October 23, 2009
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.
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?