#11 - Valerie: A True Memoir

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rich

#11 - Valerie: A True Memoir

Postby rich » Fri Apr 22, 2005 7:08 pm

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Valerie: A True Memoir

[This thread was originally moderated by Jay. It turned personal and went off-topic at times. I went back and deleted off-topic posts, but the arguments are history now and I left them in if they had anything to do with the piece. Some people posted an awful lot about VALERIE, but there were also new people contributing interesting views throughout, up to the last pages. Harlan's comments are on page 2. - Jan]
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"Valerie: A True Memoir" is the single worst piece of prose Harlan Ellison has ever written. It has no redeeming values, no social commentary to make that would make it universal, and is nothing more than an ego-driven piece of misogynistic tripe.

There I said it. Now I offer the following, not so much as explanation, but more to wonder WHY this piece was published. Not only published, but included in The Essential Ellison. Which means that out of the more than 1700 stories and essays he has written, this one, this piece of work deserves to be included in The Essential Ellison and, based on its inclusion, is much better or deserves recognition as a "look at a process" as Terry Dowling says in the introduction to the book. Fine. Warts and all. But, that doesn't seem to jibe with the other introduction to the essay itself, which I'll get to.

First off, the title. Isn't "a true memoir" redundant? Are most memoirs false? And if there is a question of validity and HE wants us to know that this is indeed a true memoir as opposed to all those other untrue memoirs out there, what makes this "memoir" different from any of the other true accounts in the Ellison Hornbook (where I believe this essay was first published over 3 installments) that it would have to labeled as "true"?

Quibbling? Possibly. But, it brings to mind that it's a calculated preemptive defense of something that, quite frankly, is indefensible. The piece is misogynistic and HE points out to us before we even start to read the words that what happens is all true. Every word of it. So, the title seems to imply, how can it be misogynistic when the events took place and it really truly happened?

Here's how: HE makes pains to let the reader know that his stint at a men's magazine "kill[ed]" his "ingrained sexism". The photographer that "wormed" his way into Ellison's abode only to take pictures of nekkid ladies is a "Demon Photographer", but HE doesn't let that stop the guy from using his home. Why? Well, 'cause there WERE nekkid ladies there and on "several of these shooting dates, I did meet women with whom I struck up relationships." He mentions how another girl was to stay with him for an extended period of time, but he called that off so the girl that was "a friend", someone with whom he'd "get it on for a few days" if nothing else was pressing agrees to let this Valerie move in with him. He is "damaged goods" because he allowed himself to be taken and that left him "a little dead and a little crippled." There's more. Read it.

The icing on the cake, though, is the picture. Did we need that picture? Was it there just to show us what this "monster" looks like, in case we don't know or don't believe that she was a beautiful woman? It's not just a shot of her, it's a shot of her showing her tits. Yeah, baby. Way to go for that demographic. Anyone, please, tell me one valid reason that picture should've been included.

This is revenge under the guise of essay. This is an adolescent attempt to get back at someone who neither deserves the noteriety, nor the inclusion in The Essential Ellison. This lady, who fucked over Ellison and his houseguest Jim, achieves immortality by being included in The Essential Ellison.

So the question is why? Why is this essay included in The Essential Ellison? Is it to show us a period of the writer's life, warts and all? Is this part of Ellison's "checking in with us" to show us where he was at this point of his life? If so, fine. Include it. But I don't think it's the "warts and all" that these guys thought, 'cause it shows us a side of Ellison that bears more relation to the misogynistic label than any other prose of his.

Terry Dowling says in the introduction to the essay, that "it is a caveat, an expose of our inherent vulnerability". Bullshit. It's a rotten piece of work that does nothing but show the author's contempt for women and trying to call it anything else is putting that cherry-red lipstick on that fucking pig.

I don't think Harlan Ellison's work is misogynistic. But, "Valerie: A True Memoir" is misogynistic. It's said that this book has everything, "warts and all", but the introductions imply that phrase only belongs to the writing style, not the content. And, as such, I don't think it should be in The Essential Ellison.


If I seem unusually harsh in my criticism of this work, it's because HE is so much better and talented than to pen something so vile. He could only have pissed off this reader more if he said he was giving up writing so he could flip burgers for a living. If anyone has anything remotely nice to say about this essay, please share it with me 'cause I just don't see it.

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Not all lessons pleasant

Postby Barney Dannelke » Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:05 am

I'm not real fond of this one either, but I don't have nearly the toxic reaction to it that Rich has had. I think this is really one of those perfect examples of your mileage may vary. Since Rich has had his way with the essays weaknesses, I will step up in a form of very limited defense.

But first, where I most agree with Rich, is in its placement in both the 35th and 50th editions of the Essential Ellison. While the completist in me likes the idea of having all the contents of the first in the second, it's not as though I'm ever going to re-read THE GLOCONDA or THE WILDER ONE. VALERIE is another piece that stings in this way, only because I'd rather see the inclusion of WHAT KILLED THE DINOSAURS, etc. or EIDOLONS in it's place.

Having said all that, here are my defenses. Right up front, in the first paragraph, Harlan says that this essay will make him look like a schmuck. You really can't say he sugar coats it. "Hey gang, here I am, at my worst. These are days you DO NOT want to know me." Caveat lector, indeed.

Now, if you are 40, or god help you 50, and this essay still has something to offer you, either you don't get out much OR you have been very lucky in your sphere of acquaintences. On the other hand, if you are 16 or 22 or 25 and you have not had your tv, cd's, iPod or stereo system boosted by a girlfriend - or, new boyfriend of said girlfriend - I say, watch and learn.

There are people in this life who will fuck you over. Some for money, some for sport and others because it is reflexive in their nature. SOMETIMES the ONLY satisfaction you can get in this life is to behave in this way.

In the Lehigh Valley there are 2 contractors who I worked for who cost me extraordinary amounts of time and money. Well, not so much money, but time. I have been bad mouthing these guys for 15 years. Last year, one of my stories was repeated back to me. This guys ground water is well and truly poisoned and I do not feel bad about that.

Another fellow who runs a garage and ran for City Council - and just lost that seat - stole $850.00 from a friend of mine. I explained to him that unless my friends were reimbursed he would find out just how small a pond the Lehigh Valley is and just how fast bad news travels. Since he lost by 8 votes and since he knows I turned at least 2 dozen people against him I think he's starting to get the message.

This is not "ethical" behavior. This is not the way of the Buddha. Sometimes turning the other cheek isn't the option we go for. I think that's the lesson of VALERIE. Just pure get-back.

I think it would be a clearer message if it were a guy. I know of at least one writer and their back-story relation to Harlan that would fit this parameter just as well.

Then the charge would be meanspirited vindictiveness instead of mysogeny, which is sadly, more politically correct in these strange days, but that's all shoulda/woulda/coulda nonsense. It's just Harlan on a bad day and it says so right on the wrapper.

- Barney

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Postby David W. Pareis » Sun Apr 24, 2005 4:01 pm

Would Harlan have published semi nude photos of a guy?
More later
DWP

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Postby Jon Stover » Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:55 pm

As I'd like to comment on "Valerie" but haven't come up with anything new and cogent, a couple of quotations from email exchanges with rich on the essay. I'll post more when I'm more awake:

1) "Valerie" would be the prime example I'd use for this desire for
vengeance enacted in writing -- a screed against a girlfriend who wronged
him, complete with a topless picture and Harlan's careful fashioning of
himself as an aw-shucks victim undone by feminine wiles. It's the one thing of Harlan's I'd actually describe as vile, a piece that should never have been published.


2) I think "Valerie" and "Ahbhu" work as polar opposites in some way, even insofar as they delineate the two outer reaches of Harlan's essay-writing psyche, the canonization and the demonization. I like dogs and I think "Ahbhu" is quite moving -- but canonization and demonization are both ways of removing someone's subjectivity. I guess even when the someone is a dog.

Cheers, Jon

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Postby Guest » Mon Apr 25, 2005 6:03 am

>and is nothing more than an ego-driven piece of misogynistic tripe?<

Wow, and here I was very soundly roasted by the entire Ellison family,and other denizens of this realm, for simply touching on "misogynistic themes" in Prowler. And if I recall, my langauge was conserably less incendiary, or personal.

How about it, Harlan? Gonna come on in with the bazooka on this one? Or is the singer, not the song, that pushes buttons around here?

Still pretty ticked off at that whole experience, and the flagrant double standards that color all discourse around here, Eric Martin

rich

Postby rich » Mon Apr 25, 2005 7:18 am

Ok, the reason I picked this story, not least of all that Jon reminded me of it as we emailed back and forth during the Eric Martin Taken to Task fiasco (which, by the way, was unnecessary and overblown), is that during the "Prowler..." discussions the term "misogynistic" came up.

Now if Harlan says he's had to defend himself against this term in the past, I got to wondering why? Was it just dickwads looking to score points or did a "critic" (not a disgruntled fanboy or reader, but a true critic---and I'll leave the discussion of whether or not a critic is actually a disgruntled fanboy or reader to another day) actually bring it up as a theme of Ellison's work? I don't know.

But, I've read the stories that have been in the discussions in these threads and I don't see it. That's not to say that it is not there or it is there, but it's certainly something that can come up for discussion. Maybe in the "Prowler..." thread we were heavy-handed and, being just readers and not actual literary critics, we bludgeoned about trying to come to a resolution or a conclusion and that was cut short by the author himself weighing in.

And while discussing this with Jon, he happened to mention "Valerie". I had completely forgotten about that essay. After reading it quite a few times, I understand why I had forgotten about it.

My revulsion towards the essay is in no way indicative of any overriding theme of misogynism in Ellison's work. But, this piece happens to fit that description.

I see Barney's limited defense and I understand where he's coming from. Christ, I understand where Harlan is coming from as I can name a couple of women that are complete Bitches. Does that make me a misogynist? And does Harlan's recounting of what happened with him and Valerie make him a misogynist?

I don't know, but I do know that the essay reads like a Hemingway screed: "I'm like I am 'cause the women done me wrong." There's a lot of hate in this essay and one would be hard pressed to find the justification for publishing it, lessons learned notwithstanding. I'm not saying the hate isn't justified or even unreasonable, but I am saying that because of its inclusion in The Essential Ellison, one shouldn't be surprised when a reader or a critic comes up with the word misogynistic and uses this essay as proof.

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I seem to be the only living human being who will cop...

Postby AlexKrislov » Mon Apr 25, 2005 7:54 am

...to actually liking "Valerie." And I do. Is it the best thing Harlan ever wrote? 'course not. It's certainly not the worst.

The piece is mean-spirited, but it's a solid, visceral response to some ugly events. I've known a few like Valerie in my life--and my wife has known a few men like her, just as selfish and dishonest, just as destructive. Why is there this assumption that if Harlan writes about a woman, it's misongyny, rather than honest description?

I think we, as a culture, have become far too prone to leap on any ill mention of any woman as proof of misogyny. Does Harlan write some pretty nasty stuff about Valerie? Sure. Valerie's a pretty nasty piece of work. And the piece works for me because it echoes some experiences of my own.

There are bad people out there is a useful lesson. Should we let political correctness stop us from teaching it?

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Postby Barney Dannelke » Mon Apr 25, 2005 8:37 am

Rich writes: "I don't know, but I do know that the essay reads like a Hemingway screed: "I'm like I am 'cause the women done me wrong." "

I'm sorry if that's the over-arching view you come away with when you read Hemingway. I certainly don't see that as a central or even posited theme in MEN WITHOUT WOMEN, ISLANDS IN THE STREAM or FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. I want to say that someone sold you a bill of goods on Hemingway but I don't know - there may be something in the collected short stories that you're channeling, that I am blocking.

But to get back to that pulled quote - the reason I pulled it, is that aside from my not thinking that's an actual Hemingway quote - I note its use of the plural - namely 'the women'.

Valerie is about one [1] woman. Contrasting this essay and some things he's said about Beverly over the years against all the things he's written about his Mom, his second wife, Susan, tons of artists and writers who happen to be women and the boatload of work, for no pay on behalf of the ERA he did back in the 1970's - it seems to me you're arguing from the lesser to the greater, based not on the collected body of his writing, but rather on something I'm not entirely sure another dead writer ever said.

********************************************************

And to Eric Martin - I find your most recent post revisionist history in the extreme. Saying that because a man wrote a couple of stories you found offensive - stories that while shocking and disturbing to you, nevertheless failed to make enough of an impression that you can remember all their titles or even where they actually appeared is the least of it. You went on to say that you believed that this was a man you felt barely had his violent impulses toward women under control. THAT is when Harlan and Susan and I called bullshit on you, sir.

- Barney Dannelke

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Postby Jon Stover » Mon Apr 25, 2005 11:56 am

More later, but I'd like to note something that both Barney and Alex did which I find a bit odd -- namely, the jump to a generalized conclusion about the "political correctness" of our culture, with that tying back into rich's views on "Valerie."

Both make good counter-arguments in other areas, but I find this jump to a cultural generalization hellaweak, casting rich as it does in the role of poor, culturally manipulated schmuck who sees misogyny in a particular work (and furthermore notes that the misogyny is simply attached to that work in making his case and not to Ellison himself or to other Ellison works).

In jumping to the "politically correct" argument, one defuses rich's argument by making it not so much an argument as some knee-jerk reaction incurred by immersion in a particular cultural paradigm that apparently rich is powerless to overcome. Unfortunately, it also (and I believe quite unintentionally) casts rich in the role of someone who's been submerged by some cultural okey-dokeyism while Barney and Alex stand above that particular tide.

Cheers, Jon

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Postby Barney Dannelke » Mon Apr 25, 2005 12:21 pm

That's an interesting point and I would only defend myself so far as to say that I was not calling Rich a schmuck - which I'm told is a pretty offensive word as yiddish-ism's go.

It's perfectly valid to say that I might be trying to defend Harlan by throwing up a smokescreen of cultural relativism. In fact, yeah, I suppose I was. Neat.

BUT, I still need to stress that the definition of misogyny is that includes all women - or, at least a majority. And that's where I think that charge falls flat.

Or, to put it another way, so Rich doesn't think NOT calling him a schmuck is "praising with faint damns" - I believe Rich is right to characterize this as an ugly essay - just not ugly in all the ways he has chosen to go with it.

- Barney

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Re: SPIDER Discussion #11: Valerie: A True Memoir

Postby Jim Davis » Mon Apr 25, 2005 12:23 pm

rich wrote:"Valerie: A True Memoir" is the single worst piece of prose Harlan Ellison has ever written. It has no redeeming values, no social commentary to make that would make it universal, and is nothing more than an ego-driven piece of misogynistic tripe.


Eh. I agree that "Valerie" isn't one of Harlan's stronger pieces; but the worst thing he's ever written? For that dubious honor, I'd nominate a good percentage of his early work, and maybe even a couple of his later stories, before I'd even consider "Valerie." And if we're talking about epitomizing a lack of redeeming values, well, "Bleeding Stones," anyone?

There I said it. Now I offer the following, not so much as explanation, but more to wonder WHY this piece was published. Not only published, but included in The Essential Ellison.


Yeah, I'm a little shocked that "Valerie" made the cut for The Essential Ellison, and "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" didn't. You could argue that it was included not for its literary quality, but because it exemplifies a certain strain in Harlan's work, for better or worse. Still, rereading it for the first time in fifteen years, I can't say I'm crazy about it. For one thing, it's dated in a way that other pieces from the same period aren't. As for "Valerie"'s other flaws, there's one in particular that kind of sinks it, which I'll go into later . . .

Quibbling? Possibly. But, it brings to mind that it's a calculated preemptive defense of something that, quite frankly, is indefensible. The piece is misogynistic and HE points out to us before we even start to read the words that what happens is all true. Every word of it. So, the title seems to imply, how can it be misogynistic when the events took place and it really truly happened?


See, here's the problem I have with using the word "misogynistic," at least in relation to Harlan's writing: it's not very accurate. "Sexist," "vindictive," "bitter," "disingenuous," "insensitive"; these are all adjectives that might apply to "Valerie." But a hatred of all women? It's a bit of a leap, and I'm not sure that this essay is the perfect jumping-off point. Let's go into the nuts 'n' bolts, shall we?

Here's how: HE makes pains to let the reader know that his stint at a men's magazine "kill[ed]" his "ingrained sexism". The photographer that "wormed" his way into Ellison's abode only to take pictures of nekkid ladies is a "Demon Photographer", but HE doesn't let that stop the guy from using his home. Why? Well, 'cause there WERE nekkid ladies there and on "several of these shooting dates, I did meet women with whom I struck up relationships."


A really boring discussion of the role of pornography in the societal subjugation of women aside, I don't see this as evidence of anything other than simple horniness on Harlan's part. He's single and still young, so why should he be excoriated for not minding if his place becomes the set of a Russ Meyer flick for a few months? Again, we might make the case for a certain ingrained sexism, but out-and-out misogyny? I don't buy it, rich.

He mentions how another girl was to stay with him for an extended period of time, but he called that off so the girl that was "a friend", someone with whom he'd "get it on for a few days" if nothing else was pressing agrees to let this Valerie move in with him. He is "damaged goods" because he allowed himself to be taken and that left him "a little dead and a little crippled." There's more. Read it.


Okay, now we're getting into some less savory aspects of Harlan's character. The part about calling the girl from Illinois to cancel her visit comes off as cold-blooded as hell. Yes, when you're in love, as Harlan claims he was, you can do some pretty callous things, but that's still no excuse. Still, I'd file this under "insensitive," rather than "misogynistic."

The icing on the cake, though, is the picture. Did we need that picture? Was it there just to show us what this "monster" looks like, in case we don't know or don't believe that she was a beautiful woman? It's not just a shot of her, it's a shot of her showing her tits. Yeah, baby. Way to go for that demographic. Anyone, please, tell me one valid reason that picture should've been included.


It's a good thing that you didn't see the original version of "Valerie" in The Hornbook, or you'd really go ape, as it includes another topless shot of her. The aesthetic pleasure of seeing a beautiful near-naked woman aside, I don't know what purpose the photos had, either. Yes, it's always nice to put a face (and other body parts) to a character, but I'm not sure that outweighs the invasion of privacy involved. Remember, Harlan took pains to tell us that he wasn't using "Valerie"'s real name. If he was so concerned about doing the right thing, why not keep her picture out, as well? Not one of Harlan's wiser moves, in my opinion; I don't know if it's a sign of misogyny, however.

This is revenge under the guise of essay. This is an adolescent attempt to get back at someone who neither deserves the noteriety, nor the inclusion in The Essential Ellison. This lady, who fucked over Ellison and his houseguest Jim, achieves immortality by being included in The Essential Ellison.


To be fair, she did fuck Harlan and Jim, but good. As a matter of fact, she comes off as sociopathic, and it speaks well of Harlan that he didn't tell the cops to arrest her, a move that would've been entirely justified.

So the question is why? Why is this essay included in The Essential Ellison? Is it to show us a period of the writer's life, warts and all? Is this part of Ellison's "checking in with us" to show us where he was at this point of his life? If so, fine. Include it. But I don't think it's the "warts and all" that these guys thought, 'cause it shows us a side of Ellison that bears more relation to the misogynistic label than any other prose of his.


Now we get to the meat of my problem with this essay: as honest as it makes itself out to be, I get the feeling that Harlan isn't telling us everything he knows. Now, I'm not claiming that the events in "Valerie" didn't go down exactly as Harlan described them. I have little doubt that the woman was a first-class con artist who had wrecked her share of lives, and that Harlan was truly as hurt and angry as he made himself out to be. But there's a tone in "Valerie" of "Why did this happen to me?", of a certain world-weary attitude of There Are Heartless Women Out There, And When One Of Them Puts You In Her Sights, There's Nothing You Can Do that I find a little disingenuous, especially coming from Harlan. I'm not denying that sociopathic or near-sociopathic women exist in the world; shit, I've known, and even been involved with, a good number of them. Nor am I saying that Harlan deserved what happened to him. What I am saying is that a man who has had several relationships with Bad Women can't reasonably claim that he didn't see it coming when it happens for the umpteenth time. When you've picked up a little experience, you can almost always tell if a woman is trouble or not after some time with her, especially if you have some brains or street smarts. And when the whole thing crashes and burns, if you're really honest with yourself, you have to admit that there were warning signs galore which were either ignored or rationalized away.

We all have a good idea of Harlan's history with women. He certainly has had his share of experience with the opposite sex, and we could never accuse him of lacking perception and brains. But even if we came to "Valerie" cold, with no knowledge of the man, there would still be a sense that Harlan isn't completely being open. In particular, there's this passage:

"'Listen, man,' I said, 'I've known her a few years and she's not even in the running as the most responsible female I've ever known. I mean, she's a sensational lady and all, but I don't really know where she's been the last few years.'"

Think about it: He's talking about a woman that is (as far as he knows) preparing to move in with him, and he all but admits that she's untrustworthy. The obvious question is, why would you even think of sharing your life with such a person? This is where "Valerie" falls down for me. Harlan had an opportunity to really open himself up, to share with us a real dissection of a self-destructive impulse that many men have (myself included), and he let the opportunity slip. It sounds funny to say that Harlan Ellison didn't reveal enough of himself in an essay, but it's true, all the same. I get the feeling, whether Harlan intended it or not, that he backed off from going under the microscope, and put Valerie there instead. A bunt instead of a grand slam, you could say.

I'm not suggesting that Harlan hasn't done his share of soul-baring in his work; quite the opposite, in fact. But "Valerie" is, in the end, a rough sketch for something that might have been a top-bier examination of the the mysteries of the human heart. I can't condemn Harlan for writing a sub-par work, and whatever "Valerie"'s flaws, I sure as hell wouldn't count misogyny among them. "Essential," though? I don't see it, and, like rich, I'd welcome a post from anyone who can convince me otherwise. (And if Harlan wants to tell me I'm full of shit, he is more than welcome to it. Hey, it's 1:30pm as I send this out, and I'm starting to get antsy. I usually hear I'm full of crap at least twice by this time in the day . . .)
--
"His plan therefore was not to refuse admission to the idea, but to keep it at bay until his mind was ready to receive it. Then let it in and pulverise it. Obliterate the bastard."--Samuel Beckett

rich

Postby rich » Mon Apr 25, 2005 1:25 pm

Jim brings up a lot of good points, and I'd like to address two of them and then cite an example of where I got the idea of "women" and not "woman".

The reason I said it's the worst thing he's ever written is because this was written in 1972. Arguably at the top of his game. I'm sure he's written some shit that is barely readable, but he's coming off DV and ADV, he's entering his prime as THE short story writer in his genre and then...this. It's the worst thing he's written 'cause he's had enough experience to know the difference between good and bad.

I also think Jim is right in that "HE backed off from going under the microscope, and put Valerie there instead. A bunt instead of a grand slam."

To Barney and Alex, I'd say that I don't know if Harlan hates all women or not, and, quite frankly, I'd be surprised if he did, BUT...BUT, wouldn't one assume that a person has a misogynistic attitude towards the women in that person's life based on this essay? I mean, he may not hate Nancy Sinatra or the Queen Mother, but I offer the following as a justification for the essay being labeled as mysoginistic:

"In every human being there is only so large a supply of love. It's
like the limbs of a starfish, to some extent: if you chew off a chunk,
it will grow back. But if you chew off too much, the starfish dies.
Valerie B. chewed off a chunk of love from my dwindling
reserve...a reserve already nibbled by Charlotte and Lory and
Sherri and Cindy and others down through the years.
There's
still enough there to make the saleable appearance of a whole
creature, but nobody gets gnawed on that way without becoming a
little dead."


And to clarify Barney, Hemingway never said the quote. I was using it for illustrative purposes. Sorry for the confusion. What I probably should've said was that Harlan Ellison gives as a reason for the way he is is 'cause the women done him wrong, no quotes, just paraphrasing in a succinct sentence the above noted paragraph.

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Postby Guest » Mon Apr 25, 2005 1:30 pm

>You went on to say that you believed that this was a man you felt barely had his violent impulses toward women under control. <

That's a rather extreme, and position-serving, interpretation of my remarks, Barney. Would you mind quoting the exact post of mine that you are basing this on?

Somehow I don't remember writing "I believe Harlan Ellison barely has his violent impulses toward women under control." Or anything LIKE that. But I'd love to see where you decided I did.

Eric Martin

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Postby Jon Stover » Mon Apr 25, 2005 3:11 pm

Barney Dannelke wrote:That's an interesting point and I would only defend myself so far as to say that I was not calling Rich a schmuck - which I'm told is a pretty offensive word as yiddish-ism's go.

It's perfectly valid to say that I might be trying to defend Harlan by throwing up a smokescreen of cultural relativism. In fact, yeah, I suppose I was. Neat.

BUT, I still need to stress that the definition of misogyny is that includes all women - or, at least a majority. And that's where I think that charge falls flat.

Or, to put it another way, so Rich doesn't think NOT calling him a schmuck is "praising with faint damns" - I believe Rich is right to characterize this as an ugly essay - just not ugly in all the ways he has chosen to go with it.

- Barney


Yeah, I was doing a little reference thing with "Valerie" with the use of schmuck, which now has me thinking of the Sammy Mauldlin show and the discussion thereon about whether someone was a schlmeke or a schlmozzle (almost certainly both just misspelled by me, btw).

I don't want to beat this particular bit of meta-commentary to death, but to use a somewhat inverted example, if someone, at the end of a rebuttal to one of your (Barney's) arguments suddenly jumped to a generalization such as:

"Sigh. I think the larger problem is that Barney is a friend of Harlan's and thus incapable of objective criticism of HE's work because his mind has been clouded by Harlan's fire girasol ring."

Well, how would that feel? I think you'd be absolutely right to be peeved at this sort of generalized attempt to defang all your specific criticism by recourse to 'Ah, that's just another mind clouded by Harlan' argument. All I'm really saying is that it isn't really 'neat' as an argumentative strategy.

Also, "political correctness" as a touchstone probably needed to be hung up in the rafters of the Boston Garden sometime in 1999 or thereabouts.

Cheers, Jon

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Barney Dannelke
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Postby Barney Dannelke » Mon Apr 25, 2005 3:46 pm

"Sigh. I think the larger problem is that Barney is a friend of Harlan's and thus incapable of objective criticism of HE's work because his mind has been clouded by Harlan's fire girasol ring."

Hah! I'm having that sewn into a sampler. Besides which, there are days when that's true.

Then there are days when I think of him as an annoying Uncle and he thinks of me as a whiny and petulant nephew. And there are stranger scenarios. But that's just him watching me grow up and me watching him get old and there is fuck all either of us can do about it.

In case anybody is missing anything in my tone, this just isn't one I'm goig to go to the mat for.

In this last flurry of posts I'm going to even back off one more degree. There is something to be said for the argument that if you don't know Harlan personally, OR have not read outside the 35th/50th Essential Ellison - THEN, the weight and placement of this essay does nothing to support a worldview of Harlan as a supporter and booster of women.

But I still like my defense even if Jon isn't impressed. That's cool.

As for Eric Martin's request. No. I've wasted hours of my life on you already. NOTHING I could cut and paste would convince you of a single thing. And my reward here on earth is having more pixel time with you while simultaneously batting private e-mails out of my queue while you will continue to feel the same way about me. I now get these requests about once a month from people who all think they are strangers to me. Internet porn would be more rewarding and yield me less spam.

- Barney

Timeformorepercocet, PA.


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