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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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White V

Friday, 10 May, 2019

Here we are at the end of our in-depth look at White, the latest work by Bret Easton Ellis. No reviews of the book were read before we began posting on Monday and none has been read since. Given that the author is less than admiring of what he terms “legacy media”, one expects that the mainstream reviews have not been flattering. But Ellis has taken a lot of criticism in his time and, no doubt, more of it won’t deter him from creating his art or expressing his opinions.

The final chapter is titled “these days” and it serves as the crescendo for what’s been building since the very first page with its dig at helicopter parents and their snowflake offspring. In “these days”, Ellis shines a bright light on the derangement that began in the USA and Europe on 9 November 2016 when the candidate of the liberal elites was not elected president. He learns that a friend of his has been shunned because he’d talked positively about President Trump on social media and this prompts the question: “Was this really all it took?” The chapter is filled with quotable paragraphs. Here’s one:

“Like me, my friend accepted all ideologies and opinions, even those diametrically opposed to his own, and we noted how many of our friends were living in a bubble, still reeling over the ‘unfairness’ of the election and the perceived evil of the Trump administration, and couldn’t bear to consider a different view — that is, to stand in someone else’s shoes. This was why it seemed to many of us in that summer that the Left was morphing into something it had never been in my lifetime: a morally superior, intolerant and authoritarian party that was out of touch and lacked any coherent ideology beyond its blanket refusal to credit an election in which someone they didn’t approve of had, at least legally, technically, won the White House. The Left had become a rage machine burning itself up: a melting blue bubble dissolving in on itself.”

We’ll return to White another day because Bret Easton Ellis’ views on “the toxic dead-end of identity politics” deserve a post or more. White is a timely book and a welcome antidote to the madness that has gripped the elites and their sycophantic transcriptionists in the media.

White


White IV

Thursday, 9 May, 2019

The way Bret Easton Ellis sees it, what “Generation Wuss” really wants is to be admired. White Only positive feedback, please. No negativity, please. But what’s going to happen to conversation and culture if this becomes the norm? Generation Wuss, by the way, comprises the hyper-sensitive Millennials who have grown up with the internet. As soon as they’re criticized, “they seem to collapse into a shame spiral and the person criticizing them is automatically labelled a hater, a contrarian, a troll.” Because their parents have tried to shield them from the dark side of life, they’ve created a generation “that appears to be super confident and positive about things but when the least bit of darkness enters into their realm they become paralyzed and unable to process it.” In White, Ellis claims that all this has led to an epidemic of self-victimization. Snippet:

“If you’re a Caucasian adult who can’t read Shakespeare or Melville or Toni Morrison because it might trigger something harmful and such texts could damage your hope to define yourself through your victimization, then you need to see a doctor, get into immersion therapy or take some meds. If you feel you’re experiencing ‘micro-aggressions’ when someone asks you where you are from or ‘Can you help me with my math?’ or offers a ‘God bless you’ after a sneeze, or a drunken guy tries to grope you at a Christmas party, or some douche purposefully brushes against you at a valet stand in order to cop a feel, or someone merely insulted you, or the candidate you voted for wasn’t elected, or someone correctly identifies you by your gender, and you consider this a missive societal dis, and it’s triggering you and you need a safe space, then you need to seek professional help. If you’re afflicted by these traumas that occurred years ago, and that is still a part of you years later, then you probably are still sick and in need of treatment. But victimizing oneself is like a drug — it feels so delicious, you get so much attention from people, it does in fact define you, making you feel alive and even important while showing off your supposed wounds, no matter how minor, so people can lick them. Don’t they taste so good?”

Tomorrow, here, our final post about White. It’s all about the hangover psychosis of the liberal identity-obsessed elites. Guess what triggered them? Hint: 8 November 2016.


White III

Wednesday, 8 May, 2019

“I’ve been involved with actors since I was a child, in close proximity from elementary school and high school into adulthood, both professionally and a few times romantically.” Thus begins Bret Easton Ellis his analysis of the acting trade in White, his latest book. Acting is a hard life, says Ellis, because actors want us to want them. That’s why they live in fear because if we don’t like them they won’t get roles and this fear of rejection is at the heart of their neuroses. None of us likes criticism but actors dread it because criticism “means the next job, the next flirtation, maybe the career-changing payday might not happen.” Then social media came along.

White “A long time ago in the faraway era of Empire, actors could protect their carefully designed and enigmatic selves more easily and completely than is possible now, when we all live in the digital land of social media where our phones candidly capture moments that used to be private and our unbidden thoughts can be typed up in a line or two on Twitter. Some actors have become more hidden, less likely to go public with their opinions, likes and dislikes — because who knows where the next job’s coming from? Others have become more vocal, stridently voicing their righteousness, but signalling one’s social-justice virtue isn’t necessarily the same as being honest — it can also be a pose…

… But most of us now lead lives on social media that are more performance based than we ever could have imagined even a decade ago, and thanks to this burgeoning cult of likability, in a sense, we’ve all become actors. We’ve had to rethink the means with which to express our feelings and thoughts and ideas and opinions in the void created by a corporate culture that is forever trying to silence us by sucking up everything human and contradictory and real with its assigned rule book on how to behave. We seem to have entered precariously into a kind of totalitarianism that actually abhors free speech and punishes people for revealing their true selves. In other words: the actor’s dream.”

Tomorrow here, Generation Wuss and the widespread epidemic of self-victimization.


White II

Tuesday, 7 May, 2019

“As a 1970s kid there were no helicopter parents: you navigated the world more or less on your own, an exploration unaided by parental authority.” So writes Bret Easton Ellis about growing up in California’s San Fernando Valley in his latest book, White. It was a different place and a different time. The children and their parents were different, too, and “not at all like parents today who document their children’s every move on Facebook and pose them on Instagram and urge them into safe spaces and demand only positivity while apparently trying to shelter them from everything. If you came of age in the 1970s this was most definitely not your childhood. The world wasn’t about kids yet.”

White The young Ellis roamed the Californian streets, sometimes with friends, sometimes on his own, and he spent a lot of time in cinemas watching movies that had not been made for children. Horror films fascinated him, and he quickly became acquainted with fear, blood, sex, death, pain and loss. Nobody held his hand and he felt quite educated and entertained thanks to Brian De Palma, Diana Rigg and Vincent Price. The directors, the actors and their films said this is how the world works: “you win some, you lose some, this is life.” It was all part of growing up.

“The movies reflected the overall disappointment of adulthood and life itself — disappointments I had already witnessed in my parents’ failing marriage, my father’s alcoholism and my own youthful unhappiness and alienation, which I dealt with and kept processing on my own. The horror movies made in the ’70s didn’t have rules and often lacked the reassuring backstory that explained the evil away or turned it into a postmodern meta-joke. Why did the killer stalk the sorority girls in Black Christmas? Why was Regan possessed in The Exorcist? Why was the shark cruising around Amity? Where did Carrie White’s powers come from? There were no answers, just as there were no concrete connect-the-dots justifications of daily life’s randomness: shit happens, deal with it, stop whining, take your medicine, grow the fuck up. If I often wished the world were a different place, I also knew — the horror movies helped reinforce this — that it never would be, a realization that in turn led me to a mode of acceptance. Horror smoothed the transition from the supposed innocence of childhood to the unsurprising disillusionment of adulthood, and it also served to refine my sense of irony.”

Tomorrow, here, Ellis looks at what happens when actors, with their hunger to seduce and control and be liked, are exposed to criticism on social media.


White I

Monday, 6 May, 2019

Our posts this week will be devoted to White, the latest book by Bret Easton Ellis, the author of Less Than Zero, American Psycho and Lunar Park, to mention just three of his best-selling novels. Talking about the act of writing was something he always avoided, Ellis says in White, “because part of the process was still mysterious to readers, with a kind of secret glamour that added to the excitement with which books were once received, whether negatively or positively.” White is not a novel, however, “because novels don’t engage with the public on that level anymore.”

Ellis says he’d “wistfully noted the overall lack of enthusiasm for the big American literary novels” back in the autumn of 2012, but he felt it wasn’t worth worrying about. “It’s only a fact, just as the notion of the great American studio movie or the great American band had become a smaller, narrower idea.” Then, he hits his stride. Snippet:

“Everything has been degraded by what the sensory overload and the supposed freedom-of-choice-technology has brought to us, and, in short, by the democratization of the arts. I started feeling the need to work my way through this transition — to move from the analog world in which I used to write and publish novels into the digital world we live in now (through podcasting, creating a web series, engaging on social media) even though I never thought there was any correlation between the two.”

Tomorrow, here, Ellis on the value of growing up in world where there were no helicopter parents versus today’s world where children refuse “to grow the fuck up.”

White


Born on 5 May 1919: Séamus Ennis

Sunday, 5 May, 2019

It was Liam O’Flynn who summed up the music of his friend and mentor Séamus Ennis best: “His taste was impeccable. He never aimed to impress by showing off; restraint and elegance were the hallmarks of his piping.”


Pulp Fiction

Sunday, 5 May, 2019

Todd Alcott is a screenwriter and graphic artist. He describes his creative work as Cultural Mashups and Midcentury Madness. Note: Maggie’s Farm is a song written by Bob Dylan and recorded on 15 January 1965. It was released on the album Bringing It All Back Home on 22 March of that year.

Maggie's Farm


Maradona was before Messi

Saturday, 4 May, 2019

It’s Lionel Messi’s world now. His talent seems infinite and he hammered that point home against Liverpool on Wednesday night. And all the while, this mostly modest man remains a mystery. How very different he is to his over-the-top countryman Diego Maradona. The differences will be on display presently at the Cannes Film Festival where Asif Kapadia, the director of the excellent Senna and Amy documentaries, will present his latest work: Diego Maradona.

Blurb: “Having never won a major tournament, ailing football giant SSC Napoli had criminally underachieved. Their fanatical support was unequalled in both passion and size. None was more feared. But how they ached for success… On 5th July 1984, Diego Maradona arrived in Naples for a world-record fee and for seven years all hell broke loose. The world’s most celebrated football genius and the most dysfunctional city in Europe were a perfect match for each other.

Maradona was blessed on the field but cursed off it; the charismatic Argentine, quickly led Naples to their first-ever title. It was the stuff of dreams.

But there was a price… In a city where the devil would have needed bodyguards, Maradona became bigger than God himself. This is the wild and unforgettable story of God-given talent, glory, despair and betrayal, of corruption and ultimately redemption.”

By the way, on 1 May, when Messi was deploying his genius against Liverpool, HBO announced that it had bought the TV and streaming rights to Diego Maradona.


The Last Supper: Nabokov and Leonardo

Friday, 3 May, 2019

The world is marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, artist and inventor. In the town of Vinci in Tuscany, the Museo Leonardiano is exhibiting the artist’s first known drawing, dated 5 August 1473. From 24 May to 13 October, an exhibition will open at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, featuring 200 Leonardo drawings. The Louvre expects huge demand for its da Vinci exhibition in October, urging visitors to book a time slot ahead of their visit and, staying in France, a tapestry based on Leonardo’s Last Supper will be displayed at the Château du Clos Lucé in the Loire Valley, where he spent the final years of his life, between 1516 and 1519. It’s the first time the tapestry has been outside the Vatican museum since the 16th century.

The great writer Vladimir Nabokov was fascinated by The Last Supper and oblique references to the mural can be found throughout his books. In fact, the young Nabokov composed a poem in 1918 entitled, The Last Supper.

The Last Supper

The reflective hour of an austere supper
Prophecies of betrayal and parting
A nocturnal pearl illuminates
the oleander petals.

Apostle leans towards apostle
Christ has silvery hands
Candles pray brightly, and along the table
nocturnal moths crawl.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899 – 1977)

The Last Supper


Hemingway: Getting the words right

Thursday, 2 May, 2019

The backdrop for A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is the Italian campaign of World War I. Published in 1929, it is a first-person account of an American, Frederic Henry, serving as a lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The book became Hemingway’s first best-seller and made him financially independent. The unnamed priest in the novel was based on Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the chaplain of the 69th and 70th regiments of the Brigata Ancona, which fought on the Dolomite Front.

Here, the wounded Frederic Henry is visited in the field hospital by the priest, who comes from Abruzzo, “a place where the roads were frozen and hard as iron, where it was clear and cold and dry and the snow was dry and powdery…” The priest’s soporific talk turns to hunting:

“The peasants all called you ‘Don’ and when you met them they took off their hats. His father hunted every day and stopped to eat at the houses of the peasants. They were always honoured. For a foreigner to hunt he must present a certificate that he had never been arrested. There were bears on the Gran Sasso D’Italia but that was a long way. Aquila was a fine town. It was cool in the summer at night and spring in Abruzzo was the most beautiful in Italy. But what was lovely was the fall to go hunting through the chestnut woods. The birds were all good because they fed on grapes and you never took a lunch because the peasants were always honoured if you would eat with them at their houses. After a while I went to sleep.”

INTERVIEWER: How much rewriting do you do?

HEMINGWAY: It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

INTERVIEWER: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

HEMINGWAY: Getting the words right.

A Farewell to Arms


The stupid cult of Russia & the Latin American Idiot

Wednesday, 1 May, 2019

May Day: The comrades are unfurling their red flags and dreaming of revolution. There will be rallies today for expropriation in Berlin and against capitalism in London.

Which reminds us that it was none other than the great George Orwell who said that “Socialism… smells of machine-worship and the stupid cult of Russia.” And it was the same Orwell who brilliantly described the typical Russian commissar as “half gangster, half gramophone”. Which sounds just like Corbyn. But Orwell wasn’t done. “The fact is that Socialism, in the form in which it is now presented, appeals chiefly to unsatisfactory or inhuman types.” Which sounds just like Maduro.

These withering observations have to be placed in context. Orwell was a lifelong democratic socialist and the context in which he made his remarks was the delivery of The Road to Wigan Pier manuscript in 1937. The book had been commissioned by Victor Gollanzc, who ran the Left Book Club, and its 40,000 members regularly received a work that reflected their beliefs. Gollanzc hoped that a work about poverty in the British Midlands would fit the bill. The first half of Orwell’s book depicted the awful conditions in which the coal miners worked and described the sordid nature of their housing. A clear case for socialism, felt Gollanzc. But it was the second half of the book that upset the apple cart.

Orwell stated plainly that the British working class would never take socialism seriously. The notion of a classless society was a delusion, he wrote. Adding insult to injury, he noted that ordinary people could not identify with the Marxist ideologues because they were objectionable cranks, teetotallers and health-food fanatics. He was particularly scathing of those who peppered their sentences with “notwithstandings” and “heretofores” and got excited when discussing dialectical materialism. Gollanzc was shocked and wanted to publish the first part of the book only, but Orwell was a man of principle, not a gramophone, and he stuck to his guns.

Orwell is gone, but all is not lost. The Peruvian thinker Alvaro Vargas Llosa patrols a similar beat and a decade ago, in “The Return of the Idiot,” he wrote: “European journalists like Ignacio Ramonet and some foreign correspondents for outlets such as Le Nouvel Observateur in France, Die Zeit in Germany, and the Washington Post in the United States, are once again propagating absurdities that shape the opinions of millions of readers and sanctify the Latin American Idiot.” Llosa was on target, especially when noting the curious penchant of Western intellectuals to admire thuggish leaders who sprout anti-American slogans and pay lip service to The People. Interestingly, their admiration for these thugs — Castro, Ortega, Chávez, Morales, Correa, Maduro — somehow never leads the same intellectuals to depart the decadent West for the glories of the Workers’ Paradises.

In the 1993 Fall issue of Dissent, Günter Grass, the German winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999, wrote: “Cubans were less likely to notice the absence of liberal rights…[because they gained]… self respect after the revolution.”

Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s reply was perfect: “Reality check: How would you feel, Günter, about trading your bourgeois liberal rights, including the right to publish, for a bit of Cuban dignity?”

Looking at the misery of those parts of South America then in the hands of the “carnivorous” left, Alvaro Vargas Llosa concluded: “Until the Latin American Idiot is confined to the archives — something that will be difficult to achieve while so many condescending spirits in the developed world continue to lend him support — that will not change.”

But it will. As Sam Cooke sang: “It’s been a long time, a long time coming / But I know a change gonna come.”