Not amused: the scribbler.

Candid readers, it seems Ana Castillo, the learned subject of my Oct. 2 post, got wind of it and unwisely elected to counterpost, to the best of her limited abilities.  Below, therefore, I’ve cut and pasted the Oct. 9 blog entry from her website, verbatim, with one exception.  (I here elide the full name of the Berkeley grad student whose spelling/usage boner triggered my original post, a person whom Señorita Cosa gracelessly outs by name in her blog post — as my own post, you’ll recall, did not and still won’t.)

At the outset, let me note that Castillo includes, in her limp tissue of wet complaints, at least one bald-faced lie: that your faithful servant called the First Draqqueen a “gorilla” in a June 18, 2009 post.  Bullshit.  On the contrary, I used it to chastise those who do so call her, on the ground that Miss Hell Obomber doesn’t remotely resemble an ape, only a garden-variety, butt-ugly human being.  So get it straight, mentirosa.  Or did she just misread the post, as would be in keeping with her limited skill-set?  If so, I retract mentirosa and say she’s babosa.

My own reflections on Castillo’s devastating riposte follow.

Friday, October 09, 2009

This morning the world wakes to our the news that our president has been awarded the Nobel. But no doubt it has further fueled the ignorance the racism that has reared its very ugly head since his election in this country–just like the above link that went out yesterday about my reading last night.

By the way, it was extremely well attended.
And while I am not a size 42 (and nothing wrong with that) and don’t pump out books like the white privileged mystery writer she referred me I personally took no offense.
Anyone who calls Sara Palin ‘divine’ is in some serious need of soul saving.
It is true that people come to listen to my reading but what this hateful ’student’ can’t appreciate (but probably would understand if her hero Sara Palin came to Berkeley) is that my long time readers also come to SEE me.
Reading further on this white reactionary blog–she has referred to the first lady as a ‘gorilla’ and to those who must obviously be objecting to this hateful nonsense as ‘anti-white’? Whatever happened to Berkeley?
I’ll have to say it recalled the last time I was on this campus–as a Regent’s lecturer. As I began my reading at the Latina conference ’somene’ set off the fire alarm. the building was evacuated immediately, fire department called, program over–I went off to have Chinese food with friends. I asked Rosa M——z–the target of the hateful blog entry yesterday to read it beforei introducing me at the program. There are two emotions that motivate the human spirit, I told them afterward. One is love (the reason I have been invited, the students who helped to organized, the professors who teach my books and the community people who came out) and fear–the blog entry.


[October 23, 2009]

My, what a deft close reader Castillo is!  She sloppily infers that your faithful servant is herself a grad student, and at Berkeley, inter alia, because Sweet Thang, my source, is.  (Sorry to embarrass you, baby — I know you’ve gone all monkish on our collective ass the last year or two, but remember, there were times when you used to spoil me ROTTEN.  You know you did.)

As if I’d be caught dead in either the profession or the place.  Baby, when you write you need to get paid for it.  And living anywhere but Silver Lake (with the possible exception of Williamsburg, as I remember it anyway) sounds to me like hideous exile in the sticks.  I won’t even cross the line into Los Feliz, kids — that shit’s bourgeois.

And let’s not even start on Castillo’s syntax and usage boners — I guess your faithful servant was on to something after all, huh, mean old bitch that I am, as you Beaming Betty Crockers out there are forever complaining.  (Can’t a girl be tough and respected?  Spare me your sugary, femmy, nurturing, first-wave feminist kitsch, ladies of the Left.)  And, holy cow, her smug, insecure, posturing screed of a post’s just rotten with typos — if I dared hand my editor a piece in this shape, let alone tried to post it as a finished article, she’d throw it back in my face.  And rightly so.

Poor dumb creature — Castillo earnestly volunteers, with more rhetoric than sense, that “there are two emotions that motivate the human spirit,” love and fear.  Er, I submit she’s forgetting the third, much more interesting one: amusement, which very vitally motivates my blog entry.  My own amusement, that is — I don’t claim it’s objectively witty, just subjectively, and gives me the relief of shouting, or at least bitching, when confronted with yet another instance of fools swindled by knaves, a capsule formula for the university literature departments these days.

And I assure you, I continue to be amused, rather than angered, by this scribbling ideologue: Could Castillo’s wrapping herself in the flag of Obama bin Laden and his dragqueen spouse be ANY more cloying and fatuous?  I almost puked at her servile, abject “our president” — what’s with this hushed tone of reverence?  Lick boots much, chica?  And how about her frantic, fawning haste to point out “Look, look, I’m important, I was a Regent’s Lecturer at Berkeley!” (long since a hollow credential, alas, after literature in the mainline universities was defined down to include the pulp fiction of agitproppers like Castillo).

There, there, don’t cry — have a nice cup of Insecuri-Tea, dear, you’ll feel better.  And maybe just a bit of cheese with your whine?  Gross!  It’s unseemly — she’s like a needy puppy, yapping and whining as it runs back and forth to trip you in the hall, peeing on itself and your shoes in eagerness to be validated.

La lecture du testament (F. S. Delpech)

Above: A portentous littérateur reads, to an adoring claque of spectators, at Berkeley.

And how ’bout that pompous, overblown mandarinism?  (Pretty sad day for the mandarinate, if this mis-speller and sentence-fragmenter’s what they’re reduced to revering.)  Castillo and the quasi-literates who buy her printed effluvia exhibit a suffocating, lifeless deference to social authority and received opinions that would make Alfred Lord Tennyson and Queen Victoria blush for shame.  “My books are taught in the universities!”  (Cut to extreme close-up of celestial mandarin strolling through Hall of Mirrors, making heavy-lidded, purse-lipped faces to the glass, huelepedos nose held skyward in paroxysm of smarm.)  Oh, madam, I do apologize — please, your ladyship, say no more, we’re all terribly impressed out here in the trenches, where literature, if it’s to be made at all, will actually get made.

Actually, if she wants to read what might very well, after a few decades of cool judgment intervene first, be judged literature, by a first-tier intellect and first-tier stylist who happens to be Mexican-American but isn’t, mercifully, far gone in terminal self-adoration, or a bought-and-paid-for political hack, Castillo has much, much to learn from the deft Richard Rodriguez, especially his essay collection Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father (best on style points) and Brown: The Last Discovery of America (best on substance).


Actual talent: Richard Rodriguez.

But, horrors!  To admit the greater merits of another writer like Rodriguez, whose writing, both as form and substance, soars out of the abysm of self-reference in which Castillo’s screeds are sunk, would be to move beyond squalling self-absorption, to grow a pair and quit blaming “society” for the fact that you can’t write, and that nobody but the closed circle of the professionally aggrieved, and the repressed white ladies in the English departments who enjoy missionarying and condescending to them, wants to read your prose.  If it’s only because Castillo’s a “minority” (and she’s sure as shit not a minority here in majority-Mexican L.A.), or if it’s only because “society” is holding her down, that she can’t write her way out of a wet paper sack, then how do we explain Rodriguez?

For Rodriguez’ writing transcends, rather than wallows in, the disadvantages he was born into.  In his marvelously complex life, the past isn’t disavowed, or lost — but neither is it sentimentalized, nourished, fostered, in a perennial bile of resentments, grievances, and unforgiven wrongs (Lucifer, anybody?) in the belly you croon to, day in, day out, that’s long since risen up your gorge and into your head and yellowed even your eyes, so that for decades you haven’t seen anything, anything at all, even the stars or the flowers, except through the jaundiced prism of your hatreds.

No, in Rodriguez that past is instead neutralized, sweetened, absorbed, turned into something rich and strange that no one’s quite sure of yet (but we’re sure that we like it, ’cause it’s stylish).  The narrative arc he began in Hunger of Memory, a mesmerizing account of how Rodriguez, like all of us who manage to write prose people not part of our clique care about, achieved escape velocity from private language and rocketed into public speech and citizenship, is still curving upward (let’s hope there’s a book-length sequel to Brown).  Rodriguez like all Americans worthy of the name is a self-fashioner where Castillo is a self-pitier; he long ago left the dank, close air of Berkeley, in whose English Department he did his grad work — apparently without ever writing an e-mail to colleagues beginning “you might of heard…” — for the bracing air of the city.  Was it inborn talent, or lots and lots of hard work?  Both?

Either way, Castillo’s camp of critical race theorists and moldy Marxists, forever blaming bad character on social and economic conditions — as if poor people were so poor they can’t pick up their yards — will live and die petulantly refusing to accept any explanation for inequalities of outcome that doesn’t always, suspiciously, circle back to mean, old, rich, male whitey.  (What pity I’m none of the above — well, okay, maybe I’m a little mean, just around the edges).  ‘Cause that might require these professional resenters, if only imaginatively, to exit the warm, solipsist womb of the university hall of mirrors, and this, we can infer, the comfortable charity-case scribblers, cozily cocooned in praise from the Lilliputians of the lit departments, will never bestir themselves to do.

Rodriguez, you see, was exposed to, and then eagerly immersed himself in, writers of times, places and situations other than his own — Gawd, he even read Protestant theology at Columbia — those crazy nuns, you see, trusted him to learn and generalize beyond his own parochial experience.  And now it’s paid big dividends in his subtly-toned, allusive, impersonal prose, and in a smart, well-balanced cultural criticism which may before long stand comparison with Carlyle’s and Arnold’s — because Rodriguez long ago disdained and bypassed the horrible self-ghettoization of “ethnic studies,” championed by soft-bigotry-of-low-expecations types like Castillo and her enablers in the lit departments.


Rodriguez’ great master Arnold: they share the long, bony, handsome head.

Speaking of which, shouldn’t having her deathless fictions put on a university lit syllabus be the kiss of death for little Miss Piss-on-the-Canon, in whose dim, dim horizon of expectations the horrid Barbara Cartland probably does loom as some “white privileged mystery writer,” a veritable mass-market Patricia Highsmith?  But don’t expect logical consistency or rhetorical coherence from this shameless self-promoter — Castillo’s blog post is far too busy tripping over itself in her haste to run and hide behind the skirts of (secular) Respectability, Piety and Orthodoxy, rushing to shut down any debate that might unsettle her and her claque’s easy, shallow certainties — and I’m reactionary?  Oh, this is too good!

Who’s the pious old fraud trying to convince, anyway?  I don’t think it’s really me, or you, candid reader — more like herself and the cowed claque of coffee shop radicals, parochial hippies and ugly introvert fat girls who turn out for her “readings.”  How exactly should I fear Castillo when she can’t even close-read another girl’s blog post, let alone a literary text?  Or excise the typos, solecisms and just plain infelicities from her own?  First cast out the beam from your own eye, hocicona, and then you’ll see clearly how to pull the mote outta mine.

Oh, and by the way: It’s not me but you, dear, who need some “soul-saving” — tsk, tsk, sounds rather Christian and reactionary of you, and don’t lefties pretend all human behavior’s caused by material condtions? — about Sarah Palin.  (Note the “h,” dim bulb — I only used the Italian spelling locally to cohere with “la divina.”  And must we hilariously infer that you took the epithet literally?  Oh dear; the dullness is just too painful.)  For as everyone on the right knows, and as all of you on the left dread, Sarah Palin has the body of a goddess (not the blood-drinking pre-Columbian ones you posture to revere, dear), and the raw energy and crowd appeal of a rock star, and she’s going to be the next President of the United States.

But then, you were probably just exercised ’cause you couldn’t construe my Latin about her.  That’s pretty embarrassing, no?  Shouldn’t a Latina be Latinaloquens?

Going Rogue

Against the gathering darkness of the Left’s resurgence, as the wolves outside in the dark sniff and whine closer and closer to the firelight, the cultural Right is nevertheless warmed and lighted by an iconic tableau: the simple, powerful image of Gov. Sarah Palin carrying her infant son, Trig.

Little Trig, as everyone knows, was born with Down Syndrome.  So this tableau is iconic in the sense that it figures the unqualified, compassionate love of a normal mother for her child, especially one who’s weak or vulnerable.  But this tableau is also iconic in the religious sense, for it strongly, almost uncannily suggests another icon loved by millions, both living and dead, for nine hundred years: the Theotokos (Our Lady) of Vladimir:

Here is more on the Vladimirskaya icon.

What is it about a mother’s compassion and love for her helpless child that, in the form of the Vladimirskaya, has for a thousand years lighted the minds and lifted the hearts of Orthodox Christians (and others who honor the Theotokos)?  And what is it about a mother’s compassion and love for her helpless child that, in the form of Gov. Palin and her infant son, has darkened the minds and filled the hearts of the American Left with a spitting, hissing frenzy of malevolence?  (You can often hear their teeth, set on edge, grinding right through their blog posts.)  The answers to these questions are closely related.

I recall the second epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, in which the apostle candidly admits his powerlessness, like an infant’s, to preserve his own life — and yet his very debility is, paradoxically, what he secretly shares with the Source of life: “And lest I should be exalted above measure… there was given to me a thorn in the flesh… For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (12:7-9)  What does this mean?  St Paul acknowledges that even he is debilitated and weak, like Trig Palin and all the other little children who, except one receive the kingdom of God as one of them, he shall in no wise enter therein (St Luke 18:17).  In this, the apostle tries to imitate the God whom he believes had, by descending to Incarnation and Crucifixion, Himself experienced the most appalling weakness: human birth and death.  St Paul had for years prayed to be healed of his personal, unnamed chronic debility — but at length he understands that the “thorn in the flesh” he first thought a disability, is in fact a means of keeping him from a false (and deadly) sense of security.  Compare here Kallistos Ware’s observations on fasting in The Lenten Triodion:

The purpose of this is to lead us in turn to a sense of inward brokenness and contrition; to bring us, that is, to the point where we appreciate the full force of Christ’s statement, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). If we always take our fill of food and drink, we easily grow over-confident in our own abilities, acquiring a false sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. The observance of a physical fast undermines this sinful complacency. Stripping from us the specious assurance of the Pharisee – who fasted, it is true, but not in the right spirit – Lenten abstinence gives us the saving self dissatisfaction of the Publican (Luke 18:10-13). Such is the function of the hunger and the tiredness: to make us ‘poor in spirit’, aware of our helplessness and of our dependence on God’s aid.

And by Trig Palin’s very palpable “helplessness and… dependence” on his loving parent’s aid for life, by the instinctual love for her that moves his wordless heart despite his mind’s simplicity — indeed, because he exists at all, because his mother proudly cares for him in the course of public appearances — this tiny baby is a sharp, glowing stick in the eye to the big men of the secular Left: materialist professors, abortionist senators, journalist hypocrites.  Simply by nestling in his mother’s arms, Trig Palin is a particularly vivid rebuke of their culture of death; just resting together, he and his mother give the lie to modernity’s cult of the self, with its bestial rebellion against every form of self-restraint and self-sacrifice.

These cruel utilitarians are eager to kill people to help them: the unborn, the disabled, the gravely ill.  But mercifully their homicidal urges extend no further than their fellow human beings.  Many of the same far Lefties who hate Trig and Sarah Palin are right now spending millions of dollars in California to pass Prop. 2, a measure that would mandate chickens receive a two-bedroom condo and a yard on the farm.  Chickens.  But no surprise here — whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.  And weeping for the plight of poultry while affirming that there’s a Constitutional right to stick a fork in a baby’s head provided he hasn’t been born yet, to borrow from Ann Coulter, is mad.  But for the secular Left abortion is of course, again in Coulter’s phrase, the holiest sacrament.*  To recur to Biblical imagery, recall the allegory of the woman clothed with the sun, her unborn child menaced by a seven-headed, ten-horned “great red dragon,” which “stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” (Revelation 12:3-4)  The child is miraculously caught up to heaven, but “when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.” (12:13)  Indeed.

But one can and should express Trig Palin’s iconic significance for a culture of life in positive terms too.  I choose the first stanza of “The Salutation,” a poem by the Anglican priest and poet Thomas Traherne, still dew-fresh after 350 years:

These little Limmes,
These Eys and Hands which here I find,
These rosie Cheeks wherwith my Life begins,
Where have ye been? Behind
What Curtain were ye from me hid so long!
Where was? in what Abyss, my Speaking Tongue?

(Here’s a link to the complete poem in plain Jane layout — a free site, you get what you pay for.)

Little Trig Palin, his little limbs and rosy cheeks, as yet without a “Speaking Tongue,” is the very picture of strength made perfect in weakness.  He is a living reminder to the hedonist Baby Boomer generation that love of family ends in new life, but love of self ends in nothing.

In passing let it be recalled, however, that far and away most young people, let alone all people, during the 1960s were much more Nixon’s Silent Majority than Bill Ayers’ bomb-planting scum.  Scholarly historiography’s only now coming to grips with this fact, since the tenured radicals who’ve hitherto written the history of the ’60s had their gazes lovingly, unshakably fixed on their own linty navels.  In aid of redressing this imbalance, just out from Harvard is The Sixties Unplugged: A Kaleidoscopic History of a Disorderly Decade by Gerard DeGroot, who teaches at St Andrews, Scotland.  (Hat tip to Septimus Waugh who reviewed DeGroot for The American Conservative‘s Sept. 22 number.)

But as for Humphrey’s Yelling Minority: they thought it would never happen, that self-absorbed and self-pleasing generation of ’68.  But the spoiled college kids who burned draft cards and bras, raised in and rotted by postwar prosperity, are shocked to look up now and find themselves graying, stiffening, bending every day, bit by bit, toward the grave.  Because they have worshiped strength, they are only made weak in their weakness; because they have loved what is corruptible, themselves, what they love vanishes and is forgotten.  What is at the same time more hilarious and more obnoxious than an untidy old hippie, still stinking in his tie-dyes, stringy, greasy hairs now turned white?  Compare this decayed old Berkeley special — mighty pretty, no?

But he and all his kind are fading, fading fast.  So smile and sing!  “‘Tis well an Old Age is out,/ And time to begin a New,” as Dryden said.  In the clearing cultural current that’s flushing out the flotsam and jetsam of the Sexual Revolution both hippie and yuppie, a wholly-other generation’s coming on strong — and there are signs that unlike its materialist predecessor, it’s awake to the freshness and wonder of life, especially innocent life, and compassion for it.  From Aledo, Texas (outside Fort Worth as I learned) comes today this charming and affecting story of strength made perfect in weakness:

Who says there’s never any good news any more?  Hurrah for the students of Aledo High School — and for little Trig Palin and his mother.

[* If you don’t already own it, buy Coulter’s laugh-out-loud funny and endlessly quotable Godless: The Church of Liberalism.]