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