Friday, March 30, 2012

Indeed …

Marilynne Robinson Does Politics (Badly) — Commentary Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

No longer a human being who is seen clearly for a moment, the pickup driver is transmogrified into the symbol of a politics that Robinson reviles. The irony is that her own failure of generosity is entirely invisible to her. For immediately she sniffs: “There is at present a dearth of humane imagination for the integrity and mystery of other lives.” Very much including the lives of pickup drivers, apparently, if they oppose higher taxes!

Yeah, Robinson is all sweetness and light … until she runs into a Republican.


  1. There seems to be a lot of that lately (I'm thinking of Bloom and Fish), and I really don't understand it. These are fine thinkers, but when it comes to current politics, they can only think in terms of incredibly simpleminded and one-dimensional platitudes. They view anyone who isn't a Democrat as evil and stupid and a horror to be destroyed. Frank, any thoughts on the cause of this? Are they so ensconced that they literally never deal with anyone whose politics they disagree, so they can construct these idiotic caricatures of others?

  2. Well, Greg, Robinson's reference to the bumper sticker she saw and her reaction thereunto reminded me of a friend's remark some years ago about how awful the people were in some Kentucky town (I think it was Kentucky) she and her husband had lived in for a while. This seemed to be based entirely on the bumper stickers she saw, because, when I asked her if she had ever talked to any of these people and gotten to know them, she sheepishly admitted that she had not, preferring to hang with fellow academics. That was one reason I liked and wrote about Jim Ament's Waiting for Zoe. Having spent some time actually getting to know people around the country, the characters in Jim's book were immediately recognizable. I am afraid that few people are more parochial than many of our bien-pensant intellectuals.

  3. Of course, such broad brush stroke caricatures are never opined in the opposite direction, say, generalizations about liberal academic elites that come from, say, Republican senators or presidential candidates! Of course.

    Personally, I don't see anyone involved in contemporary politics, or opinionating, who is guiltless of making sweeping generalizations about people they have never met. That includes these comments here. In my own experience, the most parochial people I've ever met have been east coast city-dwellers who like to portray everyone in the Midwest as hicks, but have never been here and met anyone. Certainly I have met parochial intellectuals, but I've personally met more of them on the opinion pages than in university. And at Nevada truck stops, when I've driven cross-country in recent years. If you want to hear conversations consisting of sweeping generalizations, try lunching at your local truck stop diner.

    I guess it really all does depend on who you talk to.

  4. Art Durkee nearly always comments here on links to my essays and reviews. But he lacks the courage to come over to Commentary and comment on them there.

    He has a good reason this time. If appended the above comment to my review of When I Was a Child I Read Books, it would be immediately obvious to everyone that he was doing something very little different from what I criticize Marilynne Robinson for doing. To repeat myself: “The dearth of specifics, the illiberality of paraphrase, the absence of quotation, the lack of integrity toward the other side in debate make it impossible to respond with much beyond an guttural monosyllabic snort.”

    To whom exactly, to what exactly, is he referring when he refers to “caricatures” from “the opposite side”? Who can tell? All that really matters to Durkee is that he feel superior and above the fray.