akojen wrote:Harlan made it clear why he included the picture. It's much like including a photograph on a child molester site.
They don't publish nude pictures on those sites, Amy. And why claim to be protecting her family by excluding her last name and then publish a topless photo? It seemed like spite to me, much like the phenomenon of angry ex-boyfriends posting nude pictures of their exes on the internet for the purposes of humiliation, not mere identification (a disingenuous reason at best).
Yes, there were some specific criticisms. But there was also a hell of a lot of "he shouldn't have reacted like that" and "how dare he put all this blame on women" and "god, this was written so many years ago; why doesn't he get over it?"
The criticism about his attitude towards women does not emanate solely from this essay, surely you got that bit. I think Harlan has a good deal of anxiety and ambivalence about women, which is obvious to me through his writing, though I would not call him a misogynist. As for him not getting over it, that sentiment would come from the fact that the essay is in his 30 and 50 year retrospectives. If it were written and published close to the time of the event, it might have some resonance; now it just reads like an old grudge. That may not not have been within Harlan's control, which is unfortunate, but there it is nontheless.
There's a writing habit I hate. Plurals. You speak for the small group here as you speak for all Ellison readers.
That is not true. When I said "we," I meant rich, Jon, Jim, and myself. Those of us who seem to agree about this essay. I do think most readers wouldn't get out of it what Harlan seems to want us to, but I only speak for the we who I know agree. I certainly wasn't trying to speak for YOU.
Do you really remember the pain of when YOU were fucked over, remember how it felt when it was fresh? It's easy to say it was an ordinary situation, and he should just let it go--NOW. My impression was that in writing these columns, (as he noted earlier, while this was all new and raw) he was trying to do just that.
The fact that I read it in the 1990's, 20+ years after the incident, makes it seem fresh and current. It's in the retrospectives, whose purpose is to give current readers an overview of his writings. The piece's presence in those anthologies could lead one to think it still had some relevance for him, no?
I've certainly done it before (though in an electronic forum, not print), and I have no right to expect a greater amount of decorum from anyone else. I guess rapists just piss me off. But then, I allowed myself to be put in the situation, so I guess it's really my fault.
If you're just blowing off steam, that's fine. But when you publish, it's more than just ranting to your friends or on a message board. It's the bully pulpit. Also, comparing Valerie to a rapist is completely specious and yes, kind of offensive. Valerie did NOT RAPE Harlan. She stole his credit cards, which makes her a thief, and used him, which makes her a jerk, but she didn't rape him. So don't mix apples and oranges, because rape does not lend itself to analogies very well, OK?
The narrator knew what Valerie was when he picked her up. He allowed himself to be led around by the dick and he got what he should have seen coming. He also mentions a checkered past with women that indicates a pervasive lack of judgement in this area, so it's pretty safe to say that he put himself in these situations quite often, because you can't blame everyone else when you keep making the same mistakes. You have to look in the mirror and figure out WHY it keeps happening, right? Now that would have made an interesting read.
He doesn't seem to particularly care whether you "get" it or not (well, beyond one slightly snarky sentence).
I think he does care, a lot. I think he's taking it personally. The problem is, when you publish what you write, people are going to form opinions that might deviate from yours. They might hate your stuff, or get you totally wrong, or impute motives to you that upset you, or overanalyze you. Isn't that the nature of the beast? You can't scold or name call or correct them all. Why must we all fall into lockstep behind the One True Reading of the text?
And there's not a whole lot to "get," unless you choose to delve into the mind of a young stranger from the sixties/seventies and try to figure out why he wrote this in the first place.
There IS a lot to get, Amy. There's quite a bit of subtext. The narrator tells us a story about a fuck-over, which seemed largely financial to me, since he didn't indicate even once that he loved her, only thought she was beautiful and liked having sex with her. He trusted her and his trust was betrayed, and he'd have us believe that the moral of the story is "watch what box you open" (nice double entrendre, btw). He prints her topless picture to show us how pretty the box was, to warn us off. However, as Jim Davis so incisively points out, the essay lacks reflection and true depth. HE could have done so much more in that piece, really contemplated the reasons for the fuck-over and what it indicates about him. He does not. He blames Valerie and never considers his own role. Thus, the essay fails as a memoir and reads like the narrator is just bitching about an ex.
I say the above not as a criticism of HE as a person; this all comes from the narrator's voice and words in the story. Please let me be clear about that. I don't know Harlan and he don't know me. All I know is what the narrator of the story says and how he comes off. Let's not make this personal.
Also, Amy, thanks for not getting all ad hominem with me when we disagree. I can enjoy debating you because you seem to have this in perspective, which I respect.
Not from me. I'm from New York.
Me too. Staten Island, actually. I appreciate that.