From Le Bon to Mussolini to Trump, a Single Unbroken Strand

DpFzByQUYAAeh-4
Le Bon -> Mussolini -> Trump.

DpFzHeYV4AA3Mdy
Le Bon -> Mussolini -> Trump.

And those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, of course.

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.
– William Faulkner

And…There’s something to be admired about the way the Chinese always take the long view of history and reality itself for that matter.

Interviewer: What do you as Chinese premier, think of the French Revolution [that took place 200 years ago]?
Chou en Lai, Premier of the People’ Republic of China: It’s too soon to tell.
– Interview with Chinese premier Chou en Lai, 1970’s

Alt Left: The Concept of a Third Gender: Gay or Transsexual?

There has been a long tradition in many societies around the world of two-spirit people, Third Genders, etc. Many of these people were accepted in their societies under these societal doctrines. In recent years, the Trans Lobby has taken over this discussion and has decided that the two-spirit and Third Gender traditions were examples of how transgenderism has been accepted around the world for a very long time. But that’s true because the notion of two-spirit people and Third Genders generally did not apply to transsexuals.
As a good general rule, my understanding of two-spirit people, 3rd genders, etc. from my studying was that these people were generally just homosexuals.
A two-spirit Amerindian man would do woman’s chores, dress in women’s clothes, and live his life with the women. My understanding is that it was acceptable for a heterosexual Amerindian man to “marry” a two-spirit man and take him as his “wife.” No one much cared about this.
There were indeed two-spirit women also who were just lesbians. They wore men’s clothes, hunted, fished, did men’s chores, and lived their lives with the men. And a two-spirit woman might well take up with another such woman as a “wife.” They could live together as a couple.
There were quite a small number of these people, ~1-2%, so they were not much of a burden for the average tribe who regarded them as the occasional oddity which was strange but could be tolerated in small doses.
There was little to no recreational or choice homosexuality among Amerindians to my knowledge. This type of homosexuality or bisexuality is also rare among many of the more primitive groups the world round. In these societies, sex was generally freely available to both sexes from puberty on (look what Puritans we are now in comparison!), and this teenage sex never harmed a soul for thousands of years. Now suddenly it’s horribly destructive. Right.
Anyway, with free sex from puberty on more or less and marriage inevitable before 40 at least, most folks were satisfying their sexual needs, so there was no need for the sort of opportunistic homosexual behavior that arises due to lack of access to the opposite sex.
I don’t read a lot of gay writing, but I’ve still probably read more than most straights. There has been a tradition in gay historical writing dating back to the mid-19th Century of discussions about a third gender. The interpretation was always that the 3rd Gender people were simply homosexuals or gay and lesbian people. All of a sudden now this is being rewritten as these folks and the two-spirits as having always been trans, but that’s not the way I read the literature and followed the discussion.
 

Game/PUA: George Orwell on Incels

The second great evil of a Tramp’s life – it seems much smaller at first sight, but it is a good second – is that he is entirely cut off from contact with women. This point needs elaborating. Tramps are cut off from women, in the first place, because there are very few women at their level of society.
One might imagine that among the destitute people the sexes would be as equally balanced as elsewhere. But it is not so; in fact, one can almost say that below a certain level society is entirely male. The following figures, publishes by the L.C.C. from a night census taken February 13th, 1931, will show the relative numbers of destitute men and destitute women:
(Figures from shelters, churches, casual wards, and hostels follow)
It will be seen from these figures that at the charity level men outnumber women by something like ten to one. The cause is presumably that unemployment affects women less than men; also that any presentable woman can, in the last resort, attach herself to some man. The result, for a tramp, is that he is condemned to perpetual celibacy.
For of course it goes without saying that if a tramp finds no women at his own level, those above – even a very little above – are as far out of reach as the moon. The reasons are not worth discussing, but there is little doubt that women never, or hardly ever, condescend to men who are much poorer than themselves. A tramp, therefore, is a celibate from the moment when he takes to the road. Having no hope at all of securing a wife, a mistress, or any kind of woman except – very rarely when he can raise a few shillings – a prostitute. It is obvious what the results of this must be: homosexuality, for instance, and the occasional rape cases.
But deeper than these is the degradation worked in a man who knows that he is not even considered fit for marriage. The sexual impulse, not to put it any higher, is a fundamental impulse, and starvation of it can be almost as demoralizing as physical hunger. The evil of poverty is not so much that it makes a man suffer as that it rots him physically and spiritually. And there can be no doubt that sexual starvation contributes to the rotting process. Cut off from the whole race of women, a tramp finds himself degraded to the rank of a cripple or a lunatic. No humiliation could do more damage to a man’s self-respect.
George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, Chapter 36. (1933)

From George Orwell to Eliot Rodger, and not an inch of space between them. And speaking of Paris…
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, n’est-ce pas?

A Fake Charge: George Orwell Was an Anti-Semite

Here.
 
Orwell has long been charged as an anti-Semite. I accepted it at face value like the charges against T. S. Eliot and others. But I just read an article in the Israeli paper Haaretz charging Orwell with antisemitism. I was surprised that there was little there. In some of his books, notably Down and Out in Paris and London, he runs across several quite unpleasant, rude or uncivilized people. They happen to be Jewish. He notes this. In fact, he regularly notes a person’s Jewishness. Supposedly this is anti-Semitism right there. If I write about my life and point out that various people in my life were Jewish, I’m an anti-Semite! Because it’s anti-Semitic to even notice such things.
I disagree with the charge. The people he meets are simply rude, unpleasant, uncivilized individual humans who just so happen to be Jewish. Nowhere does Orwell attempt to say that all or most Jews act that way.
Around 1941, Orwell pointed out that many Jews worked at British media outlets and that others outright controlled a number of British newspapers. Supposedly this is anti-Semitic. Except that it’s not. If Jews are 2% of your population and far more than that among journalists or media titans, it’s surely not anti-Semitic to point that out!
Around the same time, Orwell heard that a lot of the people sleeping in the London subway area were Jewish. He resolved to go find out. He went there and while everyone there was not Jewish, there were quite a few Jews sheltering there. He notes that Jews tend to stand out wherever they are. Supposedly this is more anti-Semitism. I can’t see it. He hears that a lot of Jews are sleeping in the underground subway area. He goes to check it out. Sure enough there are quite a few Jews there. He notes that they somehow tend to stick out and distinguish themselves from non-Jews. This is anti-Semitism?
Orwell also wrote many times opposing anti-Semitism. Apparently this is not enough to absolve him of the charge. Instead it just makes him complicated. Or, I would argue, human, as we are all complicated, complex and even ambivalent about most things.
Let me tell you something. I have never once heard of one single anti-Semite who wrote works attacking anti-Semitism. Anti-Semites don’t do that. If you do that you are de facto not an anti-Semite. Period.
Orwell also had many Jewish friends. In fact, people were shocked by how many Jews came to his funeral. Do you think Jews would flock to the funeral of an anti-Semite? Why would they? Did Jews flock to Wagner’s funeral? Hell, some Jews still walk out of the room if you put him on the turntable, and that was over 100 years ago.
No.
Jews do not flock to the funerals of anti-Semites. You think they are stupid. Not all people Jews call anti-Semites are actual Jew-haters. Many are innocent. But on the other hand, most if not all actual anti-Semites are pegged properly as enemies by the Jews. The Jews definitely know who their enemies are. The only problem is they exaggerate their number. But this is one good thing about paranoia. The paranoid is very unlikely to be blind to any actual enemies in his life. He’ll spot them out before anyone.
Orwell also had many Jewish friends. Jews and Blacks and anti-racist idiots love the old chestnut “A lot of my friends are…” as a defense against racism. It is true that some mild racists have friends of the group they dislike. Their argument, appropriately enough, is that the friend is not like the rest of them. If the friend is just fine though, one wonders how racist the person really is as racists usually condemn the whole group.
Let me tell you something. I have known some real anti-Semites. I mean real hardcore Jew-haters. They came from different backgrounds but they all had one thing in common – not one of them had a single Jewish friend.
It’s the same with Blacks. People who truly hate Blacks don’t associate with any of them. I knew a racist who used to gather signatures for petitions as his job. He hated Blacks so much that if a Black man came up to sign the petition, he would not let him sign. Instead he would walk away, tell him to get lost, something like that. That’s not an unusual reaction. A lot of hardcore racists are exactly like that. An ex-wife of my cousin was from Southern Illinois. When the ex-wife was born, her father hated Blacks so much that he sent the wife to another hospital rather than have a Black physician deliver the baby.
So next time you hear some anti-racist scream, “Yeah, we know, a lot of your friends are _______. Sorry, that’s an old one. You’re still a racist!”
Think again. If you really do have one or God forbid quite a few friends of the hated group, you probably don’t really hate them that much.

"Mother Water"

This is a bit more of my creative writing. And yes, I have been published in literary journals, in case you were asking. I published a short story in a single literary journal. There were a lot of  unknown names in there, but there were also a couple of big names – Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg. I remember at the bar afterwards Gary Snyder said he liked Journey Through the Zone. That was my story.
Anyway, is this better as prose or as a poem?

The sea. Once again the sea. Again and again the sea. Always again the sea. The sea from which we came. The sea to which we will return. Our mother. Mother water.

Or:

Mother  Water

The sea
Once again the sea
Again and again the sea
Always again the sea
The sea from which we came
The sea to which we will return
Our mother
Mother water

It does make a neat little very short poem. As prose it would have to be part of a larger work or possibly a microfiction or flash fiction story.
And if you are looking for influences, check out Samuel Beckett. Maybe James Joyce too, who knows? Beckett for sure though.

"Sad Song"

This a bit of my creative writing here.
Is this better as prose or as a poem?

The years. The long years. The sadness of the years.

Or:

The years
The long years
The sadness of the years

If you make it poetry, it’s almost a perfect little encapsulated haiku. If fiction, it would have to be part of a larger work or it could be a three-line microfiction flash fiction story.

Pio Baroja

Where’s this guy been all my life? The name sounds familiar, but I didn’t really know anything about him. Another Generation of ’98 writer who barely made it through the Spanish Civil War.
Federico Garcia Lorca, the doomed gay poet, one of the finest poets of the 20th Century, of course was assassinated in this war, but he was from the next generation of Spanish writers, the Generation of ’27. They were much more avant garde than the ’98’ers.
The Generation of ’98 were a whole new crop of Spanish writers who popped up at the turn of the century in Spain. Spain was still a monarchy back then and these were times of fervent. The monarchy was trying to balance between the desire of the people to modernize the humanize their country and the desires of the Church conservatives to keep things as static as they were.
At the same time, in 1898, Spain was reeling from its defeat in several wars around the globe. Thousands of Spaniards were dead, and Spain lost all of its colonies. This was a time of great upheaval in Spain. The ’98’ers attacked traditional culture and the monarchy which they say as conformist and undemocratic. In this sense, they were like the liberal protest movements that arose in Germany after World War 1 who attacked German culture and ways of thinking in the light of their painful defeat in the war.
These liberal movements were met with a conservative backlash or mostly demobbed soldiers who formed gangs called the Brownshirts who fought socialists and communists in the streets of Germany. These conservatives felt that the liberals had “stabbed the country in the back” and been traitorous during the war, leading to the nation’s defeat. One of these demobbed soldiers was an angry, wounded soldier named Adolf Hitler and it was from this Right vs Left firestorm in the streets that the Nazi God of Destruction arose a decade later. The Phoenix rising from the ashes, the regeneration of the illustrious nation of blood and soul, which is fascism in a nutshell. Fascism can best be seen as palingetic revolution of the Right. The word palingetic brings to mind the Phoenix rises to glory from the ashes of defeat.
Baroja was a liberal like most of that generation. He grew up in the Basque Country. He wrote a number of trilogies, including The Sea, The Cities, The Struggle for Life, The Basque Country and a few others. The Struggle for Life is a gritty, harsh trilogy about life in the slums of Madrid. John Dos Passos was very fond of this series. Probably his most famous book is The Tree of Knowledge. Baroja was a pessimist and a nihilist who soured on life at a young age.
I do not mind reading downbeat authors though, even if I am an optimist. Really the optimistic and pessimistic views of life are both true and equally valid.
Baroja was influenced by Nietzsche, but below almost looks like Heidegger. I like the elaborate, ornate, very descriptive prose of the 19th Century. I love the long, fancy sentences where the tail of the sentence almost seems to be the head. I don’t mind getting to the end of a Henry James sentence, commas and all, and then wondering what the start of the sentence was about. It’s fun to decipher fancy writing. People don’t write like this much anymore as it is considered to be too elaborate and difficult for its own sake. I believe some of the finest writing in English was done in the 19th Century though. I can’t get enough of those $64,000 sentences. They’re so good you could almost take them to the bank.
Most of Baroja has not yet been translated into English, though he has been famous in Spain for a century.  Hemingway was heavily influenced by Baroja, although this fact is little known.
Isn’t that some fine writing?

The individual is the only real thing in nature and in life. Neither the species, the genus, nor the race, actually exists; they are abstractions, terminologies, scientific devices, useful as syntheses but not entirely exact. By means of these devices we can discuss and compare; they constitute a measure for our minds to use, but have no external reality. Only the individual exists through himself and for himself. I am, I live, is the sole thing a man can affirm.
The categories and divisions arranged for classification are like the series of squares an artist places over a drawing to copy it by. The lines of the squares may cut the lines of the sketch; but they will cut them, not in reality but only in the artist’s eye. In humanity, as in all of nature, the individual is the one thing. Only individuality exists in the realm of life and in the realm of spirit.
Pio Baroja, Caesar or Nothing, 1903

Reading List (Anyone Else Read Like This)?

I am a voracious reader, and lately at least, I am often reading between 20-40 books all at once. I pick up one, read 20 pages or so, and put it down. Then I pick up another one, read another 20 pages or so, and put it down too. It’s not really a problem for most nonfiction books and it works fine for books of essays and short stories. The poetry I read is often long narrative poetry where you have a single poem that goes on for an entire book of 200-300 pages. This method works well for these poetry books.
It is a bit of a problem with novels. I will admit it. You do tend to lose your place a bit and sometimes I just have to go back and start all the way over again. I think I am going to need to restart War and Peace and the Brothers Karamazov because I forgot what I read.
I do not know if this way of reading is stupid and sensible. It’s just the way I do it. It’s actually rather fun to read this way.
The list:
Total

  1. 33 books

Novels

  1. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  2. Feodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
  3. Robert Stone, A Flag for Sunrise
  4. Joyce Carol Oates, Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart
  5. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  6. Tom Robbins, Still Live with Woodpecker
  7. John Rechy, Bodies and Souls
  8. John Updike, Until the End of Time
  9. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
  10. Herman Melville, Moby Dick
  11.  Chuck Pahalunik, Invisible Monsters
  12.  Franz Kafka, The Trial
  13. John Irving, Son of the Circus
  14. James Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Short Stories

  1.  Joyce Carol Oates, Night-Side
  2.  Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness
  3.  Ernest Hemingway, The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway
  4. Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
  5. Daniel Francis Howard, The Western Tradition: An Anthology of Short Stories

Poetry

  1. John Milton, Paradise Lost
  2. Steven St. Vincent Benet, Western Star

Essays

  1. Loren Eisley, Night Country (science)
  2. Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (nature)
  3. Edward Abbey, Down the River (nature)
  4. Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
  5. Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tuscon
  6. Doug Peacock, Grizzly Years (nature)
  7. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink (cognitive science)

Unclassified Nonfiction

  1. Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or (philosophy)
  2. Showan Khurshid, Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics (political science)
  3. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (philosophy)
  4. John Colapinto, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (gender studies)
  5. John C. Greene, The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought (science)

Love and Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy of course is the great Victorian novelist, short story writer and lately appreciated poet. Many of his works deal with men and women and their love affairs. If you have never checked him out, I urge you to do so. He is well worth it. He was admired by writers like D. H. Lawrence (who wrote a book about it), the great John Cowper Powys, W.Somerset Maugham, and the great misanthropic poet Philip Larkin. He was a follower of the Naturalist School made famous by Emile Zola.
The Naturalists were a follow-on to the Realists such as Gustave Flaubert (proto-realist) and Anthony Trollope (classic realist). It was supposed to be an improvement upon realism, but I am not sure how. Both of these were reactions against the overly florid, unrealistic and overwrought stories of the time. Zola in particular sought to be almost scientific in his descriptions of the people in his books. Both sought to simply portray characters, humans and scenes as they actually are and let readers draw their own didactic or moralistic conclusions if they so wished.
As far as Hardy himself in love, he was famously married a couple of times. He was described as an unhappy husband. When his second wife died in 1912 after they were estranged for over 20 years, nevertheless, Hardy become a distraught widower and produced some of his finest poetry in Satires of Circumstance published two years later. These are considered to be some of the saddest, most powerful and finest poems about death ever written in English.
And so we have Thomas Hardy:

  • Unhappy husband, and then
  • Distraught widower

He was miserable while he was married to her, but he was even more miserable when she was dead. There is a lesson in here somewhere, maybe:

  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, or simply
  • People are never happy

I prefer the latter.

Was Joseph Conrad a Neoliberal? Are We? A Contemporary Reading of Victory

I participated in a session with this fellow on Academia.edu. I believe the author is a professor at a university somewhere in the UK. I really liked this paper a lot. It’s a bit hard to understand, but if you concentrate, you should be able to understand. If I can understand it, at least some of you guys can too. It is an excellent overview of what exactly neoliberalism is and the effects it has on all of us all the way down to the anthropological, sociological and psychological.

Was Joseph Conrad a Neoliberal? Are We? A Contemporary Reading of Victory

by Simon During

Over the past decade or so “neoliberalism” has become a word to conjure with. It is easy to have reservations about its popularity since it seems to name both a general object — roughly, capitalist governmentality as we know it today — and a particular set of ideas that now have a well-researched intellectual history.

It also implies a judgment: few use the term except pejoratively. I myself do not share these worries however, since I think that using the word performs sterling analytic work on its own account even as it probably accentuates its concept’s rather blob-like qualities. Nonetheless in this talk I want somewhat to accede to those who resist neoliberalism’s analytic appeal by thinking about it quite narrowly — that is to say, in literary and intellectual historical terms.
I begin from the position, first, that neoliberalism is an offshoot of liberalism thought more generally; and second, that we in the academic humanities are ourselves inhabited by an occluded or displaced neoliberalism to which we need critically to adjust.1 Thus, writing as a
literary critic in particular, I want to follow one of my own discipline’s original protocols, namely to be sensitive to the ways in which the literary “tradition” changes as the present changes, in this case, as it is reshaped under that neoliberalism which abuts and inhabits us.2
To this end I want to present a reading of Joseph Conrad’s Victory (1916). To do this is not just to help preserve the received literary canon, and as such is, I like to think, a tiny act of resistance to neoliberalism on the grounds that neoliberalism is diminishing our capacity to affirm a canon at all. By maintaining a canon in the act of locating neoliberalism where it is not usually found, I’m trying to operate both inside and outside capitalism’s latest form.

***

1 Daniel Stedman-Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2014, p. 17.
2 This argument is made of course in T.S. Eliot’s seminal essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1921).
Let me begin with a brief and sweeping overview of liberalism’s longue durée.3 For our purposes we can fix on liberalism by noting that it has two central struts, one theoretical, the other historical. As generations of theorists have noted, the first strut is methodological individualism: liberal analysis begins with, and is addressed to, the autonomous individual rather than communities or histories.4
Methodological individualism of this kind is, for instance, what allowed Leo Strauss and J.P Macpherson to call even Thomas Hobbes a founder of liberalism.5 Liberalism’s second strut is the emphasis on freedom as the right to express and enact private beliefs with a minimum of state intervention. This view of freedom emerged in the seventeenth century among those who recommended that the sovereign state “tolerate” religious differences.
It marked a conceptual break in freedom’s history since freedom was now conceived of as an individual possession and right rather than as a condition proper to “civil associations” and bound to obligations.6 We need to remember, however, that methodological individualism does not imply liberal freedom, or vice versa. Indeed neoliberalism exposes the weakness of that association.
Early in the nineteenth century, liberalism became a progressivist political movement linked to enlightened values. But after about 1850, non-progressive or conservative liberalisms also appeared. Thus, as Jeffrey Church has argued, Arthur Schopenhauer, the post-Kantian
philosopher who arguably broke most spectacularly with enlightened humanist progressivism,
3 Among the library of works on liberalism’s history I have found two to be particularly useful for my purposes here: Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: a Counter-History, trans. Gregory Elliot. London: Verso 2014, and Amanda Anderson’s forthcoming Bleak Liberalism, Chicago, University of Chicago Press 2016.
4 Milan Zafirovski, Liberal Modernity and Its Adversaries: Freedom, Liberalism and Anti-Liberalism in the 21st Century, Amsterdam: Brill 2007, p. 116.
5 Van Mobley, “Two Liberalisms: the Contrasting Visions of Hobbes and Locke,” Humanitas, IX 1997: 6-34.
6 Quentin Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998, p. 23.
can be associated with liberalism.7
Likewise Schopenhauer’s sometime disciple, Friedrich Nietzsche, no progressivist, was, as Hugo Drochon has recently argued, also an antistatist who prophesied that in the future “private companies” will take over state business so as to protect private persons from one another.8 Liberalism’s conservative turn was, however, largely a result of socialism’s emergence as a political force after 1848, which enabled some left liberal fractions to dilute their individualism by accepting that “a thoroughly consistent individualism can work in harmony with socialism,” as Leonard Hobhouse put it.9
Conrad himself belonged to this moment. As a young man, for instance, he was appalled by the results of the 1885 election, the first in which both the British working class and the socialists participated.10 That election was contested not just by the Marxist Socialist Democratic Federation, but by radical Liberals who had allied themselves to the emergent socialist movement (not least Joseph Chamberlain who, as mayor of Birmingham, was developing so-called “municipal socialism” and who haunts Conrad’s work).11
The election went well for the Liberals who prevented the Tories from securing a clear Parliamentary majority. After learning this, Conrad, himself the son of a famous Polish liberal revolutionary, wrote to a friend, “the International Socialist Association are triumphant, and every
disreputable ragamuffin in Europe, feels that the day of universal brotherhood, despoliation and disorder is coming apace…Socialism must inevitably end in Caesarism.”12 That prophecy will resonate politically for the next century, splitting liberalism in two. As I say: on the one side, a
7 Jeffrey Church, Nietzsche’s Culture of Humanity: Beyond Aristocracy and Democracy in the Early Period, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015, p. 226.
8 Hugo Drochon, Nietzsche’s Great Politics, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2016, p. 9.
9 L. T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, London: Williams and Norgate, 1911, p. 99.
10 It was at this point that one of neoliberalism’s almost forgotten ur-texts was written,Herbert Spencer’s Man against the State (1884).
11 For instance, he plays an important role in Conrad and Ford Madox Ford’s The Inheritors.
12 Joseph Conrad, The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, vol 1., ed. Frederick Karl and Laurence Davis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1983, p. 16.
 
progressivist, collectivist liberalism. On the other, an individualist liberalism of which neoliberalism is a continuation.
By around 1900, liberalism’s fusion with socialism was often (although not quite accurately) associated with Bismark’s Germany, which gave anti-socialist liberalism a geographical inflection. Against this, individualistic liberalism was associated with Britain. But this received British liberalism looked back less to Locke’s religiously tolerant Britain than to Richard Cobden’s Britain of maritime/imperial dominance and free trade.
Which is to say that liberalism’s fusion with socialism pushed socialism’s liberal enemies increasingly to think of freedom economically rather than politically — as in Ludwig von Mises influential 1922 book on socialism, which can be understood as a neoliberal urtext.13 By that point, too, individuals were already being positioned to become what Foucault calls “consumers of freedom.” 14
They were now less understood less as possessing a fundamental claim to freedom than as creating and participating in those institutions which enabled freedom in practice. Crucially after the first world war, in the work of von Mises and the so-called “Austrian school”, freedom was increasingly assigned to individual relations with an efficient market as equilibrium theory viewed markets. This turn to the market as freedom’s basis marked another significant historical departure: it is the condition of contemporary neoliberalism’s emergence.
Neoliberalism organized itself internationally as a movement only after world war two, and did so against both Keynesian economics and the welfare state. 15 It was still mainly ideologically motivated by a refusal to discriminate between welfarism and totalitarianism — a line of thought already apparent in Conrad’s equation of socialism with Caesarism of course. As
13 See Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: an Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane. New Haven: Yale University Press 1951.
14 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 63. One key sign of this spread of this new freedom is Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous appeal to the “free trade in ideas” in his 1919 dissent in Abrams v. the US, a judgment which joins together the market, intellectual expression and the juridical.
15 See Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe (eds.), The Road from Mont Pèlerin, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2009.
 
Friedrich Hayek urged: once states begin to intervene on free markets totalitarianism looms because the people’s psychological character changes: they become dependent.16 For thirty years (in part as confined by this argument), neoliberalism remained a minority movement, but
in the 1970s it began its quick ascent to ideological and economic dominance.
Cutting across a complex and unsettled debate, let me suggest that neoliberalism became powerful then because it provided implementable policy settings for Keynesianism’s (perceived) impasse in view the stagnation and instability of post-war, first-world welfarist, full-employment economies after 1) the Vietnam War, 2) the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement; 3) OPEC’s cartelization, and 4) the postcolonial or “globalizing” opening up of world markets on the back of new transportation and computing technologies.17
In the global north neoliberalism was first implemented governmentally by parties on the left, led by James Callaghan in the UK, Jimmy Carter in the US, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in Australia, and leading the way, David Lange and Roger Douglas in New Zealand.18 At this time, at the level of policy, it was urged more by economists than by ideologues insofar as these can be separated (and Hayek and Mises were both of course).
As we know, neoliberals then introduced policies to implement competition, deregulation, monetarism, privatization, tax reduction, a relative high level of unemployment, the winding back of the state’s participation in the economy and so on. This agenda quickly became captured by private
 
16 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 48.
17 This history is open to lively differences of opinion. The major books in the literature are: Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979, London: Picador 2010; Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown, London: Verso 2014; Stedman-Jones, Masters of the Universe; Joseph Vogl, The Spectre of Capital, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2014; David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007. My own understanding of this moment is informed by Stedman-Jones’s account in particular.
18 It is worth noting in this context that the left had itself long been a hatchery of neoliberal economic ideas just because liberalism’s absorption of socialism was matched by socialism’s absorption of liberalism. See Johanna Brockman, Markets in the name of Socialism: the Left-wing Origins of Neoliberalism, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2011 on the intellectual-historical side of this connection.
6
interests, and from the eighties on, it was woven into new, highly surveilled and privatized, computing and media ecologies, indeed into what some optimists today call “cognitive capitalism”.19
In this situation, more or less unintended consequences proliferated, most obviously a rapid increase in economic inequality and the enforced insertion of internal markets and corporate structures in non-commercial institutions from hospitals to universities. Indeed, in winding back the welfare state, renouncing Keynesian and redistributionist economic policies, it lost its classical liberal flavor and was firmly absorbed into conservatism — a transformation which had been prepared for by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.20
But two more concrete conceptual shifts also helped animate this particular fusion of conservatism and liberalism. First, postwar neoliberalism was aimed more at the enterprise than at the individual.21
Largely on the basis of van Mises’s Human Action (1940) as popularized by Gary Becker, the free, independent individual was refigured as “human capital” and thereby exposed instead to management and “leadership.” At the same time, via Peter Drucker’s concept of “knowledge worker,” which emphasized the importance of conceptual and communication skills to
economic production, postsecular management theories for which corporations were hierarchical but organic communities also gained entry into many neoliberal mindsets.22 At that
 
19 Yann Moulier Boutang, Cognitive Capitalism, trans. Ed Emery. Cambridge: Polity Press 2012.
20 Nietzsche and Schopenhauer’s influence is no doubt part of why neoliberalism emerged in Austria. Indeed the Austrian context in which contemporary neoliberalism emerged is worth understanding in more detail. In their early work, Hayek and Mises in particular were responding to “red Vienna” not just in relation to Otto Bauer’s Austromarxism but also in relation to its version of guild socialism associated with Hungarians like Karl Polanyi, with whom both Hayek and Mises entered into debate. See Lee Congdon, “The Sovereignty of Society: Karl Polanyi in Vienna,” in The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi, ed. Kari Polanyi-Levitt. Montreal: Black Rose Books 1990, 78-85.
21 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 225.
22 Drucker was another Austrian refugee who turned to capitalism against totalitarianism in the late thirties and his profoundly influential work on corporate management shadows neoliberal theory up until the 1970s.
 
7
point, neoliberalism also became a quest to reshape as many institutions as possible as corporations.
At this point too Foucault’s consumers of freedom were becoming consumers full stop. To state this more carefully: at the level of ideology, to be free was now first and foremost deemed to be capable of enacting one’s preferences in consumer and labour markets. It would seem that preferences of this kind increasingly determined social status too, and, more invasively, they now increasingly shaped personalities just because practices of self were bound less and less to filiations and affiliations than to acts of choice.
This helped the market to subsume older gradated social and cultural structures of identity-formation, class difference and cultural capital. At this juncture, we encounter another significant unexpected consequence
within liberalism’s longue durée: i.e. the sixties cultural revolution’s reinforcement of neoliberalism.
This is a complex and controversial topic so let me just say here that, from the late seventies, neoliberal subjects who were individualized via their entrepreneurial disposition and economic and labour choices, encounters the subject of post-68 identity politics who had been emancipated from received social hierarchies and prejudices, and was now attached to a particular ethnicity, gender or sexuality as chosen or embraced by themselves as individuals. These two subject formations animated each other to the degree that both had, in their different ways, sloughed off older communal forms, hierarchies and values.
Governing this ménage of hedonism, productivity, insecurity and corporatization, neoliberalism today seems to have become insurmountable, and is, as I say, blob-like, merging out into institutions and practices generally, including those of our discipline. And it has done
this as a turn within liberal modernity’s longer political, intellectual and social genealogies and structures rather than as a break from them.
Nonetheless, three core, somewhat technical, propositions distinguish neoliberalism from liberalism more generally:

  1. First the claim, which belongs to the sociology of knowledge, that no individual or group can know the true value of anything at all.23 For neoliberals, that value — true or not — can only be assessed, where it can be assessed at all, under particular conditions: namely when it is available in a competitive and free market open to all individuals in a society based on private property. This is an argument against all elite and expert claims to superior knowledge and judgment: without prices, all assessments of value are mere opinion. In that way, market justice (i.e. the effects of competing in the market) can trump social justice. And in that way, for instance, neoliberalism finds an echo not just in negations of cultural authority and canonicity but in the idea that literary and aesthetic judgments are matters of private choice and opinion. In short, neoliberalism inhabits cultural democracy and vice versa. By the same stroke, it posits an absence — a mere structure of exchange—at society’s normative center.
  2. There is a direct relationship between the competitive market and freedom. Any attempt to limit free markets reduces freedom because it imposes upon all individuals a partial opinion about what is valuable. This particular understanding of freedom rests on the notion of the market as a spontaneous order — its being resistant to control and planning, its being embedded in a society which “no individual can completely survey” as Hayek put it.24 Not that this notion is itself original to neoliberalism: Foucault’s historiography of liberalism shows that, in the mid eighteenth century, this property of markets was thought of as “natural” and therefore needed to be protected
    from sovereign authority’s interference.25 But as Foucault and others have argued, neoliberalism emerges after World War 2 when the spontaneous market conditions of freedom are no longer viewed as natural (even if they remain immanently lawbound) but as governmentally produced.26
  3. Neoliberalism has specific ethical dimensions too. While it generally insists that individuals should be free to “follow their own values and preferences” (as Hayek put it) at least within the limits set by those rules and institutions which secure market stability, in fact individuals’ independence as well as their relation to market risk, provides the necessary condition for specific virtues and capacities. Most notably, in Hayek’s formulation, a neoliberal regime secures individuals’ self-sufficiency, honor and dignity and does so by the willingness of some to accept “material sacrifice,” or to “live dangerously” as Foucault put it, in a phrase he declared to be liberalism’s “motto”.27 This mix of risk-seeking existentialism and civic republicanism not only rebukes and prevents the kind of de-individualization supposedly associated with socialisms of the left and right, it is where neoliberalism and an older “Nietzschean” liberalism meet—with Michael Oakeshott’s work bearing special weight in this context.28 But as soon as neoliberalism itself becomes hegemonic in part by fusing with the spirit of 1968, this original ascetic, masculinist neoliberal ethic of freedom and risk comes to be supplemented and displaced by one based more on creativity, consumerist hedonism and entrepreneurialism aimed at augmenting choice.29

***

23 See Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis, p. 55.
24 Friedrich von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom: Texts and Documents. The Definitive Edition, ed. Bruce Caldwell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 212.
25 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 19.
26 This is argued in Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval’s The New Way of the World: on Neoliberal Society, London: Verso 2014. For the immanent lawboundedness in Hayek, see Miguel Vatter, The Republic of the Living: Biopolitics and the Critique of Civil Society, New York: Fordham University Press 2014: pps. 195-220. Vatter’s chapter “Free Markets and Republican
Constitutions in Hayek and Foucault” is excellent on how law is treated in neoliberal thought.
27 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 130. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 66.
28 See Andrew Norris’s forthcoming essay in Political Theory, “Michael Oakeshott’s Postulates of Individuality” for this. We might recall, too, that Foucault argues for similarities between the Frankfurt school and the early neoliberals on the grounds of their resistance to standardization, spectacle and so on. See The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 105.
 
I have indicated that Conrad belongs to the moment when socialist parties first contested democratic elections and which thus split liberalism, allowing one, then beleaguered, liberal fraction to begin to attach to conservatism. In this way then, he belongs to neoliberalism’s deep past (which is not to say, of course, that he should be understand as a proto-neoliberal himself). Let us now think about his novel Victory in this light.
The novel is set in late nineteenth-century Indonesia mainly among European settlers and entrepreneurs. Indonesia was then a Dutch colony itself undergoing a formal economic deregulation program, which would increase not just Dutch imperial profits but, among indigenous peoples, also trigger what was arguably human history’s most explosive population growth to date.30
Victory belongs to this world where imperialism encountered vibrant commercial activity driven by entrepreneurial interests, competition and risk. Thus, for instance, its central character, the nomadic, cosmopolitan, aristocratic Swedish intellectual, Axel Heyst, establishes a business— a coal mine — along with a ship-owning partner, while other characters manage hotels, orchestras and trading vessels. Victory is a novel about enterprises as well as about individuals.
But Conrad’s Indonesia is other to Europe as a realm of freedom. Importantly, however, its freedom is not quite liberal or neoliberal: it is also the freedom of a particular space. More precisely, it is the freedom of the sea: here, in effect Indonesia is oceanic. This formulation draws on Carl Schmitt’s post-war work on international law, which was implicitly
 
29 The history of that displacement is explored in Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso 2005.
30 Bram Peper, “Population Growth in Java in the 19th Century”, Population Studies, 24/1 (1970): 71-84.
 
11
positioned against liberal and neoliberal theory. In his monograph The Nomos of the Earth (1950), Schmitt drew attention to the sea as a space of freedom just because national sovereignties and laws did not hold there.
But Schmitt’s implicit point was that liberal freedom needs to be thought about not just in terms of tolerance, recognition, rights or markets, but
geographically and historically inside the long history of violent sovereign appropriation of the globe’s land masses so that elemental freedom was enacted on the oceans where law and sovereignty had no reach. From this perspective, piracy, for instance, plays an important role in freedom’s history. And from this perspective the claim to reconcile radical freedom to the lawbound state is false: such freedom exists only where laws do not.
The sea, thought Schmitt’s way, is key to Conrad’s work. But, for him, the sea is also the home of economic liberalism, free-trade and the merchant marines by whom he had, of course, once been employed, and whose values he admired.31 Victory is a maritime tale set on waters which harbor such free trade at the same time as they form a Schmittean realm of freedom — and violence and risk — which effectively remains beyond the reach of sovereign law.
Let me step back at this point to sketch the novel’s plot. Victory’s central character Heyst is the son of an intellectual who late in life was converted from progressivism to a mode of weak Schopenhauerianism or what was then call pessimism.32 Heyst lives his father’s pessimism out: he is a disabused conservative liberal: “he claimed for mankind that right to
absolute moral and intellectual liberty of which he no longer believed them worthy.”33
Believing this, Heyst leaves Europe to “drift”— circulating through Burma, New Guinea, Timor and the Indonesian archipelagoes, simply gathering facts and observing. But, on an
 
31 For Conrad and trade in this region, see Andrew Francis, Culture and Commerce in Conrad’s Asian Fiction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015. For Conrad’s affiliations to free trade proper see my unpublished paper, “Democracy, Empire and the Politics of the Future in
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”. This is available on this url.
32 Joseph Conrad, Victory, London: Methuen 1916, p. 197.
33 Conrad, Victory, pps. 92-93
 
12
impulse, while drifting through Timor he rescues a shipowner, Morrison, whose ship has been impounded by unscrupulous Portuguese authorities, and through that act of spontaneous generosity, becomes obligated to Morrison.
The two men end up establishing a coalmine in the remote Indonesian island of Samburan, backed by local Chinese as well as by European capital. The company soon collapses. Morison dies. And, living out his Schopenhauerian renunciation of the world, Heyst, the detached man, decides to stay on at the island alone except for one Chinese servant.
He does, however, sometimes visit the nearest Indonesian town, Surabaya, and it is while staying there in a hotel owned by Schomberg, a malicious, gossipy German, that he makes another spontaneous rescue. This time he saves a young woman, Lena, a member of a traveling “ladies orchestra,” who is being bullied by her bosses and in danger of abduction by Schomberg himself.
Heyst and Lena secretly escape back to his island, causing Schomberg to harbor a venomous resentment against Heyst. At this point Schomberg’s hotel is visited by a trio of sinister criminals: Jones, Ricardo and their servant Pedro. Taking advantage of Schomberg’s rage, they establish an illegal casino in his hotel. To rid himself of this risky enterprise, Schomberg advises them to go after Heyst in his island, falsely telling them that Heyst has hidden a fortune there. Jones and his gang take Schomberg’s advice but disaster awaits them.
The novel ends with Jones, Ricardo, Heyst, Lena all dead on Heyst’s island.
The novel, which hovers between commercial adventure romance and experimental modernism, is bound to neoliberalism’s trajectory in two main ways. First, it adheres to neoliberalism’s sociology of knowledge: here too there is no knowing center, no hierarchy of expertise, no possibility of detached holistic survey and calculation through which truth might command action. Heyst’s drifting, inconsequential fact-gathering, itself appears to illustrate that absence. As do the gossip and rumors which circulate in the place of informed knowledge, and which lead to disaster. Individuals and enterprises are, as it were, on their
13
own, beyond any centralized and delimited social body that might secure stability and grounded understandings. They are bound, rather, to self-interest and spontaneity.
This matters formally not simply because, in an approximately Jamesian mode, the narrative involves a series of points of view in which various characters’ perceptions, moods and interests intersect, but because the narration itself is told in a first person voice without being enunciated by a diegetical character.
That first person, then, functions as the shadow representative of a decentered community, largely focused on money, that is barely able to confer identity at all, a community, too, without known geographical or ideological limits just because the narrator, its implicit representative, has no location or substance. This narratorial indeterminacy can be understood as an index of liberalism at this globalizing historical juncture: a liberalism divesting itself of its own progressive histories, emancipatory hopes and institutions. A bare liberalism about to become neoliberalism, as we can proleptically say.
More importantly, the novel speaks to contemporary neoliberalism because it is about freedom. As we have begun to see, Heyst is committed to a freedom which is both the freedom of the sea, and a metaphysical condition which has detached itself, as far as is possible, from connections, obligations, determinations. This structures the remarkable formal
relationship around which the novel turns — i.e. Heyst’s being positioned as Jones’s double.
The generous Schopenhauerian is not just the demonic criminal’s opposite: he is also his twin. Both men are wandering, residual “gentlemen” detached from the European order, and thrown into, or committed to, a radical freedom which, on the one side, is a function of free trade, on the other, a condition of life lived beyond the legal and political institutions that order European societies, but also, importantly, are philosophical and ethical — a renunciation of the established ideological order for independence, courage and nomadism.
To put this rather differently: Heyst and Jones’s efforts to live in freedom — to comport themselves as free individuals — combines economic freedom — a freedom of exchange, competition and
 
14
entrepreneurial possibilities— with a state of nature as a line of flight (or emancipation) from received continental laws, values and social structures. Freedom, that is, which combines that which Carl Schmitt and the early neoliberals imagined, each in their own way.
The novel’s main point is that there is, in fact, nothing in this freedom to sustain true ethical substance. It is as if Schmittean freedom has smashed both liberal freedom and pessimistic asceticism, along with their ethical groundings. Or to come at the novel’s basic point from another direction: it is as if the absence at the heart of a free society has transmigrated into these characters’ selves. It is at that level that individual freedom cannot be separated from violence and risk and good from evil.
Without an instituted social structure, Heyst cannot stay true to himself: his commitment to freedom and renunciation is compromised because of his spontaneous acts of generosity and sympathy which lead to his and Lena’s death. On the other side, Jones, a homosexual shunned by respectable society, is afflicted by those key nineteenth-century affects, resentment and boredom as well as a quasi-Nietzschean contempt for “tameness”, which drive him towards living outside of society, at contigency’s mercy, and towards reckless, malevolent violence.
Heyst and Jones die together almost by accident, in deaths that reveal them not just as entangled with one another at existence’s threshold, but as both attuned to death, even in life. It now look as if while they lived they wanted to die. In that way, the novel makes it clear that the risk, disorder and emptiness which inhabit their striving for a radically liberal practice of life corrode distinctions not just between violence and renunciation, not just between good and evil, but also between life and death.
We can put it like this: the freedom that these characters claim and the risks that it entails and which bind them together are inclined more towards death than towards life, just on account of freedom’s own conditions of possibility, namely radical autonomy, absence of sovereign power, and maximum choice.

***

15
As I say, this is a reading of the novel which, at least in principle, helps to canonize Victory just because it claims that its form, plot and characters address versions of our current neoliberal social condition, and does so in metaphysically ambitious terms. Victory is a critique of freedom, I think.
Conrad is insisting that even in a liberal society devoted to free trade,
enterprises and markets, the law — and the sovereign state — comes first. It is, if one likes, beginning the work of detaching liberalism from freedom. To say this, however, is to ignore the most pressing question that this reading raises: to what degree should we today actually accede to Conrad’s ambivalent, pessimistic and conservative imagination of radical freedom?
How to judge that freedom’s renunciation of established hierarchies, collectivities and values whether for adventure, risk and spontaneity or for violence and death? It is a condition of the discipline’s neoliberal state that the only answer we can give to that question is that we can, each of us, answer that question any way that we choose.

Robert Stark, Rabbit, & Alex von Goldstein talk about Radical Centrism, Cultural Elitism, & Gore Vidal

Here.
Great new show. It looks like Rabbit of the AltLeft website will be one of Stark’s regular guest-hosts now, so it looks like Stark’s show is becoming at least in part an Alt Left (and Radical Center, see below) site in addition to being the Alt Right site that it has long been known as. I don’t think Stark himself is all that Alt Right. He seemed too sane and liberal, I have known the guy a long time, and and he was never a very racist guy a far as I could tell. Stark is still Alt Right I think, but he leans more towards the Radical Center wing and maybe even towards the Alt Left sometimes.
Rabbit sort of has his own wing of the Alt Left as opposed to my wing. Rabbit is more into pro-White stuff and race and he doesn’t really care about the Cultural Left. It’s not that he’s a Cultural Left guy himself, but I think it is more than he just doesn’t care about feminism, gay politics, and whatnot. But Rabbit would surely reject modern anti-racism as should any sane person frankly.
Rabbit associates with open White nationalists on radio shows and honestly could even be seen as one himself, although he’s probably the nicest WN I’ve ever met. He seems to be somewhat lined up with Greg Johnson’s West Coast White Nationalism. If you don’t know what it is, go research it as I do not have time to get into it here.
Johnson is definitely a hardcore White nationalist. He’s also openly gay. And now there’s Milo. And Jack Donovan’s been here a while. What’s with all these gays being attracted to the Alt Right? Color me somewhat disturbed. There’s been a nasty reaction to the gay bar that’s opened up on the Alt Right. I listened to a very scary Nazi type woman do a podcast on Bathhouse White Nationalism, ranting on and on about faggots and queers and this and that. She was smart as Hell and funny as barrel of ticks, but she left me with a disturbed taste on my lips. I almost wanted some Scope.
My wing is more explicitly about economics and maybe even more Left in that sense. Contrary to popular lie, I really don’t care about race stuff or pro-White stuff.
Someone needs to explain to me why race of all things is the most important issue facing our society today. I don’t get it. Race is the thing I’m trying to spend most days trying not to think about, you know? It’s like “What the Hell you want to think about that for? At best it’s a sideshow and an ugly and often stupid one at that. Why shell out for the expensive ticket? And then there’s the other people in the audience all around you. I go to the fair to have fun, not to be terrified. I get enough of that in the quotidian grind as it is.
I am much more opposed to the Cultural Left. I am quite critical of feminism, gay politics, Baskin Robbins 31 different flavors of gender and the prosaic degeneracy of all the rest of the Cultural Left Freakshow, though I don’t think much of modern antiracism either. But I dislike modern antiracism more because it’s insipid, not because it’s the enemy. Violent opposition to modern antiracism seems cruel. It’s like beating up the retarded. There’s so dumb I almost very sorry for them.
About the show, I think Bay Area Guy and maybe also Dota came up with the idea of the Radical Center. Ann Sterzinger has also talked about the Radical Center a lot.
Topics include:
Rabbit’s Alt Left and how it’s similar to Radical Centrism.
How Radical Centrism relates to the Alt Right, which is a big tent movement for people who oppose political correctness and mass immigration but includes people with more Left and Center views.
How Radical Centrism can adopt the issues abandoned by the Left in favor of globalism and open borders (ex. civil liberties, the environment, workers rights, and anti-war).
How the left opposed the Brexit which stripped the world’s 400 richest people of $127 billion.
The Horseshoe Theory, and how the Radical Center is the part of the horseshoe drifting in nothingness.
Implementing Radical Centrism politically and which demographic groups it could appeal to.
Where Radical Centrism overlaps with the Left, Right, and Libertarianism.
What is the role of government vs. individual liberty.
Capitalism and how it can produce innovation but is disruptive when unfettered without zoning laws, environmental protection, protectionism, and financial regulation.
White liberal utopias such as Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado, how they relate to the Alt Left, and how they contrast with “conservative” run regions such as Texas.
Pan-Secessionism and how it can offer every ideology and group self-determination.
Gore Vidal as a Radical Center/Alt Left Icon.
Gore Vidal’s controversial statements on issues including immigration, race, WWII, Roman Polanski, Ruby Ridge, and how he corresponded with Timothy McVeigh.
Gore Vidal’s cultural elitism.
Gore Vidal’s novels.
Homosexuality in Ancient Greece and Rome.
The importance of cultural elitism.
How our society has a hierarchy based on wealth and celebrity status  rather than cultural elitism.

Robert Stark Interviews Ann Sterzinger about "In the Sky"

Here.
Ann Sterzinger is a novelist stranded on the Alt Right for God knows what reason. Sort of a a case of, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like that?
I think a lot of folks, especially hipster and artistic types, are drifting around the Alt Right because they think it’s like the new hip bar in town where everyone goes to be seen. The Alt Right is hip, groovy and edgy and it’s great for the Permanently lost and those with late onset adolescent rebellion. You look at a lot of these hipster early adopter trendies over there and you think, “You’re a decent person. What the Hell are doing hanging around with all these damn Nazis?”
Maybe they don’t know what they’re doing. Maybe they do. Maybe they’re on glue. Maybe they’re camped at the Lost and Found. Maybe it’s all Performance Art. Maybe who the Hell knows.
Sometimes you just have to throw up your hands, shake your head and walk away.
Ann is also part of some weird thing called the Anti-Natalism Movement.
Anyway, this chick is an excellent writer, already having a few novels under her corset. She is also very, very smart. She used to have this shy nerdy girl look which was a bit attractive except it gets lost in a crowd too easily. One of those sorta cute faces that’s always fading into the wall, you know? Now she’s fixed herself up a lot for the dating market I guess, and she looks a lot better.
She seems me one of those super-brainy, (perhaps painfully) shy, introverted young brunettes who is actually kind of hot but usually worries she is ugly and has an inferiority complex about the ditsy blonds. fearfully envies the blonds. In that case, she should have been born Jewish. She’s about 40 years old, except she wishes she was never born. Like most goodlooking youngish intellectual women, I believe she needs to go out with me. You’re welcome, honey.
In the Sky (Dans le Ciel) was written by Octave Mirbeau in France in the 1890’s. Ann Sterzinger translated the first English edition published by Hopeless Books. It’s available on Amazon.
Topics include:
How Ann discovered the book from Pierre Michel, a French literary scholar specializing in the writer Octave Mirbeau.
How Mirbeau is best known for his book Diary of a Chambermaid but In the Sky was little known outside of France.
How Mirbeau was an anarchist and a Dreyfusard.
How Mirbeau was a major influence on Louis-Ferdinand Céline who shared his misanthropic outlook.
How Céline was marginalized for his support of the Vichy Regime, however he influenced many writers such as Jack Kerouac, John Dolan, Charles Bukowski, and Michel Houellebecq.
How the book reflects Mirbeau’s outlook towards life and society.
The main character X who is a depressed, misanthropic artist based on Vincent Van Gogh who Mirbeau knew.
The Narrator who discovers X’s manifesto after his death.
How X struggles to create his artistic vision.
X’s mentor, who loses his mind.
The post-Catholic concept of expressing spirituality through art.
How X struggles with sexual and romantic frustration, and when he finally meets a girl, he dumps her because she did not live up to his romantic ideals.
How the meaning of the title In the Sky involves both where X lives on top of a mountain where you can only see sky and a metaphor for being detached from society.
Mirbeau’s view on the family and how neurosis is passed down from parents to children.
How the book combines tragedy and comedy.
Matt Forney’s review Elliot Rodger Goes to Paris.
The genre “Loser Lit.”
Ann’s article Dead David Bowie, French Nationalists, Antinatalism, and the Meaning of Life.
David Bowie’s art & legacy.
Her article The Magical Bottomless Labor Pool which connects political themes to her book NVSQVAM.
Why I’m Scared of Widows & Orphans.
Applied Dysgenics.
In Defense of Beta Females.
Ann’s upcoming science fiction dystopia novel Lyfe, which needs a publisher that specializes in science fiction.

25 Different Collectors

The Collector is a famous classic novel written in 1963 by the great British author John Fowles. It was immediately greeted with much acclaim, and the success of the book enabled Fowles to quit his day job and work full-time as an author.
I found versions of this book that had been translated into 25 different languages. I have grouped the titles according to language family, so many adjacent books are written in languages from the same family. See how many you can get!

  1. Коллекционер
  2. Колекціонер
  3. Колекционер
  4. Колекционерът
  5. Kolekcjoner
  6. Kolekcionar
  7. Zbiratelj
  8. Sběratel
  9. El coleccionista
  10. Colecţionarul, Colectionarul
  11. O Colecionador
  12. Il collezionista
  13. L’obsédé
  14. De verzamelaar
  15. Samleren, Offer for en samler
  16. Der Sammler
  17. Kolekcionierius
  18. Kolekcionārs
  19. Ο συλλέκτης
  20. Neitoperho
  21. Liblikapüüdja
  22. A Lepkegyűjtő
  23. Koleksiyoncu
  24. جامع الفراشات
  25. კოლექციონერი

Guess the Quote

Let’s play guess the quote!

Opposition there was none: the boldest spirits had succumbed on stricken fields or by proscription-lists; while the rest of the nobility found a cheerful acceptance of slavery the smoothest road to wealth and office, and, as they had thriven on revolution, stood now for the new order and safety in preference to the old order and adventure. Nor was the state of affairs unpopular in the provinces, where administration by the Senate and People had been discredited by the feuds of the magnates and the greed of the officials, against which there was but frail protection in a legal system forever deranged by force, by favoritism, or (in the last resort) by gold.

1. Who wrote this? If you are close, that’s ok. He was a very famous writer, I will give you that much.
2. What is the name of the work that this is written in? Any of the author’s works would be ok.
3. Where in the book can this quote be found? Approximate pages ok.
2. Where was this written?
3. When was this written? Approximate times are ok.
4. What language was this originally written in? This is an English translation from another language.
5. What is the writer discussing in this paragraph?

Cuba’s Major Innovations

Santo Culto writes:

But the USSR could live without the West for most of its years. There are no excuses for creativity and wisdom.

Cuba for example has great territory, good natural resources, not to mention they could manage population growth. There are so many things they could do. The only explanation for not doing is that the Communists are too stupid to think of it. It is very psychopathic to think about the well-being ‘of the people’ and scare away the most creative people (specially the problem-solvers) when they take power in a nation.

Zbigniew Brzezinski is right in saying that communism eliminated the creative classes via exile or extermination from the former Soviet Union.

The USSR’s innovations in weaponry were legendary.

I know someone who owned Soviet products, and he told me that they were very well made. He still had an excellent radio that lasted 40 years. They often produced good products that lasted a very long time.

Cuba has made tremendous innovations in agronomy and biotechnology. Cuba has more agronomists per capita than any other nation. They have also made some dramatic innovations or organic farming lately. Cuba is now a world leader in biotech. Also Cuba made dramatic innovations in the mining and manufacture of nickel. I believe they also made some major innovations in the planting, harvest and manufacture of sugar cane.  It has the best educated population in Latin America.

Cuban medicine is some of the best in Latin America. In fact it is so good that very rightwing rich people from all over the continent have been flying there for years to have sensitive operations done that they did not trust their own native doctors to do.

Few Cubans were exiled. Some writers and maybe artists and musicians were.

Cuban art, cinema and literature are now very good. Cuba has always had some of the most fantastic musicians on the continent.

Very few dissidents have been killed, and none have been killed since 1970. Even now dissidents are mostly left alone. Last time I checked there were 250 dissident groups on the island. Most are very small.

At the moment, some of the most prominent dissidents are openly funded form abroad and go to the US to give anti-government speeches. They run their own blogs that publish every day and have a large following, mostly off the island.

The most famous one is a young woman with her own blog who gets written up a lot in the media. She is a drama queen. Recently she was carrying on and on about how horrible the system was because it was impossible to get Blu-Ray disks on the island. This is the sort of thing that she bitches about. She gets arrested from time to time, and they typically put her in jail for one or two days and then release her. What a monstrous dictatorship they have in Cuba!

The dissidents are very unpopular in the island and have almost no support. Most people want change but support the present government, especially after recent reforms.

The Nature of Narratives (Discourse Analysis)

…narratives are not simply a linear string of sentences or clauses but are in fact hierarchically organized such that some parts of the text are subordinate to others…

Do you agree or disagree with this? This statement is from a recent book on Linguistics.

The question regards narratives. Narratives are what might be described as stories. But any time you are describing any sort of sequence of events to someone else, no doubt you are engaging in a narrative. When someone asks you, “What happened yesterday?” generally you will respond with a “story” or a narrative if you will.

So the question is, when we humans recite ordinary narratives, not structured novels or short stories mind you, but the narratives that we tell in day to day life, do we simply usher forth a string of sentences that have no particular relation to each other or do we instead arrange the sentences in some sort of a hierarchy where some of the text is subordinate or superordinate to others.

I would say that narratives have a hierarchical structure where some of the text is subordinate to other parts of the text, but it might be hard to describe this sort of thing exactly.

I think everyone agrees that novels and short stories are designed hierarchically so that some of the text is subordinate to other parts of the text. This is interesting because it implies that anytime you tell a narrative in day to day life about whatever mundane thing you are describing, you may be in effect writing a little novel or short story in your head, which is probably exactly what you are doing. So we are probably all creative writers writing little literary texts in our minds and speech all through our lives.

This branch of Linguistics is called Discourse Analysis and it’s a lot more complicated than you might think. They study this sort of thing and write up some pretty hard to understand papers along these lines.

What Attracts Women

I will go through these one by one here:

  1. Hypergamy
  2. Women’s dishonesty about what they’re attracted to being biologically hardwired because of them wanting one man to beta provide and another man to fuck her.
  3. Looks = Personality. Your personality and behavior are largely dictated by uncontrollable factors (how people reacted to you during upbringing, hormonal profile during puberty, your background, etc.).
  4. Social life and hence status being extremely affected by the way one looks.
  5. Men being more productive and contributing more to society and to general development throughout history, and how marriage and monogamy in the old days was a way to control and make sure that every man got his needs met and hence contributed to society. Basically one can easily conclude that female to male choice-based mating selection is very bad for society overall.

Let’s start with 1 first.

Hypergamy

Yep, females are hypergamous by nature. The Blue Pillers, feminists, male feminists, etc. are absolutely furious about this notion. They say it’s all a great big lie. Are they really that clueless?

Female hypergamy is real. It is also a big problem if unleashed. In order to keep it at least manageable (because you can never get rid of it altogether), institutions such as marriage with enforced monogamy are devised so you can have a halfway civilized society and restrain female hypergamy significantly.

Women’s dishonesty about what they’re attracted to being biologically hardwired because of them wanting one man to beta provide and another man to fuck her.

Yep. Women lie about what they want. They lie about what turns them on. They lie about a thousand things. Why they lie so much, I have no idea, but I suspect that women don’t even know what they want or what turns them on either.

I do not agree with women wanting one man to be a Beta provider and another to provide stud service. Ideally, I think most women would like to marry Chad, tame him so he’s monogamous, and hopefully have Monogamous Chad Dream Man be a great provider for her so she doesn’t need to settle with a Beta as a provider.

You will notice that women’s romance novels are typically about this totally unrealistic dream man who is this hunky male model stud who is a man’s man, masculine as can be but at the same time sensitive, loving, and kind, who has women after him all the time but settles down with the heroine after she tames him.

My mother notes that the male heroes of romance novels are men that more or less do not even exist in real life. So women’s dream men are so fantastical that they probably don’t even exist. They’re pining for nonexistent entities!

The problem that Alphas are often lousy providers. Many Alphas are not employed. A lot of others work in the criminal economy, often selling drugs, etc. A surprising number work at low paying jobs and continue to live in cheap apartments and drive old cars into middle age. A stunning number of Alphas are in jails and prisons. Many Alphas spend most of their life essentially living off women in exchange for providing what boils down to gigolo service.

Even if a woman could pin Chad into a long term relationship or marriage, Chad makes a lousy boyfriend and an even lousier husband. He tends to be an incorrigible cheater, among other things. He is at least a little bit narcissistic/sociopathic, he is typically vain, conceited, and egotistical and is often rather short on empathy. In other words, Chad is an asshole.

So women don’t need a Beta provider. They need a provider, period. Chad would be the #1 pick of course, but he’s not available, so she settles for Mr. Beta with the good job as a provider. But now she still needs Chad for sex. What’s a lady to do?

Looks = Personality, your personality and behavior are largely dictated by uncontrollable factors (how people reacted to you during upbringing, hormonal profile during puberty, your background etc).

This is very sad, but there is probably a lot to it. I do not think we are doomed by what happened to us in junior and senior high school, but those experiences are so important that it is hard to overlook them. While no one has a set in stone lousy personality, we all have a certain personality type, and it is set by the end of adolescence.

There is a healthy and unhealthy side of each personality type. Even the Sociopath has a healthy mirror image called Aggressive Personality. The Borderline has Sensitive Personality. The Dependent has Loyal Personality. The Narcissist has Confident Personality. And so on.

A man with good looks often has so many great experiences during these formative years that he ends up with a nice personality pretty much locked in place by the time adolescence is over. The man who had a rocky road all through middle and late school years has a huge hurdle to overcome in transcending these traumas and becoming healthy.

Social life and hence status being extremely affected by the way one looks.

This is sad as Hell too, but there is probably a lot to it. People need to consider that when they see people with great/poor social skills and high/low status that quite a bit of how high someone scores on those variables may be due to uncontrollable factors like looks.

Men being much more productive and contributing much more to society and to general development throughout history, and how marriage and monogamy in the old days was a way to control and make sure that every man got his needs met and hence contributed to society. Basically one can easily conclude that female to male choice based mating selection is very bad for society overall.

Women are not going to like this one. But I would agree that men create civilization. There have been periods in history when most of the men left, often to wars, and the society was left with mostly women to run the show. Things fell apart pretty quickly.

Women simply can’t create or run civilizations. They need men to do that for them. Women can help the men run things, but they can’t do it alone. This is quite all right. Women can’t do everything. The sexes tend to need each other.

But since civilizations needed men to create them in the first place and then to run them, marriage and monogamy was a way to control society such that most if not all men got their basic needs met. Once their basic needs were met, these men would be able to do a good job contributing to society. Bottom line is a totally free market in marriage where women’s choices set the tone is probably going to cause all sorts of societal problems, like maybe mass shootings for one.

Greatest Comic Series Ever?

This city is afraid of me…I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll look down and whisper “No.”
They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men like my father or President Truman. Decent men who believed in a day’s work for a day’s pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn’t realize that the trail led over a precipice until it was too late. Don’t tell me they didn’t have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody Hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers… and all of a sudden nobody can think of anything to say.
Walter Joseph Kovacs/Rorschach

While we are at it with the superlatives, how about greatest graphic novel ever too?

"The Taoist Influence on Japanese Martial Arts," by Dota

New essay from Dota. Very nice!

The Taoist Influence on Japanese Martial Arts

By Dota

The Japanese Samurai Miyamoto Musashi acknowledged a number of influences on Japanese thought, chief among which were Confucianism and Buddhism. Yet not once does he directly mention the Old Master whose philosophy is so entrenched in the martial arts that the Samurai once pursued with inexhaustible zeal. Yet despite this seeming negligence, Mushashi’s epic martial arts treatise, “A Book of 5 Rings“, is laden with Taoist ideas and analogies. Indeed the very nature of the Japanese martial arts has been shaped and molded by Taoist thinking.
In the interest of brevity one can sum up Taoist thought as being primarily concerned with conforming to nature by finding “the way.” According to the very first verse of the Tao te Ching (the poem attributed to Lao Tzu): “The Tao (way) that can be described is not the real Tao.” Indeed, Lao Tzu devoted considerable energy into conveying the indescribable nature of the way. One could not describe the way, one merely walked it or one didn’t. Could one verbally instruct another on how to ride a bicycle? One either knew how to or didn’t.
Philosopher Arthur Danto astutely observed that the Taoists had a deep mistrust of prepositional knowledge, or what one would refer to as the discursive intellect. Taoism isn’t concerned with the knowledge of the scholar, but rather, with what we would refer to as “intuitive knowledge.” Those that knew the way were able to execute the perfect brush stroke or carve a pumpkin with exceptional ability.
To further illustrate this point, Chuang Tzu narrates the story of the old wheel maker. The latter approached a King and told him that reading his book was a waste of time. He explained to the King that true knowledge couldn’t be expressed in words but could only be grasped. He illustrated this point by describing his own trade as thus:

The other secret of my trade has to do with the roundness of the wheel. If I chisel away at the wheel too quickly, I may be able to complete the work in a short time, but the wheel won’t be perfectly round. Even though it may look quite acceptable upon casual inspection, in actual usage it will cause excessive shaking of the carriage…In order to create the best wheels possible in a timely manner, I must chisel at just the right speed – not too fast and not too slow. This speed is also guided by a feeling, which again can only be acquired through many years of experience.

He then concluded his lesson with the following observation:

Your Majesty, the ancient sages possessed the feelings that were at the heart of their mastery. Using words, they could set down the mechanics of their mastery in the form of books, but just as it is impossible for me to pass on my experience to anyone else, it is equally impossible for them to transmit their essence of wisdom to you. Their feelings died when they passed away. The only things they left behind were their words. This is why I said Your Majesty was reading the leftovers of a dead man.

Karate is taught via instruction and perfected through rigorous practice. Form, movement, and balance can be learned by executing a sequence of gestures and movements known as Kata. The master guides the student to the way but the student is tasked with walking on it and not deviating from it. In the first Karate Kid film Mr Miyagi scoffs at Daniel Larusso’s attempt to “learn Karate from book.” Musashi similarly stated in his treatise that “Language does not extend to explaining the Way in detail, but it can be grasped intuitively,” (Water Book).
But what is the difference between those men that follow the way and those that don’t? Those that follow the way properly are able to execute actions with minimal effort. But while effort is minimized the outcome of their actions is maximized.
This is known as the principle of WuWei (literally non doing). WuWei is also often understood as carefully calibrated action. Consider for example, a perfectly executed Karate shoulder throw. By using a lunging opponents force against him, one can disable an opponent with a shoulder throw; a move that would ordinarily require considerable effort to execute. Actions become effortless for those that know the way.
Musashi’s duels typically lasted only a few seconds. Consider his duel with Kojiro for example. He charged at his opponent and provoked Kojiro into making the first attack. Musashi effortlessly dodged the attack and decisively struck his opponent on the head killing him in a single blow. Musashi almost echoes Lao Tzu when he urges martial artists to be like water which is gentle yet destructive. It is the principle of WuWei that gives the Japanese martial arts their characteristic finesse that many have come to admire. The ancient masters would be repulsed by the drawn out UFC slug fests and would dismiss these fighters as not truly knowing the way.
The Japanese word for way is michi, which literally refers to a path through the Cosmos. The Way has no destination, and simply finding the way is an end in itself. Since Taoism is primarily concerned with each pursuing his own way, it stands to reason that every one of us is (potentially) a wanderer. The wanderer is also a common motif in Taoist art – he who walks a path without apparent destination.
I must point out that many of Japan’s cherished heroes were wanderers too, such as Musashi and Yagyu Jubei. Both of these individuals refused to hang up their swords and become artisans during the largely peaceful Tokugawa Period of Japanese history. They wandered the countryside (the Samurai had no restrictions on travel) and dueled several opponents that crossed their paths.
Musashi is said to have won 80 duels during his lifetime. So entrenched is the image of the wandering martial artist that it has left its imprint on contemporary Japanese pop culture as well. The characters Ryu and Akuma of the Street Fighter franchise are wanderers pursuing the way of the martial artist. In a statement saturated with Taoist overtones Akuma proclaims: “For some, it is the path, not the goal,” (Street Fighter Alpha 1).
Ultimately, while the spirit of the Japanese martial arts is obviously Japanese, their character is clearly Chinese.

Julie Covington, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina"


The best version ever, from the play Evita from 1977. There have been many covers of this song including a famous one by Madonna. None of them really come anywhere close to the original, which still reigns. Sarah Brightman and Madonna’s versions are simply not as good, though they have their fans. Better than Karen Carpenter’s too, and Karen is one of the finest female singer-songwriters of the modern era.
The only version that nearly matches this one is by Elaine Paige. It is the one good cover of this song, but even it does not quite match the original.

This is the Elaine Page version. Very beautiful, and her theatrics are the best of all. Very nearly as good as the original. Versions by Nicolle Scherzinger, Madelena Alberto, Babara Streisand, Patti Lu Pone, and Suzann Eren and Lea Salonga all have their fans, particularly those by Eren and Scherzinger.
This really is an operatic song, but it is nevertheless perfectly suitable for pop as Madonna showed us two decades later to great success.
Reactive in death, polarizing in life, for better or worse, Eva Person continues to define modern Argentine politics and culture.

Robert Burns, "Tam O Shanter"


This poem was written in and is being read in a language called Scots, which is not a dialect of English as many people think. Scots split off from English in ~1500, or 500 years ago. This is approximately what two languages sound like when they have been split apart for 500 years. I listened to this, although I can make out some words and even phrases here and there, honestly, I do not have the faintest idea what he is talking about, and I am missing most of this language. I can hear ~25% of it, if that.  However, a good friend of mine from England listened to it and she said she could make out ~70%. So there you go. See if you can make heads or tails of this stuff.

Keats

Do any of you like John Keats? Famous English Romantic poet who lived in the Romantic Era. Born 1795, died young of tuberculosis in 1821 at age 25. He led a pretty sad life. Other Romantic poets were Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sidney Lamb, Thomas Carlyle and William Wordsworth. There sure was a lot of great poetry around back in those days. Except for the tuberculosis and doctors who tried to cure you via blood loss, it was probably a great time to be alive.
I have wandered through quite a few of Keats’ poems, but that doesn’t mean that I understood what was going on in all of them. Keats’ poems are often hard to understand. But even if can’t figure out what the poem is about, they often feel real nice to read due to the beauty of the language. However, Ode to a Nightingale seems pretty straightforward to me. It’s beautiful stuff!

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute last, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
 
O for a draught of vintage! That hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Floa and the country-green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth,
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim-
 
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness the fever and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
 
Away! Away! For I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards.
Already with thee! Tender is the night,
Clustered around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
 
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hands upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild –
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets covered up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
 
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called hi soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain –
To thy high requiem become a sod.
 
Thou wast born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
 
Forlorn! The very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! The fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! Adieu! Thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near-meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ‘tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music – Do I wake or sleep?

Turgenev!

Turgenev is usually listed as one of the great Russian writers of the 19th Century along with Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol. He was the favorite Russian novelist of Henry James and Joseph Conrad, who both said he was better than Dostoevsky. Vladimir Nabokov rated him below Tolstoy, Chekhov and Gogol but ahead of Dostoevsky.
Although Turgenev quarreled with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky during his lifetime, both eventually came to praise him.
After he died, Tolstoy said:

His stories of peasant life will forever remain a valuable contribution to Russian literature. I have always valued them highly. And in this respect none of us can stand comparison with him. Take, for example, Living Relic, Loner, and so on. All these are unique stories. And as for his nature descriptions, these are true pearls, beyond the reach of any other writer!

Turgenev never married but had many lovers and affairs. He had a lifelong affair with a Spanish-born opera singer who was raised in Paris. He spent most of his time in Western Europe, especially Germany and France. He preferred cosmopolitan Western Europe over his native land. He died at age 64.
He was particularly noted for his great ear for dialogue, as you can see in the excerpt below. Just to give you a taste of what he is like, here is a passage from the play, A Month in the Country:

You know, Ratikin, I noticed this a long time ago …You are wonderfully sensitive to the so-called beauties of nature, and talk about them exquisitely … very intelligently … so exquisitely, so intelligently, that I feel sure nature should be indescribably grateful to you for your beautifully chosen, happy phrases about her; you court nature, like a perfumed marquis on his little red-heeled shoes, pursuing a pretty peasant girl … the only trouble is, I sometimes think that nature will never be able to understand or appreciate your subtle language – just as the peasant girl wouldn’t understand the courtly compliments of the marquis; nature is simpler, yes, cruder than you suppose – because, thank God, she is healthy …Birches don’t melt, they don’t have fainting fits like ladies with weak nerves.

Nnnice!

The Great White Death!

Moby Dick is Herman Melville’s greatest work and is one of the greatest books ever written in English or really in any other language. Endless ink has been spilled about Ishmael, the sailor on board the whaling ship The Pequod and Ahab, the mad possessed captain of the ship, out to get his revenge against the greatest sperm whale of all, the great white whale, Moby Dick. Revenge against what? Earlier, Moby Dick had waged a war against Ahab’s ship when the whalers tried to kill the whale. In the course of the tumult and the whale’s attacks on the ship, Ahab lost his leg and now walks with an ivory peg-leg.

Moby Dick himself, or as I refer to him, The Great White Death!
Moby Dick himself, or as I refer to him, The Great White Death!

Really the best part of Moby Dick is the prose. I will print a few samples of it here so you can see how great it is.
Let us look at Ishmael talking.
Here the sea and the land clearly stand in for some deeper issues:

Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?
But in landlessness alone reside the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God – so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than to be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety.
Consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!

Two whale heads of killed whales are fastened to the ship as trophies:

Oh, ye foolish! throw these thunderheads overboard, and then you will float light and right…This Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years.

He ponders the meaning of “whiteness,” of the obsessive themes of the book.

Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows – a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink?

Ishmael on what’s eating Ahab:

Small reason was there to doubt, then, that ever since that almost fatal encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale, all the more fell for that in his frantic morbidness he at last came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations. The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung.
…he strove to pierce the profundity.

The surface of the ocean and its deeper waters are obviously stand-in’s for weightier things:

Beneath this wondrous world upon the surface… another and still stranger world…

Ishmael dislikes philosophy:

So soon as I hear that such or such a man gives himself out for a philosopher, I conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he must have ‘broken his digester.’

Yet he spends quite a bit of time philosophizing himself:

What things real are there, but imponderable thoughts?

And has not much use for religion either.

Hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling….
Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian…
…Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.
…a man’s religion is one thing, and this practical world another.

Yet he also wonders about the same obsessions that haunt the religious:

Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance.

But he is brimming with great aphorisms:

…if you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good meal out of it, at least.

Starbuck, a sailor, is a budding capitalist who sees whales as nothing but another commodity:

I came here to hunt whales, not my commander’s vengeance. How many barrels will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? It will not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market…

Pip, a castaway is rescued by sailor Stubb, only to jump off his ship. Stubb, another budding capitalist, albeit a vicious one, leaves Pip to flounder in the sea:

Stubb indirectly hinted, that though man loves his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which propensity too often interferes with his benevolence.

And Ahab has a few thoughts of his own:

All visible objects, man, are but pasteboard masks. But in each event – in the living act, the undoubted deed – there, some unknown but still reasoning thing put forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?
To me, the white whale is the wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him.

Ahab addressing a sperm whale, in a passage in which diving seems imply something deeper than plunging down into the sea:

Of all divers, thou has dived the deepest…

Niice!
Great stuff or what?

One Island, Three Books

Ok here we go with the old stranded on a deserted island chestnut.
Now suppose you were stranded on a deserted island (not “desert island” as so many improperly say), and you could only bring three books with you, all fiction, all novels. Which do you choose?
I choose:

  1. Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851)
  2. James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
  3. Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

Now have at it, mavens.

D. H. Lawrence

A lot of people nowadays dislike D. H. Lawrence’s classic books such as Sons and Lovers, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, The Rainbow and Women in Love. I have read all four of them. Indeed the imagery can get rather heavy-handed and downright idiotic at times. His basic point, that humans should get out of their civilized shells enough to get in touch with their primal and of course sexual nature, is good enough for me, but he can be pretty ham-handed with the way he goes about hammering this point into your head.
Also his paragraphs can go on and on. And as far as erotic literature goes, it’s isn’t even very dirty by today’s pornographic standards, but I think it’s enough to at least turn’s women Romance-novel aware minds on.
I took a class once on D. H. Lawrence. It was all women except for me and one other guy.
Well, it was paradise.
The women in the class were turned on enough by Lawrence’s prose. I remember one very beautiful young woman, maybe 27 years old, often sat next to me. We were talking about one of the books and she was basically saying how she was getting so turned on reading them that she couldn’t wait for her husband to get home (he was off on some trip).
But I would like to point out, just for a moment, one thing often overlooked about Lawrence: what a great stylist he could be. Here is a passage from one of his classic travel books, Sea and Sardinia:

Cold, fresh wind, a black-blue, translucent, rolling sea on which the wake rose in snapping foam, and Sicily was on the left: Monte Pellegrino, a huge, inordinate mass of pinkish rock, hardly crisped with the faintest vegetation, looming up to heaven from the sea.
Strangely large in mass and bulk Monte Pellegrino looks and bare, like a Sahara in heaven: and old-looking. These coasts of Sicily are very imposing, terrific, fortifying the interior. And again one gets the feeling that age has worn them bare; as if old, old civilizations had worn away and exhausted the soil, leaving a terrifying blankness of rock, as at Syracuse in plateau, and here in great mass.

Oh! Man that is nice!

Humans Are Perverse

Only part of us is sane; only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us.
The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations. Our bright nature fights in us with this yeasty darkness, and neither part is commonly quite victorious, for we are divided against ourselves and will not let either part be destroyed.
Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

So we all have a bit of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in us, and to be human is to have a dark side. The universe is bipolar, and both visions are correct, even at the same time as we learn in Zen. The world is either a good place where the possibility of decency and success combined exists, as in soaring goodness of Shakespeare’s best characters, or it is consists of a blackened existence, as in a Ben Jonson play where near every character is a scoundrel with a depraved heart  and the the few good men are ineffectual and impotent and as in Dostoevsky, evil always triumphs and good falls down in the gutters to defeat.
Bottom line: the human heart is both divided and perverse.
P.S. That Rebecca West book is not only one of the finest novels of the 20th Century, but it is also one of the greatest works in English-language literature. And it’s only 1,181 pages long!

Jeff Bezos, POS

In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the Antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the Four Horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world …
But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels?
As fewer and fewer readers are able to find their way, amid all the noise and disappointing books and phony reviews, to the work produced by the new generation of this kind of writer – I’m thinking of Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, Adam Haslett’s You Are Not a Stranger Here, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s Ms. Hempel Chronicles, Clancy Martin’s How to Sell – Amazon is well on its way to making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, laboring harder for less and less, with no job security, because the warehouses are situated in places where they’re the only business hiring.
Jonathan Franzen, The Kraus Project (2013)

Actually, Bezos is The Antichrist. Perhaps you are following the latest nonsense whereby the Amazon monopoly is strong-arming publishers. I am not exactly sure what is going on there, but a lot of authors are really angry at Amazon over it.
Bezos, of course, is a Libertarian. What else could he be? He has positioned himself as one of these Web 2.0 hipsters, but he is just a corporate goon like all the rest of them. These Net billionaires are no different from any other corporate POS’s, and in a lot of ways, they are actually worse since so many of them are monopolists and because of the way that they have destroyed things like customer service, refunds, actual humans answering telephones, and the like.
Bezos, as might be expected, exploits the Hell out of his workers. His warehouse workers are worked nearly to death like field slaves in overheated warehouses where they are paid a pittance with few or not benefits. He prefers to hire elderly men because he can treat them crappier and get away with it.
Bezos is a slimy little turd of a man.
P.S. What do you think of Franzen? He is supposed to be one of our greatest new writers, but he has his critics who say he is an overrated, arrogant, annoying little twerp. Granted, he probably does have a lousy personality. He’s a Jew, not that it matters.
Of the books listed above, Kushner’s The Flamethrowers is supposed to be very good.