" – see our introduction] who wants to build a mosque near the site of the bombings in New York [i.e. Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf]. I say that it is not permitted to build this mosque on this site, for two reasons.

"The first is that there is no Islamic obligation to build the mosque on this site [in particular], since a Muslim is allowed to pray anywhere that is ritually pure. The second reason is that [building the mosque] entails harm to the victims of these bombings, who were killed in an operation that was contrary to the teachings of Islam, and reminds them and others of their grief." The statement said further that the proposed Cordoba House "is a mosque of discord (fitna), and one is not allowed to aid in its construction in any manner, even if the Americans were to agree to it, since [if it is built] this damage and discord will continue for generations to come."

(Lawrence Wright wrote an in-depth profile of Dr. Fadl for The New Yorker. I wonder how Wright can reconcile Fadl's opinion with Wright's opinion of Fadl - the liberal's conundrum!)

I am not sure how much Fadl is listened to...especially in the U.S.

At 11:35 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Rebellion Within
An Al Qaeda mastermind questions terrorism.
by Lawrence Wright
June 2, 2008

"...Fadl was one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; Al Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. Now Fadl was announcing a new book, rejecting Al Qaeda’s violence. “We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that,” Fadl wrote in his fax, which was sent from Tora Prison, in Egypt...."


At 9:51 AM EDT, Anonymous WillJames said...

I heard a rumor that you enjoy Renaissance art. Here's a link to my favorite guidebook to the Uffizi. (It's a pdf download):


At 7:38 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, bliss, a blog where CC, WJ, and K2K can meet!

actually stopped by to add the link to Netanyahu's speech
“Just Say It: Just Say Yes to a Jewish State”

and, so you can read about the 'contentious centrists' in the U.S., the actual survey that some are buzzing about (and why so many at TNR are in denial):

Douglas E. Schoen LLC
IWV Questionnaire
National Survey of 1,000 Independent Likely Voters
August 21 – August 30, 2010

yes, I suppose I feel the need to smack Gitlin :)


At 7:02 AM EDT, Anonymous WillJames said...

K2K, Netanyahu's speech makes it all seem so simple and straightforward. As it would be, if only....

The mood of the independent voters seems about 70% favorably inclined towards the Tea Party. Not a pretty prospect for the Demos in the upcoming elections. Was Gitlin predicting a wide-spread Progressive sweep?

At 12:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WillJames: turnout will be the key factor on Nov. 2 - which is turning into a "change" wave to slow down the Democratic change that paid lip service to real job creation, and Obama's broken promise of post-partisanship.

Gitlin's TNR post is about Islamophobia and the "demonization" of Rauf. Gitlin personally entered the thread of his first GZM post to intimidate me into silence, which did not work. This is his third TNR post, and now I solely aim to discredit his propaganda.

I only started to delve into the GZM because of the ADL statement on July 28. It took me this long to piece together the idea that the anti-war Left wants to rob 9/11 of it's "patriotic/nationalist sentimentalism", confirming my thought Rauf is engaged in a deliberate act of non-violent political terrorism, enabled by an interesting group of religious figures firmly on the left.

I bear the disadvantage of not being a student of their ideological foundation, but still have my moments of dot-connecting.

This post on the English Defense League clarifies the issue in the progressive=anti-colonial=good versus anyone with patriotic-nationalist motivation can thus be called a bigoted Islamaphobe. Same frame that Gitlin uses.

I feel bad that I only watched the first episode of "Mad Men" Having worked for major cigarette companies, I lost interest because their depiction of 1960's advertising was so distant from the reality, and the main characters had zero attraction for me. (I confess I was as contrary about ALWeber's 'Phantom' - I wanted both leads to jump off the roof by intermission)
Strange Mad Men developed such a devoted following somehow linked to the illusion of authenticity.
Perhaps I shall try again next year if I am bored enough...but somehow I think I shall be continuing my current dvd obsession with spy thrillers and the heroes of World War2.


At 11:41 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

since a Muslim is allowed to pray anywhere that is ritually pure. --- K2K

I heard that people are now slaughtering and burying pigs on proposed Mosque sites, so as to defile the land in such a way, that it is unaccpetable as a prayer, according to Islamic doctrine or whatever.

If it is true, it could become a great counter measure, to prevent the spread of these Islamic Institutions and Colonization Centers.

At 11:58 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Hey, Escape: Do you happen to know a good recipe for apple baba?


I don't think this is a good idea at all. When you have kids of your own you will learn that the best way to teach good habits is by setting a good example. You can't teach others consideration and friendship by committing acts so contrary to our ideas of basic respect and human dignity. These are not your enemies. You might look upon them as your rivals, your competitors but not your enemies.

At 10:20 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been immersed in the New York elections this week. As many as 13 of the 29 Congressional Districts are now in serious play, because of the pork-eating Catholics who are 49% of New York voters. I think the likely outcome will sacrifice pigs for the higher cause of bacon, ham, and more prosciutto - no need for pagan sacrifice to stop mosquebuilding - just build Italian pork stores first, and all problems solved.

Seriously, because of the location of these thirteen CDs, the turnout model favors the Republicans in New York, which is going to be a bigger shock to the Democrats than the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

My favorite is that Anthony Weiner actually faces a real competitor in CD9, which means the Russian immigrants who so trouble Bill Clinton in Israel's electorate are about to also decide one election in Brooklyn. Weiner had the lowest turnout in 2008 - a point that roid once tried to grind me into the dust over - so I am pleased to see that turnout might triple in 2010 in a clear rejection of taking-for-granted-liberalism-that-does-not-really exist in CD9. Weiner has a local no-mosque-in-Sheepshead-Bay to deal with.

An early clue was the failure of Obama to sell out a fundraiser in Manhattan last week even though the price was discounted from the original $1,000 to $100. See Gail Sheehy at DailyBeast. I believe ham sandwiches were included :)

The Democrats rely on Manhattan liberals to win statewide contests. But Manhattan cannot overcome REAL turnout in the rest of downstate NY.

The news on the GZM has dried up, but it is still in the minds of New York voters.

Sharif El-Gamal is scheduled to speak at CAIR's fundraiser on Oct. 9 in Virginia. I sense CAIR is trying to hijack the GZM away from Rauf.

CC: when you tire of Franzen, your thoughts on George Packer's profile of Israeli novelist David Grossman merit attention. I have never read Grossman, but this profile smacks of a political agenda in it's timing, a new trend for The New Yorker, noteworthy when they also post the entire article as free content:


At 12:26 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Thanks for the Grossman reference, K2K. I printed it out and will read it probably on Monday, when I have the mornings for myself, sort of.

At 7:56 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

Hey, Escape: Do you happen to know a good recipe for apple baba?

I dont. Didnt know what it was until I just googled it.

Sounds good. The simple recipes are the best, as they are more authentic soul food usually. They were made more often because of there simplicity, in the cultures that produced them.

It sound kind of cobblerish. However, instead of bicuit/scone bread on top of fruit & sugar fold the apples into a more cake like batter. Something similar to a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.

At 8:19 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

Im afraid that I cant follow your analogy that Muslims and Islam are the equivalent of children.

At 8:19 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:13 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

I have a theory that with the onset of enlightenment, liberalism and political correctness, laws quarantining Jews and imposing discriminatory treatment on Jews by way of curtailing their exuberant ambitions were no longer a feasible proposition. --- Noga

Ive been reading at Jewcy. Your average Jew is quite hostile to Euro Christians. It's pretty amazing what I read over there. The open bigotry, and they see it as anti bigtory, anti racism, anti xenophobia. Truly remarkable.

At 10:58 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

I knew you would like that statement, dear escape. I made it thinking: Ah, here is something NWO would love to sink his teeth into.

And I wasn't wrong.

I believe I once suggested that you and that Arab fellow, "Arabian", who comments at Solomonia, have much in common.

At 3:01 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CC: NYT reviewed Grossman's new book today, by Colm Toibin, as a work of fiction:

"...There is another moment, told in flashback, when Avram, delirious in the hospital, having been released from captivity after the war, when he was led to believe that Israel had been fully defeated, asks Ora: “Is there . . . Is there an Israel?” Again, the tension becomes so great that you hold your breath.

To say this is an antiwar book is to put it too mildly, and in any case such labels do an injustice to its great sweep, the levels of its sympathy. There is a plenitude of felt life in the book. There is a novelist’s notice taken of the sheer complexity not only of the characters but of the legacy of pain and conflict written into the gnarled and beautiful landscape through which Ora and Avram walk. And there is the story itself, unfolded with care and truth, wit and tenderness and rare understanding. This is one of those few novels that feel as though they have made a difference to the world."


p.s. what fun to be googling "Iran worm" last night - about the Stuxnet worm cyber-warfare. only good news in weeks :)

At 4:29 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

You might look upon them as your rivals, your competitors but not your enemies. -- Noga

The assertion was clear.

At 8:42 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

I don't think I can remember an Israeli novel in which soldiers, the army or war are involved, that is not anti-war.

At 6:35 AM EDT, Anonymous WillJames said...

"I don't think I can remember an Israeli novel in which soldiers, the army or war are involved, that is not anti-war."

I was about to jump in with, "What about Mark Helprin's 'Refiner's Fire' or Leon Uris' novels?" But then it occurred to me that neither writer was an Israeli.

It's interesting that in Italy the three Israeli authors who appear regularly in interviews are Amos Oz, Grossman, and A.B. Yehoshua. All three are treated as the spokespersons for reasonable opinion coming from Israel. And it's a chorus which is very much anti-war, almost pacifist, and convinced that a more generous outreach and more diligent self-sacrifice on the part of Israelis in the search for peace will ultimately prevail.

Of the three authors I've read only Oz. He's a superb writer, and I respect his ardent desire for peace. But one doesn't turn to Gandhi for advice on how to resist murderous aggression. And the comments of all three authors in every interview that I have read make them worthy candidates for beatification, but disqualify them as pundits for formulating public policy.

At 7:10 AM EDT, Anonymous WillJames said...

K2K, thanks for the link to the Hudson essay on the EDL. Superb article. It's good to see that the Brits are figuring out a way to counter Islamization via a grassroots organization that is diligently avoiding the excesses of far-right nativist parties. Very encouraging!

So, the Stux-net worm is not the only good news out there....

At 7:27 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

The EDL is not well-thought of in the Decent Left blogosphere that I'm familiar with. I confess I have not felt inclined to read through all the arguments but I do have a certain knee-jerk trust in Bob's judgment even if he comes to the subject from a very "Leftist" POV.

I'm very leery of people who seem to think of Israel as Escape velocity here does.

At 4:29 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

The EDL isnt perfect, but its definitely an overall good development. The Anti Fascist thugs and the Islamist thugs dont control the streets anymore, for one thing.

Equating Pamela Gellar with George Galloway is utterly ridiculous.

At 4:33 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

I'm very leery of people who seem to think of Israel as Escape velocity here does. -- Israel

I dont know why. Im staunchly pro Israel and always have been for a variety of reasons which are common to Americans and American Conservatives.

At 4:54 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

I guess I represent the New English Review Iconoclast, Gates of Vienna, Atlas Shrugs, Pajamas Media crowd.

At 6:15 PM EDT, Anonymous willjames said...

If you have a chance to read the article on the Hudson website about EDL that K2K linked to, I would be curious to hear what about their agenda you find off-putting or otherwise unsavory. Are they disliked on the decent left for specific actions and positions they have taken?

At 6:05 PM EDT, Anonymous Noga said...

There is something somewhat ominous about a movement that purports to represent the interests of a majority culture defining, and regarding, itself as a minority under stress.

Escape Velocity whom I have known for years and who is a good man, as far as I know, has convinced himself that the white race and Christianity is under attack from Muslims with the active assistance of the Jews. His purported support for Israel is based on a notion he has that Israeli Jews in Israel are akin to the white southerners in the US vis a vis the blacks. His conception of the configuration of the powers and interests at play is very much like that of indecent leftists.

We should remember and learn from history. When the crusader armies started on their way to the redeem the Holyland from the Muslims, they attacked, massacred, and burnt entire Jewish communities that they happened upon. For them, the Jews were hardly distinguishable from the Muslim conquerors.

At 11:56 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

There is something somewhat ominous about a movement that purports to represent the interests of a majority culture defining, and regarding, itself as a minority under stress. --- Noga

For example Israeli Jews or Tibetans. Black South Africans in the mid 20th Century. Chinese and Koreans under Japanese occupation. Greece under Ottoman Turkish rule. Irish under British rule.

The list is limitless.

That does sound deranged Noga. However that isnt an accurate summation of my positions.

Your paranoia of Euro Christians in the last paragraph is part of what makes Jews hostile to Euro Christians. This should be uncontroversial. It is what drives Jewish support for roling back majority rights, culture, etc in the US and Europe. This agenda (neutering and disempowering the majority and promoting minority interests over them) with regards to Israel as a Jewish seen as anti Semitic, and rightly so. These same politics practiced in Euro Christian majority nations are Anti Euro Christian.

This should be uncontroversial.

But alas...

When the game is tribalism, not playing makes your group the loser by default. Time to rejoin the game.

At 9:14 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"When the game is tribalism, not playing makes your group the loser by default. Time to rejoin the game."

I'm smiling at this inadvertent admission that your worldview is indistinguishable from that of that Arab fellow's, "Arabian", who comments at Solomonia, and is a regular visitor in my blog.

You solution is reactionary in the extreme and while it may feel good to ventilate your hostilities in this way, it is hardly a position that is commensurate with the values and principles of democracy and enlightened liberalism. Which as systems are the most people-friendly and least violent than any other system in history. You would want these values to endure. What you are suggesting is destroying a centuries-long humanistic project in favour of solving a problem that threatens the structure of this very project. So what's the good in your propositions? Either way, the project will be destroyed.

At 9:20 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

And either way, the Jews will be blamed for it, by you, rabid "progressives", Muslim fascists, Arabs, whoever.

I forgot to thank you for the apple baba response, though I'm not quite sure how to translate it into a recipe. I tried the recipes I found on the Internet but they don't come out the same way the babas are that one can find at the Second Cup.

For the puzzled reader, I'm discussing food with Escape because he is an ordained chef, believe it or not, and a very knowledgeable one.

At 4:46 PM EDT, Blogger EscapeVelocity said...

Either way, the project will be destroyed. -- Noga

This is false.

Israel is an imperfect actor, but has interests in maintaining a Jewish cultural state and protecting Jews from harm....whilst maintaining ideals that it may never achieve in perfection, but are worth having none the less.

Its not an either or proposition.

Open borders for example are not a requisite for Enlightened Classically Liberal Democracy/Republics. You dont have to allow Nazis, Communists, or Islamists to your country to come freely in any numbers....lest you destroy your Enlightenment Classically Liberal principles/project.

False dichotomy.

It's OK that the French live in one country and the Germans live in another, they can both be Liberal Englightened Democracies, whilst protecting their respective cultural heritages and differences.

Carpet Bombing cities around the globe in WW2, did not destroy the principles and values that we hold too, even though these actions were contrary to them.

Im sure that that last assault on Gaza, by Israelis/Jews, isnt representative of their ideals and principles, but rather an imperfect response to the realites of this world, that require pragmatic solutions which may not be in accordance with the best of Jewish ideals, but without them, may lead to the end of Jews to have those ideals.

You cant have your cake and eat it too, Noga.

You hold Euro Christians to a different higher standard...whilst complaining about the Western Left holding Israel to a different higher standard.

I realize that both Israel and Israeli Jews, and Euro Nations and Euro Christians are imperfectable, but both idealize Englightened Classically Liberal Values, Principles, and Societies. Both have equal rights to defend their cultures and peoples and nations. Both are superior to Islamic ideologies, and the Muslim majoirty countries, where those ideals are dominant....even though both are imperfect.

The only groups that are going to stop the Islamization of Europe, are the majority European Christian peoples. For this to happen, room must be made for them to advocate for their culture and values and self interest, without them being called hatefilled bigots and Nazi fascists. Trying to Cordon Saintaire these opinions and expressions of unease from polite debate and civil society, WILL produce radicalization. I suggest it not be done. But then, the Western Left has its own power agenda, and holding onto it is there primary goal...not the well being of indigenous Europeans.

So its likely that things get a little more harsh than need be, but that isnt the result of inherent evil within the European population, but rather, the Reactionary Left, clutching to power by any means necessary.

My hope is that mainstream Center Right parties, ditch the PC, that the Left whipped them into compliance, and start addressing the concerns of the indigenous people of Europe. That is how you nip radicalism in the bud.

The Likud and Nationalist Government in Israel is exemplary of what is going to happen across Europe.

PS- You know full well that minority groups are allied with teh Western Left, in Europe and the Anglo Nations, and have been hammering away at majority White Euro Christians for half a century now.

Look at the continuing drama at the Civil Rights Division of the US DoJ, for the ugliness that is representative of those politics.


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