Monday, March 16, 2015

Identity as Everything

From the sordid xojane, a creature called K. T. Bradford throws down a challenge:

What if I only read stories by a certain type of author? Instead of reading everything, I would only look at stories by women or people of color or LGBT writers. Essentially: no straight, cis, white males.

(Editorial note: cis is a nonsense term meant to identify, and thereby disparage, those who are not confused about their sex.) 

Back to the piece: Bradford is to be cheered for the frankness of her bigotry.  For while she identifies the privileged victim groups, she also
notes the object of her odium: straight white males.  It is evidently easier to simply come out and name the object of her hatred, rather than enumerate each and every oppressed class--and risk the ire of anyone who has been left off of this ever growing list.

(As an exercise to the reader, it is easy to replace "straight white males" with any other group and reveal the screed as racist and sexist twaddle.  For instance: "Essentially: no gay, black males"; "Essentially, no Jewesses"; "Essentially: no short fat Democrats", etc. etc.  Fish in a barrel.)

But this article is instructive for another reason.  It illustrates the narrowness of what passes for the leftist mind.  Here's Bradford:

Because every time I tried to get through a magazine, I would come across stories that I didn't enjoy or that I actively hated or that offended me so much I rage-quit the issue. Go through enough of that, and you start to resist the idea of reading at all.

The poor thing is such a delicate flower.  Exposure to crime think causes her to all but wilt; she is scarcely capable of turning even one more page.

Now, I read widely.  And unlike Bradford, I consider it important to challenge myself by reading new things, even books with which I might not agree.  In the same way, I try new foods; but I also compel myself to eat vegetables.  Such discipline is an indispensable part of growth.  Just as eating well keeps one healthy, reading well prevents one's mind from atrophying.

Of course, one may also read for pleasure.  There's nothing wrong with doing so, any more than it is objectionable to eat dessert.  But a sense of proportion must be maintained, for while physical nourishment is necessary, so too is knowledge. 

There is a narrowness in Bradford's reading habits.  But the narrowness also explains her imbecilic recommendation.  To Bradford, every book is a manifestation of its author's identity and is entertaining according to the manner in which the reader relates to that identity. 

Consider: books that push her out of her comfort zone cause her to rage-quit.  And as she notes: "Cutting that one demographic [Jews--I kid--straight white males, obviously] out of my reading list greatly improved my enjoyment of reading short stories." 

Now, this only makes sense if the identity of an author correlates strongly with the sort of story that author tells.  And for the stories Bradford likes to read--those as inextricably tied up with identity as she is obsessed with it--no doubt that correlation is strong.   But that's not the case for good literature, which is always more than a mere reflection of the author's viewpoints.

H.G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling were straight white males--worse, they were both Englishmen.  Yet the former wrote science fiction, while the latter wrote adventure stories.  This was no doubt because Wells spent most of his childhood in space, whereas Kipling was raised by a kindly, if talkative, panther.

Such examples could be multiplied endlessly.  Beatrix Potter wrote wonderful children's stories, though it is a pity that she is always injecting her identity into the goings on of Peter Cottontail.  Likewise A. A. Milne, who was clearly--quickly checks Wikipedia--a man. 

One is tempted to pity people like Bradford.  But they do too much damage to be left to their own misery.  It is one thing to read narcissistic nonsense or to write rubbish which no one reads, but she dares to tell us to judge a book based on her silly ideological litmus test.  Life is too short to prevent oneself from reading good books, especially on such a ridiculous pretext.


Doom said...

I actually agree with her, in one sense, more that I agree with you. I quit reading for the very opposite reason she did, or you might say for the same reason. It was all becoming queer, black power, or other identity power or push. It was offensive. Actually, it went further. Most of the "classics" are socialist idealism, often written before that was tried and failed, but quite often very much in favor of what the rest of the world is and what the US is becoming. I read many of those, before I went further, and then got into history. No more.

After reading the culmination of the dream the "classics" end at, Mein Kampf, and then history shortly after that, I began to realize socialism was an evil and there never going to be any good to squeeze out of that lemon. It burns people on piers for gold until it burns itself out, one way or another, often in more than one way.

So, no, I recommend avoiding some books, or at least approaching them with caution. For entertainment, I rarely look to Hollywood, I am somewhat careful about music, and I approach books with a quick kill-switch... especially entertainment reads.

Guess who wouldn't be read if more people were like her and me? Guess which books wouldn't be published? Bring it on.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Looking Backwards is a socialist classic, and a rotten one at that.

On the other hand, socialists, like Wells, were perfectly capable of writing good books because they were more concerned with telling good stories than hitting the reader over the head with ideology.

If you want to argue that it's been downhill on the fiction front for some time, you'll have no objections from me.