Artist-Over-Art and Becoming What One Despises

Carlos Greaves’ recent McSweeney’s piece (which satirizes authors writing novels about contemporary communities they do not belong to) is one for the history books. Within it he manages to straddle the very delicate balance of espousing an opinion the political left-wing, particularly the Twitter left-wing, would wholeheartedly agree with, without coming off as a triggered snowflake exposed to right-wing lampooning. He does this with blatant, self-aware strawman-ing (watching Desperate Housewives as sufficient research) and by sharing the satirical ire among the intended authors and their effete publishers and reviewers (Ricky Martin and Antonio Banderas as the sycophantic critics of the dubious novel). While I doubt Mark Twain would endorse Greaves’ message, I suspect he would acknowledge its fine craftsmanship.

Without intending to kill the enjoyable catharsis of comedy by over-analysis, one can’t help but take the piece a bit literally since it comes so close on the heels of the American Dirt debacle, wherein authors have arguably called for the censorship of another author on identity-politic grounds. The offender is a “white Latina” who apparently isn’t Latina enough to write a novel about Mexico. Whether there are actual, factual inaccuracies in the book that add to the validity of these criticisms, I do not know. But I do know that I utterly detest what this phenomenon represents on a grander scale: Artist-Over-Art.

“Blind” submission processes exist for a reason–good art is good art regardless of who made it. If Hitler painted a decent architectural scene, that painting remains decent no matter how indecent the man. This is one of the many ‘unwritten rules’ of Western civilization that postmodernists (or Marxists-about-Starbucks, as I call them) would like to do away with, for it is impossible to enforce equality within any unconstrained–and thus Darwinian–space. Their argument, of course, is that inequality has been enforced by historic socio-cultural racio-religious norms, and thus that they are merely attempting to restore an equitable balance by subverting oppressive tradition. My casual reply to this is basically that I do not consider a Harrison Bergereon reality to be more desirable than a Hunger Games reality–and indeed, it seems to me that a Hunger Games has greater potential to cause unintentionally noble outcomes. And with ever-increasing numbers of presses and literary agents feeling the need to stipulate who they want to publish more-so than what they want to publish, it appears that they are well on the way to dethroning the identity-impartiality of artistic creation. Social justice, it seems, is not blind.

I suspect this outcome will be most pleasing until an ethno-state decides to appropriate it–then will there be much weeping and gnashing of teeth as the ‘antifascists’ realize that they were the ones to renew a core tenant of fascistic speech restriction. In the developed world’s smug self-satisfaction, we have utterly forgotten a crucial realization born of World War 2: whether the man with the gun is wearing the Deathshead and calls you a filthy Jew, or is wearing the Hammer-and-Sickle and calls you a filthy capitalist, he is still going to shoot you. Or, perhaps we have not forgotten it; perhaps we only care which side of the gun we are on.

I also find it odd that many of the masons who are busy paving this road to hell continue to delight in calling others Uncle Tom’s. I am afraid that the historical social-cultural racio-religious origins of that expression are from Harriet Beecher Stowe–a white woman writing about African Americans. So, per your own insistence that persons who are not from a particular community may not write about a particular community, kindly invent your own invective. Mrs Stowe isn’t the only casualty to the feminist authorship cause either: Pearl S Buck’s wonderful The Good Earth has got to go, seeing as she wasn’t Chinese. And we can’t just pick on the ladies, either. Where did that Frenchman get off critiquing Americans, anyway? There goes Democracy in America. In fact, the entire genre of travel literature can be done away with. Cya, Marco Polo. Julius Caesar contribute to our understanding of Gaul? Please! Come to think of it, we better just start burning books to be safe.

Despite these and many more unintended consequences, I don’t think I would be nearly so irked by these social justice fixations if their proselytizers seemed just a tad more genuine. Surely that’s the key to being a successful extremist or fundamentalist; you at least have to come across as consistent and committed. Think Che Guevera. While Fidel hammed it up in the 5-star hotels, he was off to the next jungle. But these callousless hands clutched about Apple products, likely shaking from their ever-burgeoning collection of antidepressants? Why, I wouldn’t follow them into a Chuck E Cheese, much less a battlefield. Unfortunately, it is those very hands that are going to start determining elections in the near future. Voyeurs who breath the air of the real world without ever having dipped a pinky within it are soon to control it. The meek shall inherit the Earth indeed; but unfortunately it seems they are not meek about letting institutions do their dirty work for them.

A Fond Farewell, & Musings on Friendship

Pyramids of cardboard are rising, bubble-wrap roles are unfurling, and contract ink is drying. The ritual of moving has commenced once more, but this time I’m headed back to a familiar place–indeed, the only place I consider truly familiar. I’ve always had a superstition that it is preferable to leave this world in roughly the same vicinity where one entered it, and now that unspoken wish is coming true. I’m headed back to Georgia, and I fully intend never to leave her again.

Moving tests all the pressure points of one’s life, but primarily the one which concerns whether you’re still clinging to too much stuff. In needing to render all my possessions transportable, I’ve found a great incongruity. My ‘personal effects,’ meaning basically everything except my library and PC, are looking desirably lean.

personal effects

The same cannot be said of my books. Unbelievably, this is what my library look like after many stops at Tyler’s Half Price Books to offload the excess. A final immoderate habit to be brought into balance, perhaps:

book boxes

And while I cannot confess any general reticence to leave East Texas for my motherland, the most difficult part of the move by far has been saying goodbye to the Jacksonville Library poetry group. I owe them, and particularly the group’s founder Peter, a great debt of gratitude. While I did not and still do not consider myself to be a talented poet, I found just being immersed among similarly bookish souls not only therapeutic, but evolutionary.

When a writer finds other writers, one experiences a great relief to find that they are not necessarily the eternal Stranger in a Strange Land that they had imagined. Particular friendships may then mature into Iron Sharping Iron–the blessed ability to be told not just what is wrong with one’s work but how to fix it. People today are generally scared to help one another, for one never knows just what they are getting into when they write a blank check of kindness without the safeguard of mutual traditions and proprieties. But writers, it seems to me, have maintained their generosity, by virtue of the fact that each and every one of us is bound by an ambition that is not inherently competitive, and a loathing for linguistic mediocrity. If you do not yet feel comfortable helping the person, you may yet be willing to come to the aid of that person’s writings. Such is the loophole we scribblers have discovered to escape the burgeoning social isolationism of modernity.

Hoheisel Library Farewell

Thus, any ego that is not too delicate for a little bruising–or any ego that is at least willing to concede it is an ego–can still find mentors to sit at the feet of, or masters to apprentice beside. Similar to the meritocracy of late Japanese bushido, wherein even the masterless (ronin) Musashi could become the national sword-saint due to his self-evident superiority over those of greater rank, the meritocracy of writers remains organic and pure.

Some might find that latter paragraph incongruous with the fact that my Sage of Jacksonville was a retired professor of literature and philosophy. But I would counter that there was nothing more culturally unlikely, than for our generational divide to prove absolutely inconsequential compared to the mutual respect we immediately felt for one another as writers. Old souls are dated outside of time.

Thus, due to what began as the simple trading of self-published booklets at a library event that I debated even attending, I am leaving East Texas a far more defined (and refined) intellect than I entered it. And Peter has two officially published books of poetry to show for our collaboration. Perhaps this is miraculous. But I think Peter might agree with me that this is more a case of ‘normal’ life taking on miraculous aspects when we choose to let it.

I will confess, it would have been quite easy for me to conclude five years ago that East Texas held nothing for me–that I was on my own, excepting relatives. Indeed, I tried and failed to make friends several times, and even quit a job, due to a total cultural disconnect. But had I not–through inner stubbornness or divine intervention–continued to seek a friend, I would have missed out on the most important friendship of my life to date, and perhaps the most important I will ever have. Defeats that do not involve death are always optional. I suspect that realization is a cornerstone of many blessings this life has to offer.

A Real Writer?

I just received my first manuscript rejection from a New York literary agent.

I’m relieved to have this mandatory hazing ritual out of the way. Strangely, I feel more like “a real writer” now than any minor successes have ever caused. Perhaps I am consoled by a small sense of pride that this didn’t emotionally phase me. The juvenile phase of self-righteous indignation whenever someone calls “my baby” ugly has come and gone, thank God. (If fact, for a rejection it was quite civil).

I know that I’m happy with what I wrote; I know it can make some money for myself and some press; and I know there isn’t an agent or press on Earth who’s going to tell me “it’s perfect as it is; we’ll print it at once!”

There is an eerie peace to be had in knowing that it is now beyond my strength to alter without the aid of a professional editor. In some metaphysical sense, the process is already over. I just have to keep submitting.

Peter Hoheisel’s ‘South to the Rio Grande’ Available Now!

Hoheisel SttRG Facebook Announcement

My friend Prof. Peter Hoheisel’s new poetry book, South to the Rio Grande, is now available for purchase. It was a pleasure to work as his editor and defacto agent throughout this process, eventually finding the perfect home for this manuscript at New York’s Clare Songbirds Publishing House.

Peter is a free-verse poet inspired by the likes of Yeats and Rexroth, and his book comes as a breath of fresh air to anyone who still likes their poetry decipherable and meaningful.

You can read more about our collaboration, including an interview I conducted with him and our dual-appearance on a radio program, here.

On Scorsese

While I sympathize with Scorsese’s sadness concerning the absence of artistic merit on the big screen as of late, I am left to wonder whether Hollywood execs and accountants are solely–or even primarily–to blame. Isn’t it possible that technology has modified the market beyond any individuals’ control? Streaming has given the introverted population an excuse to avoid rubbing shoulders with noisy strangers or paying $20.00 for popcorn and soda. Consequently, the films shown upon the big-screen are increasingly those that lack the–shall we say, nuance?–that this portion of the populace demands. Now one need only cater to moviegoers who are contented with shaky-cam explosions, car chases, etc., because they are the only ones who actually go to the movies. Scorsese recalls a tribal cinema which had to tickle the fancy of intellectual and salt-of-the-earth types. Not only does this no longer exist–it is never coming back.

Of course, this cannot entirely account for the Idiocracy-esque dumbing down that mainstream entertainment is experiencing. No one is watching¬†Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead on the big screen, yet the recent story decisions of both confirm that some of the world’s best-paid writers have entirely forgotten how to conclude a tale. This is probably due more-so to the influence of postmodernism than the free market. Today’s writers increasingly feel that they must subvert classical narratives to avoid being associated with the icky ancients (by ancients, I mean Jung & Campbell) who crafted them. Simultaneously, the temptation to “do something new” is overwhelming, and like any experimentation is bound to fail spectacularly many times before it produces a single success.

Scorsese fears the art of cinema turning into a theme park. But with no one buying admission to abominations like Terminator: Dark Fate, perhaps the cinematic imbalance between brain-food and nervous-system-candy is slowly but surely self-correcting. As for coaxing introverts away from streaming and back into theaters–short of burly bouncers who are legally allowed to pluck moviegoers’ intrusive smart phones from their hands and snap them in half, I just don’t see it.

‘Transgender’ Children: A Little Clarity Amidst the Chaos

Rather than focus upon any particular case of ‘trans’ children–both because I have yet to exhaustively research any specific case & because I believe we will be seeing many more such cases in the future–I’d like to explore the topic in general. I’ll save those who cannot bear differing opinions some time and disclose that my politics are moderate, trending right. However, as with my more formal writings, I hope to offer nuance that may be lacking in the mainstream discourse, some of which may offend conservatives as well as liberals.

The broaching of this topic within the mainstream has cleared up a mystifying matter for me. For years I have asked anyone who would listen why it is that LGBTQ(XYZ?) proponents have insisted upon parroting the “born this way” cliche. In other words, why is it so crucial that every instance of non-heterosexuality be a case of nature rather than nurture? Or, to put the ball more squarely in the progressive court: Who are you to say that one cannot choose (for example) gay sodomy over straight intercourse? And by saying one cannot choose, aren’t you also subtly suggesting that–if it were possible to choose–it would be wrong to do so?

I have never received an honest answer. I don’t believe most of those I have asked know why they cannot or should not answer–but now I may. It is likely over this. You cannot defend pumping children full of hormones–and possibly taking the knife to them–if there is even the slightest possibility that one or both of their parents has pressured them into choosing to transition. You can only defend the practice if we live in a world where non-heterosexuality is 100% a matter of nature, to the utter exclusion of nurture.

This, of course, is bullshit. One need only consult prison sexuality, to pick one example–where many otherwise heterosexual males engage in homosexual activity as the only present alternative to celibacy–to see that persons who were not born gay can choose to be (or at least to act) gay. There are also numerous non-prison instances, such as the infamous Carl Panzram, who, by virtue of being a blockhead, concluded that though he¬† preferred girls, he might stand less chance of getting STDs from boys (hopefully I need not expound).

I am of course not saying that everyone is bi- or pan-sexual, for even in cultures like Ancient Greece where bisexuality was the norm, the existence of persons like Pericles (a staunch heterosexual) was acknowledged and accepted, however eccentric he may have seemed. I am merely illustrating that it is ideology, not fact, which motivates the LGBT[ad nauseam] fundamentalism of insisting that sexuality is always and only inborn.

If a society accepts the premise that anyone who is presented to them as ‘trans’ (i.e., is effectively trapped in a wrongly gendered body and yearns to be freed) was born so rather than potentially being made so by any confluence of factors (and let’s be honest, most all of the potential factors are starkly negative), then, per neighborly empathy they have nothing to do but clear the way to the stainless-steel table.

But if one recalls the gender dysphoria of yore (yore being a couple years ago) as a mental illness which could be present either at birth or brought about through a host of childhood traumas, then things are not so clear-cut. Suddenly one wants to look at transgender suicide rates as well. Suddenly one wants to look at how many ‘transgenders’ de-transition and spend the rest of their lives as good ole fashioned gay people. Heaven forbid one might even look up the name “John Money” and learn what sort of person popularized the idea of transgenderism.

In other words: if even a single provable instance emerges where a deranged parent brainwashed their child into “wanting to transition,” then the entire ideological house of cards is at stake. For there is much to lose beyond whatever perverse pleasure one takes in sexualizing children (more on that in a second); once the inborn premise is called into question it will quickly spill over into the already-broiling subjects of whether or not males-transitioning-to-‘female’ ought to continue being allowed to break female athletic records (or maim born-female athletes in combat sports). And I dare not even attempt to summarize the “TERF” Civil War that is currently raging among feminists; you have Twitter for that…

So, whether or not the ‘trans’-child agenda (truly, I know not what else to call it, for a sudden explosion, as if out of a void or vacuum, of a phenomenon hitherto almost unheard-of, is either 1. a miracle or 2. a mania, and per Occam’s Razor, I’ll take #2) succeeds is once again not a matter of how well the far-Left argues its point, but how conciliatory and spineless the center-Right continues to be. Deep down, I believe the vast majority of the certifiably sane still know that children, beyond what toys they prefer to play with and who they might play-pretend is their future spouse, DO NOT obsess about their own appearance, gender, genitals, orientation, sexuality, etc, and that any child who makes these a recurring theme of conversation, much less the focal point of their young existence, HAS BEEN TAMPERED WITH (mentally, if not physically). Psychologists of yore (again, yore meaning a few years ago) knew this to be a warning sign of abuse.

I must confess to you now, dear readers, that I doubt whether we have the cojones necessary to do the right thing here. I doubt it because of what we have already let our ‘family’ courts and ‘parenthood’ centers become. I doubt it because our pastors either say nothing or continue conceding in order to keep the offering plates full. We have been so dead-set on being open-minded as of late that our brains have fallen out. Perhaps it’s time to give Sharia law a chance.

I’ll leave you with this for now: is “the slippery slope” still a fallacy? Or was it ever?

P.S. Have or haven’t progressive circles decided that circumcision is child genital mutilation? Because, unless I am very much mistaken, the surgical coup-de-grace of “transitioning” is somewhat more invasive than circumcision. (I am aware that the idea, at least for now, is merely to outpace puberty by administering hormones, with surgery as a decision for the future 18-year-old to make. Nonetheless, I believe the point stands). This may prove a very sticky wicket indeed–to only be offended by genital mutilation when God has something to do with it. Lord knows what mental proclivities that indicates.

Writing Playlist

The Welsh have an interesting word, hiraeth, which is meant to express homesickness, especially for a home that either cannot be returned to or does not exist. This word best expresses the type of songs that I seek out in order to grow my writing playlist–a collection of songs that (subjectively) amplify, rather than disturb, the creative process. Unsurprisingly, these songs typically gravitate to archetypal or Hero’s Journey themes. Their lyrics are engaging but utterly unsurprising, like the dialogue of dreams. And their melodies are often haunting enough to seem more at home about an ancient campfire or cathedral or battlefield than radio waves. Finally, they frequently follow classical music’s structural penchant for crescendo rather than the rinse-repeat of verse and chorus. Here are a few samples below, hopefully to inspire you in making your own writer’s playlist.