08 March 2008

Sold the Buick

Today, a post-flu set of miscellany. Tomorrow, some not-very-nice comments on the latest (or, at least, most recently revealed) pseudomemoir.

  • In one of the more disturbing relics of McCarthyism that one might find, California requires teachers — even at the university level — to sign a loyalty oath. When a Quaker wanted to modify the rather unconditional oath so that it didn't require her to participant in violence, she got fired. Fortunately, rationality prevailed and she was rehired after being assured that the oath as written did not require participation in violence. So, instead of firing high government officials for corruption, we fire teachers for actually reading what they're being asked to sign.
  • On a slightly less repulsive level — but only slightly — one finds that the question of who really "owns" artifacts just won't go away. This could get really ugly in some other circumstances. Imagine, for the moment, somewhere just downstream of Baghdad one finds previously unknown Babylonian-period artifacts — perhaps even the writing on the wall (which, if Americans find it, will be unrecognized due to our traditional disdain for languages). The most-common analysis would be that these artifacts "belong" to Iraq... but Islam has done everything in its power to reject the entire Babylonian era, with varying degrees of success, and it is after all a Jewish legend.
  • Over at GalleyCat, Ron Hogan remarks on perceptions regarding the alleged lack of "successful" short-fiction writers. The real problem is the scope of who is considered a "short-fiction writer"... or, rather, what really qualifies as "short fiction." The recent death of Alain Robbe-Grillet should have presented an opportunity for reflection, but it hasn't. There are actually plenty of "successful" short-fiction writers out there, even aside from the ones Ron mentions; it's just that they tend to labor in so-called "genre fiction," and therefore are not considered "successful" by the so-called "mainstream." And that, too, calls for reconsideration of Robbe-Grillet.

    I suspect that some of the "mainstream" thinks of speculative fiction, in particular, as including lots and lots of hot alien and/or demon sex. Perhaps; whatever it does include has to be better than lit'rary depictions of sex. I still remember the class's laughter when the professor read passages from Lady Chatterly's Lover aloud and asked if it matched our 70s-era sensibilities...

  • I won't pretend that everything is wonderful for writers in the internet age. Although some believe it might be possible to use the 'net to support high literature, others (rightly) worry about getting paid. That is, after all, what the individual rights approach to literature and the arts requires. Even in Italy, which hosted the historical high point of the patronage system by the late Renaissance. There may be some indications that consumers want to pay creators for downloads, but whether any payment that consumers make will find its way to the creators remains to be seen; it doesn't work all that well in the present system!
  • Last for today, consider the relationship between copyeditors and grammar. Especially if you've ever had either an exceptionally good or exceptionally bad copyeditor...