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Sunday, November 07, 2004

Jane Smiley: A Thousand Slurs

After reading this essay on Who Moved My Truth? about an article posted on Slate by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley, I checked out Smiley's piece.

Wow. She really, really hates conservatives.

According to Smiley, we conservatives are evil. ("They are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence.") Ignorant and stupid. ("Red state types... are virtually unteachable.") And powerful. (Smiley blames us for atrocities that occurred before we were born.)

That's when Smiley's being consistent. She doesn't make a habit of that.

She writes an essay calling conservatives stupid and evil that condemns her GOP relatives for their "classic Republican feelings of superiority." (Projection, Jane?)

Her hatred for the right leaps off the page in an essay containing the words "blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good." (Yep, Jane, that's your problem, all right.)

She says this, meaning it to be about other people, yet not quite convincing the reader she's not talking about herself: "If you are sufficiently ignorant, you won't even know how dangerous your policies are until they have destroyed you, and then you can always blame others."

Her lack of self-awareness looks positively introspective, however, compared to her ignorance of the country whose voters she spits upon.

Here's her take on the 1980 Carter-Reagan matchup: "Jimmy Carter... asked Americans to take responsibility for their profligate ways, and promptly lost to Ronald Reagan, who told them once again that they could do anything they wanted."

Anyone else remember the 1980 election as a contest between a budget cutting Carter and a "let's bust the bank" Reagan?

Even Carter, no stranger to the deep end himself, probably doesn't believe that one.

She blames red-staters living in 2004 for Quantrill's Raid, a Civil War-era plunder/massacre that took place in Lawrence, Kansas: "The red forces, known then as the slave-power, pulled 265 unarmed men from their beds on a Sunday morning and slaughtered them in front of their wives and children."

The actual death toll was far less, she cited the wrong year, and many of the victims died in other ways, but these are minor quibbles compared to the injustice of blaming the modern GOP for a raid by a Confederate cavalry officer that took place 141 years ago -- when the Republican Party was fighting the Confederacy. (As Who Moved My Truth? observed: "I Suppose Abraham Lincoln Was REALLY Stupid.")

Smiley keeps strange company: "...most important, when life grows difficult or fearsome, they (politicians, preachers, pundits) encourage you to cling to your ignorance with even more fervor..." Okay, I can accept that she probably voted for Kerry and most likely reads the New York Times, but what church can she possibly be going to?

I'd tell you that Smiley's essay has to be read to be believed, but I'd be lying. You can't believe it even if you do read it.

P.S.: If you think I'm harsh on her, read the reviews on the Amazon.com page for her book that won the Pulitizer Prize, A Thousand Acres. (Apparently, she morphed Shakespeare's King Lear into a red-stater who abused his daughters -- doubly unoriginal.) Some of the reviews on that page make this look like a love letter.

Addendum: Doing my evening blog reading, I see that other bloggers have discussed Smiley's essay. In an excellent piece, Sean at Everything I Know Is Wrong, for example, says: "It fisks itself as you read it." (Good line, Sean!) Daly Thoughts has a good critique, too, as does The Paragraph Farmer.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:23 AM

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