June 23, 2008


Benjamin Hagen

Yeah, the "Books We Hate" article is drivel, especially the two "reviewers" who open fire on Virginia Woolf (I'm a bit sensitive to this given I just took a graduate course covering a great deal of her fiction). I hate when writers claim that a novel is "everything a novel should not be" (and what does "and so much less" even mean?). After hundreds of years of novelists experimenting with content and form, has Stephen Amidon finally figured it out? *rolls eyes*


Dyer's books are all different and all excellent - 'The Ongoing Moment' is the best book about photography ever written by someone who doesn't own a camera. But what is this British middle-aged writers' obsession with tennis? Amis is always on about it and Sebastian Faulks has Bond playing it in the new book. Joseph O'Neill knows that cricket is the game for real writers.


Michael Burleigh thinks books by 'angry Black novelists' whould be burnt. The grim bigots are angry and they're just not going to take it any more.

Just a warning to you so you know, The Sunday Times and the Times are very right-wing newspapers, and Rod Liddle is a bloated, belligerent journalist whose own novel was a laughable failure, a very bitter man obsessed with the notion that white men of his age and generation are being marginalised and persecuted in British society, who has at least one bitter reference to Black or Asian people in all of his articles. He's a bigoted little philistine and his approach to this subject tells you all you need to know about him and the newspaper he works for.

Allan Connery

Ideally, people wouldn't write for publication when they're in a bad mood. Of course on these terms some people would never publish at all, but I don't see this as a fatal objection to the principle.

Rod Liddle and most of his brethren in the books-I-hate piece are merely current instances of the people Samuel Johnson dismissed as "sciolists and opinionated bitches."

Pieces like these are perennial. The first two or three may seem funny and liberating, but we've read two or three by the time we're 20. From there, more of the same, year after year, becomes wearisome. (The same is true for much of the recurring stuff in newspapers. Habitual readers seem to engender habitual writing – but I digress.)

The painful thing about these pieces is the writers' lack of sophistication – lack, even of the simple instinct of self-preservation.

These are people whose claim to public attention rests on their literary judgment. When they set out to knock off James or Dostoevsky in a couple of dismissive paragraphs, don't they realize they're saying more about themselves than they are about their subject?

I'd gladly read a long essay that began, in effect, "You know, I've never been able to get Henry James. I'm fine with Edith Wharton, and I love Proust, but James frankly baffles me. Since I admire many of the critics who admire him, I can't dismiss James out of hand, but let me lay out the rough dimensions of my blind spot." And so on, in good-humoured writing that evidently issues from long thought and wide reading. James's admirers and detractors alike might profit from reading a piece like this.

Instead we're treated to the noxious emissions of bilious hacks shouting "I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it."

But there. I'm going to shut up now before I write myself into a bad mood.


If, like Helen Hawkins, you don't know the meaning of the verb 'careen', you'd be wise not to use it while insulting someone else's 'fine writing'.

Steven Augustine

Re: hated books: The GU pulls the same stunt quite often, spiking traffic by pulling in a throng of punters who've read three books between them, though the punters can be counted on to spew wittier toxins than these critics. That said, I must say I liked this spittle-flecked entry:

"Lawrence is a humourless bore, a finger-wagging bully who knows simply everything about his characters, their inner thoughts and darkest motivations, and insists on telling you in wearisome detail..."

Can't someone *do* something about this awful Lawrence menace? Next you'll be telling me he wrote out the *sex scenes*, too...!

blue cave

How lower will McEwan reach this year. First outed for stealing a whole story and presenting it as his own, and now endorsing the outrageous racism of Amis.
Well, where there's no litterary charisma, there's always a loud voice.

Steven Augustine

Is Seyran Ates "racist", as well, do you suppose?

Steven Augustine

For many of us, in Europe, especially, the core of this "Islamism" snafu is a concern for equal protection, under the law, for Muslim women (and Gay Muslims), as we're so far from being there yet. Is sexism even older (and deeper) than racism? It would seem so.

Male "Western" Leftists seem to find it easier to imagine (dream on) solidarity with totalitarian Islamist males than with subjugated Islamic females (please note distinctions). Absurdist double-standards (a Muslim woman can be beaten by her husband because it's part of "their" culture) are putting Muslims at risk in "Western" societies they naively believed would protect them with the same vigor "Western" society protects its non-Muslim natives:

"Seyran Ates, aged 43, is a lawyer, specialising in women's rights. From a practice in Berlin, she had become well-known and her skills were eagerly sought by Muslim women. In 2005, she was named "German woman of the year". She has long campaigned for forced marriages to be made illegal in Germany. Most of her clients have been Muslim women who have been trapped into forced marriage and other demeaning aspects of Muslim "honour" culture that persist. Many of these women are, like herself, from Turkish/Kurdish backgrounds. She also campaigned against the ultimate aspect of Muslim "honour" - Muslim honour killings."

"Speaking in English, she said of honour killings and Muslim women in Germany: "And I think that more than 50 percent live in such a situation of fear of honor killings or to be killed. Many of my clients, I am working as a lawyer here in Berlin and I make family and criminal law, many of my clients, women, they say they are feared to divorce because their men say, 'If you divorce, if you go to court to divorce, I will kill you.'

'So we have a very high number who are very silent, who stay home and don't go out, don't ask for divorce, because they are in fear of being killed because of honor.'

"She has attacked Germany's bland acceptance of "multiculturalism", and has said that it keeps Muslim women in slavery, rather than forcing the Muslim community to adhere to the same standards as other people living in Germany.

"But sadly, news comes from the Telegraph today and from Monday's Deutsche Welle that the constant death threats which have been made against her by Muslim men have become too much. After two decades of defending the rights of Muslim women from abuse, Seyran Ates has finally announced that she has closed her practice.

"She has blamed the German authorities, saying that she had asked the police for protection, but had her requests ignored. The police have denied this, and claim that they were never asked to help.

"The threats have come from the husbands and male relatives of the Turkish women whom she has defended.

"20 years ago, Seyran was shot at by a man in the Berlin suburb of Kreuzberg. Last year she was representing a Muslim woman in a divorce case. Outside the court, the Muslim husband first physically attacked the woman, and then tried to assault her. This was the beginning of the end of her career.

"She told the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel: 'I'm withdrawing from professional life as a lawyer, my client is living in a women's shelter, but the assailant is running around scot-free....my life and that of my young daughter have priority.'

"She wrote on her website: "'It's once again clear to me how dangerous my work as a lawyer was and how little I was and still am protected as an individual.'"

blue cave

What has a great woman like Seyran Ates has to do with McEwan. Seyran speaks of certain muslims respecting basic human rights. Mc Ewan just endorsed the blind fanatism of Amis and justified his obnoxious demands. To McEwan and his elk's eyes every Moslmi is a priori guilty. Actually, according to Amis, every person who "seems" to come from Pakistan or of Arab origin should be treated as a potential danger.

People like Amis or McEwan are an ennemy to moslim women or gays as much as their Moslim fanatic counterparts.


People in this thread, and Mark too frankly, seem to be suffering from a comprehension problem. Islamism isn't the same thing as Islam. A simple read through wikipedia should help you on that score.

And yeah, I think Amis has succumbed to idiocy. But the attacks on McEwan are completely unfair, and based on people's specific accusations against him, clearly the result of deep ignorance on his critics' part.

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