Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yes, sir, you may have another

(or, as they say, an UPDATE to my post right below)

Well, the Plato of St. Francisville wasn't content with the episode of self-abuse I just posted about below, so he went for a double here.

In both posts there is a conspicuous commenter you may recall not only from my post about her here, particularly since many of you gallantly came to her support and defense.

Why is Erin significant here? Because what still hasn't happened to her shows us that our perception of Plato SF isn't just an aberration from having chased that egg salad and kosher dills with shots of a suspect tequila but is instead a real thing that continues to stink up the real world.

Many of you will remember that Erin has been with Dreher since back in the Beliefnet days, loyal as a dog. He even had her fill in for him there when he went on vacation and may or may not have covered her efforts with some babysitting pocket change. You know her most recently with respect to Dreher as one of the namesakes of his Evans-Manning award, a prize he awards, as far as I can tell, to keep commenters coming back in the hope that they may not only receive one but may also be so lucky as to have a new award named for them, too.

Well, as it turns out, Erin is a book writer in her own right, and even before she took issue with Plato's platitudes here and here, she had already self-published two young adult science fiction novels of her own, The Telmaj and her most recent A Smijj of Adventure.

Here she solicited honest reviews for her newest book from her friends (yo, Plato, flush the rest of the sammich down the toilet; that's you, dude) and family.

Now, what does the world know about Rod Dreher's family from his unbridled oversharing? That's right: they're young kids, all under 14, and geeky science fiction types - the ideal market for Erin's YA series. But no David Brooks generosity for Erin from Rod. Nope. Nada.

There are two types of people in the world: the self-annointed Platos and the hoi polloi, and, really, no one expects the former to consume the pathetic discharges of the latter, I mean, do they? There's a reason Dreher worships Downton Abbey the way he does: it reminds him never to dirty his hands by associating too closely with the help, so whatever Rod Dreher considers Erin, his blog bitch or his blog fluffer, it's unmistakeable from what he could easily do but has demonstrated now, twice, that he won't that the one thing he doesn't count her as is his friend.

We can see that even he recognizes what an exploitative little worm he is in all that he contritely doesn't say in the epic, Odyssey-length NFR he felt compelled to attach to Erin's comment here.

Now I don't have any kids and I don't read the sort of stuff Erin writes for them myself, but I bet some of you out there do have or know some kids who might like her stuff. So why don't you do Erin a solid, do what the Great Man, too busy stuffing buttered steak in his tum-tum, who only has the use for her a pimp would, won't do: spring for the $20 bucks or so to buy her books for your kids and review them for her. Even if you find something flawed in them, I'd bet she'll appreciate the feedback to help her improve in the future.

Given all the attention Dreher extorts from the world for himself, it's the least we could do for his unfortunate tool Erin: recognize her for the effort she's made and for whatever value she provides as a writer in her own right.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A narcissism so pure, so breathtaking

Given His resume, we might understand God being this narcissistic, but then we remember all that stuff about sacrificing His only begotten Son, so that then leaves us with the second runner-up, the one who wrote it.

1. People say to me a lot, “I have a book in me.” No, I want to say, you probably don’t.

I agree. I absolutely have nothing in the way of a Crunchy Cons or a TLWORL in me. Nor, as far as I can tell, any human bot fly larvae or anything else of the sort.

Most people lead perfectly ordinary lives. Or, to put a fine point on it, the lives most people can recall having led are perfectly ordinary, because most people are poor storytellers.

There's an arbiter for the good storytelling we need instead. Can you guess who it is?

I’ve been bored out of my skull listening to someone drone on about some adventure they had in an exotic locale, and I’ve been utterly captivated by someone talking about an ordinary event in a quotidian life. The difference is not the locale or the character of the event; the difference is in the discernment of the storyteller. You have to be reflective, and know how to tell the difference between meaningful details and mere clutter.

Most importantly, and none of us at this point can argue with the inescapable logic we've just been dealt: you have to be able to do this at the level of captivation, discernment, and reflection that have produced those two touchstone works of storytelling by the arbiter of storytelling himself, Crunchy Cons and TLWORL.

Someone here in my town expressed displeasure with The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, saying that they expected it to be a book about Ruthie, not a book having much to do with me. I explained that in order for the power of Ruthie’s life and example to be made clear to readers who didn’t know her or have reason to care about life in our little corner of the world, I had to demonstrate the effect Ruthie had on those around her — her students, her friends, her neighbors, and most of all, her brother, who was very much unlike her (and whom she didn’t much care for)...

Because what sort of history would we have now if it were told by anyone other than the victors?

And now that Rod has given us his story of Ruthie filtered through a lifetime of their sibling distemper - a book deal that seems to have been being pitched before she was even cold in the ground - what are the chances we might get a second, different, possibly even more truthful and compelling look at the life of Ruthie Leming?

That's right: fat chance, dude. That's why some critters plug the female permanently shut after mating, so that what he wrote will be all that's ever wrote.

But of course you wanted to know, so here's how the magic happened:

The life I’ve lived — leave home, see the world, achieve worldly success — is the standard American narrative of our time. Ruthie’s life — stay at home, build a world on the foundation your family gave you, achieve within those bounds — is not. That I was able to see the true value of Ruthie’s way of life, and that her narrative had, in her death, enough power to trump the narrative I (and many, many Americans) embraced — well, that’s the real story here. That’s how Ruthie’s story becomes relevant to people who never knew her. She lived modestly and unfussily, but she had such an impact. You couldn’t look at Ruthie’s life and think of it as the kind of life that would make a dramatic story, standing on its own. The real story was the revelation, through her suffering with cancer and her death, of what kind of impact her modest, unfussy, but generous and constant presence had on her community and the people who lived in it. To have written a standard biography of Ruthie would have been possible, and would have meant a lot to the people who knew and loved her, but it wouldn’t have grabbed the attention of many people beyond our part of the world. In short, I told a story that helped people know about my sister’s character through the effects she had on the people around her. That was what was essential to her character, and her character was indeed her destiny.

Really, who but Rod, who lived apart from her antagonistically for most of their lives, could have told the story of Ruthie Leming? Her husband Mike? Her daughter Hannah? Any number of the students and others she touched so directly and importantly? Come on, really, having read Rod's account so far, why would anyone be so foolish as to think anyone else living in the wattle-and-daub village he now sounds as if he hails from can even read?

The only recourse is to call the one and only Village Scribe. Or, rather, don't make any sort of trouble that might be blogged around the world - in his words only - while the one and only Village Scribe proceeds to call himself. And, ultimately, how could anyone but Rod have written the story of Ruthie Leming that contained the appropriate amount of Rod?

Sadly, we'll probably never get a chance to know now. The one whom we can only hope will one day be seated somewhere far to the left hand of the Father, ideally well behind the heavenly potted parlor palm, next to the rest room, goes on the explain why, although it's important to refer to the writing of Homer, Plato, Tom Wolfe, Walker Percy, and Rod Dreher interchangeably in the same post, the last one still remains for the time being only potentially a Homer, Plato, Tom Wolfe, or Walker Percy

Wolfe is so, so right about learning to write by getting out into the crazy world and seeing what you see. That’s not the path I followed, by the way, because it was not the path open to me.

Because, naturally, it was not the path open to him. Wait...really? Why not? Because right up above Rod's already told us the big difference between him and stay-at-home Ruthie - who, unlike him, achieved nothing, nothing beyond the bounds of the foundation her family gave her - was that he instead left home, saw the world, and instead achieved worldly success.

(Make a note of this one: "path not open to you". I can guarantee you that when it's mid-August and it's both cool inside and there's something cold in a glass and something good's playing on the big screen and my girlfriend wants me to mow her yard, there will be a path, around and around and around, simply not open to me. Sorry, hon'. Path just wasn't open to me.)
Of course success as a writer came not as a reporter, which I never really learned how to be, but as an interpreter. I’ve been a critic and a columnist most of my career. I happen to live in one of the most interesting parts of our very interesting country, but it is hard for me to get out of my armchair and go see what there is to see around here, and write about it. Part of it is my chronic illness, but if I’m honest with myself, that’s only a small part of it. Mostly it’s because I’m a contemplative by nature, and because I’m lazy. Put another way, I’m far more inclined to be Plato, a contemplator of ideas, than Aristotle, an observer of phenomena. We need both, of course, but if I could get off my ass and be more of an Aristotle, I’d be a better writer. Heaven knows there are so very many great stories all around me, waiting to be told.

Including, no doubt, Ruthie Leming's, but that chance has already been pissed away on a quick and dirty "interpretation" for some much needed cash.

Now Rod's chronic illness, which, depending how open you as a reader are to suggestion, has plagued him either since birth or only in the last few years not counting Dante-relapses, has played a small part. But most of the reason seems to be because the would-be storyteller is, by his own account, a failed reporter content for year after year to have been a lazy, self-absorbed interpreter of reality as he encountered it on that basis. The important question: will Matthew McConaughey be available for the biopic?

Ah, Ruthie Leming, you lived and died, and it's almost a drop dead certainty we hardly knew ye, and probably never will. But just look at what we got in your name instead.