Conservatives Reading Harlan?

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Tony Rabig
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Conservatives Reading Harlan?

Postby Tony Rabig » Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:39 pm

Okay, I'll bite.

A few questions raised by posts on the Post-Foolscap thread.

Why wouldn't conservatives read and enjoy Harlan's work?

Why would conservatives probably read the earlier fiction and ignore the essays?

Why assume that a conservative reader of Harlan's work can't appreciate what Harlan's trying to say? Is it that the conservative can't appreciate the work if he doesn't agree with Harlan's socio-political views? Does that mean that those views are the most important things about Harlan's work?

What is it that Todd and Cindy (and I too) are reading into Harlan's work that isn't in fact there?

And bests to all, conservative & liberal alike.
--tr

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Hathor
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Postby Hathor » Thu Sep 29, 2005 5:28 pm

Why WOULDN'T a Liberal read Orson Scott Card?

Tony Rabig
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Postby Tony Rabig » Sat Oct 01, 2005 7:27 pm

My original post in this thread was written at the close of lunch hour the other day and I had to get back to acting like I was working. So all I had time to do was ask a few (I thought) relevant questions regarding comments about why a conservative would read Harlan's work. The thrust of those comments, which appeared near the end of the Post Foolscap thread, were:
1. That a conservative reading Harlan would be enjoying the prose and ignoring the message.
2. That he would probably concentrate on Harlan's earlier fiction and ignore the essays.
3. That he would be patronizing Harlan by not necessarily adopting Harlan's socio-political positions and remaining settled in his cozy blind little faith and so be unable to fully appreciate what Harlan's trying to say.
4. That two of the conservative Webderlanders (and presumably HE's other conservative readers) must read into Harlan what isn't really there.

These comments boil down to saying that you can't appreciate a writer's work if you don't agree with his socio-political views.

I'm not interested in debating anybody's political positions here. My intention is simply to tell you why one conservative reads Harlan's work, the later fiction and essays as well as the earlier fiction, by the way.

There's a Faulkner quote that Harlan has noted on a number of occasions; it's a line from Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, referring to "the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat." If you haven't, go read Harlan's essay "Telltale Tics and Tremors," which you'll find in THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON. He repeats that quote there, emphasizing that the writer's task is to write about people. Got that? PEOPLE.

In his introduction to SHATTERDAY, he says: "You are not alone. We are all the same, all in this fragile skin, suffering the ugliness of simply being human, all prey to the same mortal dreads." Maybe I've missed his message here, maybe I'm reading something into it that isn't really there, but I don't see in either piece any indication that all this applies only to those with an author-approved political viewpoint. PEOPLE, gang. PEOPLE--all of us, liberal and conservative alike, prey to the same mortal dreads.

Just look at the work. Look at that half-century of writing, and think about some of those stories. Jeffty. Shatterday. Daniel White. All the Lies. I Have No Mouth. Paladin. Maggie. The Deathbird. Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie. Jenny. Dream Sleep. Grail. Mefisto. Spider Kiss. Final Shtick. And on, and on, and on. A body of work that constantly deals straight-on with the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself. And that heart ain't liberal or conservative -- it is simply human and any reader can respond to it regardless of political viewpoint. This is what drew me to Harlan's work when I was still left-of-center and what continues to do so long after I've gone over to the dark side.

Is Harlan left-of-center politically? Sure looks like it to me. Does that mean I can't enjoy his work? Not at all, because Harlan's work is not limited to socio-political lectures, and even in the social and political comments, agree with them or not, there is to be found the pleasure of watching a first-class mind at work; even when you don't agree with those comments, he'll always make you think.

But political position isn't all there is to a writer's work. Not a good writer's work, anyway. And to suggest that those who don't share the author's political viewpoint, or convert to it after reading the author, are missing the point or are simply patronizing the writer is to do two things.

First, it insults readers who may be every bit as intelligent as you. Second, and worse, it denies the writer's work some degree of significance beyond the merely socio-political. That's a real injustice to a writer whose work will be read, I think, for as long as people read books. It isn't Harlan's socio-political views that will keep his work alive -- it's his ability to deal with the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself. Human drama, and mortal dreads, which cut across all political lines.

And bests to all, regardless of socio-political stance.
--tr

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Postby franklin » Sun Oct 02, 2005 9:44 pm

The conservative magazine The New Criterion edited by Roger Kimball www.newcriterion.com has an interesting article on how Ray Bradbury and Sir Author Conan Doyle among many others have been purposefully excluded from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of 20th Century English Literature on the grounds of being white male authors. Just look up Ray Bradbury in their search engine and it'll take you to the article, until recently you could have read the whole thing but now you will have to register. It's revealing that the kind of politics that Harlan Ellison has occasionally advocated and that Frank Church advocates all the time now results in the denial of intellectual recognition of one of Harlan's friends and favorite authors.
To offer an alternative to life in all it's forms constitutes a permanent opposition, a permanent recourse to life - this is the poets highest mission on this earth.

Michel Houellebecq

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Postby franklin » Sun Oct 02, 2005 9:49 pm

*Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
To offer an alternative to life in all it's forms constitutes a permanent opposition, a permanent recourse to life - this is the poets highest mission on this earth.



Michel Houellebecq

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Mon Oct 03, 2005 12:09 pm

Ray Bradbury has said some very dumb things, politically, but that does not mean he isn't one of the great prose stylists of this age.

Harlan's stance against the common man is a bit on the conservative side, but his overall critique is libertarian liberal. He has his own dumb political thoughts, but that will be for another day. I am in the dog house as it is with him. lol.

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robochrist
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Postby robochrist » Tue Oct 04, 2005 2:59 am

Frank makes reference to "Harlan's stance against the common man".

If you mean by that he scathes the insipidness and the mindless complacency of the Common Man, who DOESN'T?

...and what's this shit about his "libertarian liberalism"?

Libertarians favor "hands-off" policies in government. Harlan has always supported funding government programs to help different groups. That's more like Democratic Socialism, which is the label I tend to take for myself.

So WHO the hell knows WHAT you're goin' on about THIS time?

I have NO problems criticizing Harlan just like anyone else when it's justified. I DO get really pissed, however, when he is mischaracterized.

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Steve Evil
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Postby Steve Evil » Tue Oct 04, 2005 3:36 pm

Why not just say " I disagree with your analysis"? Why get "pissed off" about something that's purely accademic?

Chill.

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Steve Evil
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Postby Steve Evil » Tue Oct 04, 2005 3:39 pm

And I love how standing up for social justtice and civil rights is suddenly to blame for some Encyclopedia's dumb editoral position.

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Hathor
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Postby Hathor » Tue Oct 04, 2005 5:54 pm

Then again, I wonder if Sartre would have been so readily embraced in an age of television........

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Fri Oct 07, 2005 10:24 am

Democratic Socialism just doesn't have the juice. Too much nation state politics for me. They still have to go along with the rules of the international trade cabal. I'd rather see a radical, democratic society, where all people have equal say in the society.

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Ezra Lb.
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Postby Ezra Lb. » Fri Oct 07, 2005 10:42 am

Frank said

I'd rather see a radical, democratic society, where all people have equal say in the society.

Which is just the sort of society WE would have if all those common folk you love so much would get off their fat asses and educate themselves and vote.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Hathor
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Postby Hathor » Sat Oct 08, 2005 12:55 pm

EZRA:
Having people THINK?! How HOSTILE!

I suppose you'll think next that I could have a right to hold people accountable who's salary my taxes pay for!

You're a BIG COLD PRICKLY, Ezra :wink:

(Just then a Police Hummer slows down suspiciously....)

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robochrist
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Postby robochrist » Tue Oct 11, 2005 12:21 am

Frank,

"where all people have equal say in the society"

Given how complex ANY system is - one that has to accomodate ALL the gears and levers of the infrastructure: economics, safety net programs, education, medical ('less you live in the U.S.), civic engineering, justice departments, regulation, etc - I'd like to see you deliver a detailed summary of a workable system based on your "radical" concepts, like giving EVERYONE "equal say". As with all theoretical indulgences, the answer is never as simple as it seems (starting with the varied information - um, I mean EDUCATION - people hold; I mean you have your smart people and then you have dumb ignorant fucks, like those who placed into office these Republican thugs whose overriding belief is that "it isn't government's place to help people of lower means", and are trying through sly methods to disassemble FDR's reforms and completely abandon those who are struggling).

Democratic Socialism (which, right now, they're doing their best to destroy) comes as close to a system I can think of capable of dealing with the complex and delicate checks and balances so critical to this machinery, with all its conflicting variables.

It's easy to talk simplistic bullshit. Let's see how you're going to make it work, factoring in human fallibility, some of it quite cut-throat.

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Tue Oct 11, 2005 1:37 pm

Ezra, vote for what? You have to reform the system first. The elite's and their masters control the system, and the stream that system feeds from.


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