Hey. I haven't had a chance to read the Ellroy interview closely but it looks neat. Also, thanks for the link to Wes Yang's blog. It's fantastic. Ha, it's funny, I kind of realised that it was a condom I was seeing in that first frame because a 'Rubber Johnny' is a slang term for a condom we're familiar with here in Australia. It isn't used much but the British connection or whatever means it's familiar. I wanted to ask something about a thing I noticed you posted at some point this weekend then removed. I hope that's okay. Anyway, you were talking about an idea for a novel you had - it may have been Strangelets or one to come after that - and you said it'd probably be offensive to women and fat people. I think that was what you said. Anyway, I was having a discussion about offensiveness and art somewhere else on the internet this week and about whether artists have a duty to offend or whether this idea of offense becomes an alibi for just basically framing shit talk as speaking your mind freely. Your post intersected with that so I wanted to ask you. In the sense that you feel your book would offend, do you see that as something like a cost of what your book might want to say, an artistic intention on your part to try and use offensiveness as a means of saying something quite different and beyond that, or else an expected reception of an audience you aren't even aiming for and something you don't feel your book needs to deal with? If it seems like I'm loading the dice in any one direction here, I apologise because I really don't mean to. Actually, my opinions on this topic are very unresolved which is why I'm especially curious for your thoughts on this. You may also have another way of thinking about offensiveness I haven't considered. But anyhow, this is broad I know but what do you think?SL
Oh, and as PS, the other conversation I mentioned having was not the Zach German thing. I just realised the way I said it could be taken as a hint at it or something. Sorry.
I don't think artists have a duty to offend. But I think that offense can be a legitimate goal of art depending on the cultural climate in which the art is created - for example, obviously, if the art causes "offense" by calling attention to (and rebuking) social attitudes or political policies that cause people harm or pain. Obviously that sort of thing is/has been most common when restrictive sexual attitudes have been challenged by artists who represent sex in some way that goes against those attitudes or when "utopian" political philosophies have been undermined by artists who show, say, the suffering of poor people or political prisoners in countries run according to certain such philosophies.But today, in this country at least(maybe in Australia too), the most common offense is an offense against political correctness. I find it interesting (but no worrisome if I think about it and analyze the art and the reaction to it, as I have) that many of my favorite male writers have been accused of offenses against political correctness, particularly misogyny (Bret Easton Ellis, Nabokov, Martin Amis) and to a lesser degree racism (Ellroy). Even Alicia Erian has taken a little criticism for "Towelhead," one of the great novels I've read in the past decade. I think in all the cases listed above, the "offense" is essentially a side effect of the work--I don't think any of those writers, including even Ellis with American Psycho--intended to write books for any kind of shock value, they just wrote books that were unusual and that excited them artistically and that also reflected their perceptions of the world. (And "Towelhead," a seemingly confrontational title, makes perfect sense when you've read the book.) Are any of those guys actually misogynists? Well, in the sense that they view men differently than they view women, yes. In the sense that they view men as superior to women, I don't think so. And I think it's inaccurate anyway to view men and women as completely undifferentiated, or something. That view, most closely associated w/ the second-wave feminism, is an understandable reaction to egregious de facto injustices. But it isn't rational. Anyway, I'm getting tangential here.The book I was referring to in the earlier post is Strangelets. I can see the book being offensive to women because the main character views women as objects to be captured or conquered or whatever (although he fails utterly and completely, always). And I can see it being offensive to overweight people because there's a chapter where a toxin in the drinking water causes morbidly obese people to go rabid and terrorize the city. (It's stored in adipose tissue, so the only people it affects are those with enough adipose tissue to build up sufficient levels. Thanks Ian!) Which I frankly just think is a very funny and surreal idea that has some relevance given the increasing popular awareness/news coverage of a so-called "obesity epidemic" in America. "Obesity epidemic" is a meme, I guess. But the book isn't intended to be offensive to anyone and I would hope that no one who reads it if it ever gets published (it isn't even halfway done) feels hurt. The main character who regards women with only fear/anxiety/anger is portrayed as comically pathetic and the "obesity epidemic" scene is intentionally outlandish. So the book isn't intended to be gratuitously "in-your-face" or anything and I would hope no reader feels affronted by it.
"A toxin in the drinking water causes morbidly obese people to go rabid and terrorize the city." That just made me burst out laughing.
I am glad, B. One day I will probably ask you to read the novel.
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