Monday, 30 November 2009

RE: Racism and Race-baiting Update. If you came from over here, you need to note two things: first, that Patrick's only talking about the title of my post, which is odd, because in the body of the post the sarcasm of the title becomes absolutely clear. So clear, the clarification below is really only for people who only read the title of my original post. Second, Patrick completely ignores the argument of both the original post and this one. Make what you will of his silence as regards anything other than the sarcastic title of the original post. Update 2. My oh my, but is Jeff Goldstein an idiot. He believes that this post is a response not to the post linked to and discussed at length in it, but to something Darleen wrote. (I suppose he doesn't know what "a side note" is.) Also, in another bit of proof of him having quit me, he stops posting get-rich-quick schemes and writes a diatribe against someone or other. (No link, though, to avoid generating an automatic trackback.) Via an email conversation, it's come to my attention that if you only read the title of this post, you'd come away with the impression that I was slagging Ed Morrissey for race-baiting. Because that charge is so loaded, I want to make it absolutely clear that I wasn't. As the body of the post makes plain, I was pointing out that conservative bloggers are in the unenviable position of race-baiting by default, because no matter what grounds they criticize Obama on, a vocal portion of their commentariat will respond with unveiled racism. The example in that post was how a debate over the definition of "diagnosis" devolved into 1) a series of racially-charged remarks about the appearance of Michelle Obama, and 2) a series of complaints that such remarks were being deleted by a moderator eager to distance himself from the racism of his readers. By virtue of the fact that anything Ed Morrissey and his ilk write will bait racists into revealing themselves in the comments, every post of his is race-baiting. I mean that not as a condemnation of Morrissey, but of the vocal subsect of the conservative commentariat who force writers like Morrissey into the unenviable position of race-baiting by default. Were I forced into a situation in which every word I wrote required a strongly-worded caveat about not responding like a racist, I'm not sure what I do (or even if I could continue to write). It goes without saying that not every critique of the administration is racially motivated. Nor am I even saying that every critique made by openly racist groups is racially motivated—a devout klansman might object to the stimulus on sound philosophical principle—but I am saying that a swath of the conservative commentariat is increasingly annoyed that other conservatives are muzzling their brazenly recidivist reasons for criticizing the current administration. On a side note, I found a video of Darleen Click and William Jacobson refuting my previous posts...
Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia Let me begin by agreeing with Kim Stanley Robinson: [T]his year the [Booker] prize should probably go to a science fiction comedy called Yellow Blue Tibia, by Adam Roberts. I say this not because Adam's a personal friend (although he is), and not because I've edited some of his other novels (although I have), but because it actually is the most intriguing novel I've read this year. Admittedly, I can't say whether it's the best novel published in 2009, because I only read three novels published this year (The City and the City, Inherent Vice, and Asterios Polyp), so I'm limited to saying that Yellow Blue Tibia merely outpaces the latest by Mieville and Pynchon, as well as David Mazzucchelli's decade-in-the-making masterpiece. A quick plot summary before moving on to what makes the book sing. In 1946, Josef Stalin ordered Konstantin Skvorecky, Ivan Frenkel, and a few other Russian science fiction writers to create a new threat against which the Soviet people could unite (as they had against Germany). They concoct a plot in which invisible radiation aliens invade the U.S.S.R., but it opens when "The Americans launch a rocket to explore space [and the] aliens destroy it with a beam of focused destructive radiation ... Then the aliens blow up a portion of the Ukraine, and poison the ground with radiation" (25). Before they can sketch the invasion out in greater detail, Stalin disbands the group. Years pass. Frenkel accidentally reconnects with Skvorecky shortly before the Challenger disaster. The plan they concocted for Stalin seems to be coming true. Skvorecky, a translator, meets two American scientologists and a Muscovite taxi driver named Ivan Saltykov. There is a murder. Someone or something threatens Chernobyl. Love happens. That is not, I grant, the most conventional summary of the novel—if they're more your bag you can try here, here or here, or if you're feeling more adventurous, here—but for me to say more would not despoil the novel so much as ruin the pleasure afforded by Adam's narrative gamesmanship. I'm more than happy to spoil a simple plot point, but I would prefer to avoid ruining the interpretive tension created by the contradictory accounts of those simple plot points. Were I to concretize any one of them, I would not only be usurping the role of a character within the novel, I would be reproducing the book's ingenious structural conceit. Unlike a A Scanner Darkly, in which conflicting realities are focalized through the muddle of drug-induced paranoia, the narrator of Yellow Blue Tibia is fully aware that he lives in a world structured by other people's understanding of reality. From the obsessive-compulsive taxi driver, Ivan Saltykov, who returns to the scene of the crime because he must retrace his path exactly, to the UFO enthusiasts who mistake Skvorecky's denial of the existence of extraterrestrials for an exercise in dialectical thinking, the characters in the novel influence the narrative less through their actions than their rationale for engaging in them. Dramatic irony is...

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