Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Great white way

I. I bought The Atlantic yesterday (since it features two pieces by Dzyds)—I realize I like reading while eating, so this is much better than reading it online (no crumbs in the keyboard). (In a magazine-buying frenzy, I also picked up the new Boston Review, for an excellent appreciation of Thomas Disch by John Crowley, and other good-seeming stuff...even though of course BR is online, too...I did a lot of reading and eating yesterday.)(You should always buy The Believer; have you read the Theo Schell-Lambert piece yet???? You need to read it today. And you cannot read it online!) This bit in Hua's excellent piece, "The End of White America?"...

For [Stuff White People Like creator Christian] Lander, whiteness has become a vacuum. The “white identity” he limns on his blog is predicated on the quest for authenticity—usually other people’s authenticity. “As a white person, you’re just desperate to find something else to grab onto. You’re jealous! Pretty much every white person I grew up with wished they’d grown up in, you know, an ethnic home that gave them a second language. White culture is Family Ties and Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses—like, this is white culture. This is all we have.”

II. ...reminded me of this amazing rant:

—Why are you quoting John O'Hara to me at eight o'clock in the morning? said Isidor. —Well, there is a point, said MacK, I was looking at it last night. He's part of this White Culture which I'm just completely at the end of my—I'm flabbergasted and unable to comprehend any longer why and how anyone can continue to defend it, celebrate it, reinvent it—what does this great white culture, this white civilization, which all the idiots want to cherish, to keep pristine from the blacks and the Japanese and the Europeans and the gays and the Jews and the women—of what does it consist? I mean, let's really think—John O'Hara? Pearl Jam? Lawrence Welk? Elementary school book and Bible watercolor depictions of the past? CBS? —Not leaving out your great employer, said Isidor.
—The Carpenters, said MacK, Fenimore Cooper, John Grisham? Red Skelton? Hallmark? Microsoft? Mobil? Bill Clinton? Jane Fonda, Walt Disney, American Gladiators? Pat Robertson, Gene Scott? John Willie? Loni Anderson? Jaclyn Smith? The AFL? I'm asking you, man, said MacK, I mean I'm asking all of the religionists and cross-burners and anti-abortionists and professional athletes and cheerleaders and militiamen prancing through the woods in camo, waving Bowie knives and their third grade spelling, I'm asking the gymnastic child-abuse coaches—this is what you've got? THIS?
—Todd McEwen, Who Sleeps With Katz

III. ...and also this:

The Harvester is such a nutty book that by the time you come to this passage it seems like just another of its forays into the crackpottery of its period. According to her biographer, Judith Reick Long, Gene Stratton-Porter never revised or cut; her novels—like the Harvester's hysterical sermon—just came pouring out of her. But racial theories were no passing fancy with her. They became the central theme of a noxious novel called Her Father's Daughter, written in 1921, after she had moved to Los Angeles and enthusiastically embraced the hatred for Chinese and Japanese immigrants by which early-twentieth-century California was seized. Its seventeen-year-old heroine, Linda Strong, talks like this:
The white man has dominated by his colour so far in the history of the world, but it is written in the Books that when the men of colour acquire our culture and combine it with their own methods of living and rate of production, they are going to bring forth greater numbers, better equipped for the battle of life, than we are. When they have got our last secret, constructive or scientific, they will take it, and living in a way that we would not, reproducing in numbers we don't, they will beat us at any game we start, if we don't take warning while we are in the ascendancy, and keep there.

The plot of Her Father's Daughter revolves around a Japanese A-student in a Los Angeles high school, named Oka Sayye, who is actually a forty-year-old man planted there by the Japanese government for God knows what reason, but who is clearly such a threat to the white world that in the end he has to be remorselessly pushed off a cliff by the heroine's Irish housekeeper. I'm not kidding. —Janet Malcolm, "Capitalist Pastorale," New York Review of Books

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