Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Charles Baxter, I can't get enough of your writing about writing. I am now reading Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction for I think the fourth time (and not the last--I assigned it to my advanced fiction workshop this semester.) I read part of it every morning at my writing desk. I have taken to recording great lines in red ink in my notebook, interspersed with my own black-ink notations and story bits.

This morning I came upon this, a bracing and sharp observation that is particularly germane in this increasingly strange and obsessive Palin drama. Writing about how reactionary politicians "have done their best to co-opt the family and turn it into a kind of kitsch social unit," Baxter ties it into art:
The concept of "family values" is inherently rigid and inflexible. It's meant to stop thought. Good fiction and theater usually assume that "family values" should be in some kind of interesting uproar. To remove the contrast from within the family and to substitute an idea of uniformity is to kill off art for political ends. The family becomes a small molecular army, on the march for rectitude. Political representations of "family values" thus have a quality of poster art, and because they have a relationship to propaganda, they are nearly always tainted by a feeling of false surfaces. In other words, they have a mean-spirited wish to be endearing and cute. The result is a sort of nostalgia lacquered with rage, characteristic of the art of police states.
It's in the essay "Counterpointed Characterization" if you want to find it.

The only other thing I will say about Sarah Palin, because I literally woke up and sternly imposed upon myself a moratorium for today--I can't help it, I am fascinated and revolted on every level, as a media junkie, a feminist, a native of a rural small-town hunting-territory backwoods town rampant with teen pregnancy--oh my god, can you imagine if the mayor of like, Detroit Lakes became the Vice Presidential candidate?--anyway--is, you know this gravely-concerned refrain of "unwed teen mother, so sad"? Well, just as troubling and sad, in my experience, is a WED teen mother.

And just one more thing: I really like this knowledgeable and funny and informed blog Mudflats by an Alaskan writer, who, along with providing smart analysis from a depth of accumulated experience and knowledge, even provides the service of driving around Wasilla and photographing the bleak little town, which reminds me of Bagley or Wadena or something.

Now I have totally disobeyed myself.

1 comment:

Aunt Red said...

"Well, just as troubling and sad, in my experience, is a WED teen mother."

kein witz. if not more troubling. The fact that Palin's daughter is actually marrying the father of her child upsets me more.