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April 03, 2008


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::raises hand::

I read atlas shrugged to impress a boy when I was 17, you know. (if you did not, it certainly does not surprise you, natch) which, what about hot pants or halter tops, I know. but, listen. since then I have found out that the number of women just like me who also read Ayn Rand to impress a boy just like him is in the zillions! and wtf? why? when we are all so foxy and milf-y and married to engineers supporting us in the manner to which we have become extraordinarily accustomed! not to mention the grace noes of still getting picked up by 25-year-olds when we're having coffee without our children! and where are those men now? for whom we read Ayn Rand? blech. working at the new republic. (or the nation ...) right. whatever. and they don't even have yr 16-inch biceps, love. know yr strengths!


oh, plus about the nyt piece, which I just caught up on, sitting in the recycling pile, those people don't get to be all snobby about who reads what, because people who like to read will read anything. everything! and never talk about it! xo

Patrick Banks

Hmmm. Speaking of Ayn Rand, a friend of mine has a great review of The Fountainhead up on Facebook: "Seemed like a good idea in ninth grade."

The taint wore off (obviously) and he's engaged to be married these days.

Doug M.

Rand: remember that her female protagonists are all attractive (and in the same way -- slender, athletic), successful, and the cynosure of all eyes. Some heavy Mary Sueing in those books (it's the least of her literary sins), along with... what is it when you give your Mary Sue the relationship you /think/ you want?

We agree on Flannery O'Connor. I remember when she first clicked for me: I was 22. Devoured everything of hers I could find in a few days, and... that was all.

I seem to lack the Tolstoy gene. It's been 15 years since the last attempt, though, so I should probably try again. The Solzhenitzyn is closer to the top of the stack, though.

Delany is usually just a wee bit too self-aware for me. And too much capital-W Writing. I see and acknowledge the very real talent, but it leaves me cold.

Random: I am currently rereading _To The Lighthouse_. God that is a painful book. I know that part of it is my own personal baggage, but still: this is what it's like to lose someone, in meticulous and clinical detail. /Offhand/ detail.

Tangent: Britain in the 1930s! Okay, who were the major writers from that period who were _not_ female, Catholic, deeply neurotic, or gay? If not two or three together.

Doug M.

Dennis Brennan


A.A. Milne.
C.S. Lewis.
C.S. Forester. G.K. Chesterton.(although maybe neurotic, but in a cheerful sort of way). (Hmm. A pattern of initials in place of names.)

George Bernard Shaw. (Maybe another close call on the neurotic).

Aldous Huxley.

Bertrand Russell.

Robert Graves.

Whatsisname who wrote "A History of the English Speaking Peoples". Won the 1953 Nobel Prize.


Um. I'm pretty sure Chesterton was Catholic.

Robert Graves in the 1930s was shacked up with the poet Laura Riding, who liked wearing a tiara made with her name on it, and once threw herself off a roof for no very good reason. Scarred him for life.

Huxley in the 1930s was susceptible to any fad that passed his way, and he spent half the decade in Taos and Hollywood, which may have had more fads per capita then than now.

Russell? I don't know if you'd call his compulsive bed-hopping neurotic, but he married his children's governess in the 1930s, which is several negative points for style.

C.S. Lewis, I don't even want to start. Neurotic and gay would have been an improvement.

That historian wasn't having a very good decade either (glug glug).

Andrew R.

Carlos, re: CSL, I have to ask you to elaborate a bit. I mean, his ideas about women were, well, the ideas that you'd expect of an Oxbridge don whose only real contact with the female of the species was his... interesting relationship with Jane Moore and wives at faculty parties. Are you thinking about other things?


Sure. In 1931, Lewis famously converted to Christianity... but despite whatever growth or consolation it may have given the inner man, for the public persona of Jack Lewis, it was a gleeful upgrade of his bully stick.

(Tolkien was dismayed that Lewis turned to the C of E instead of Catholicism -- the proximate cause of Lewis's conversion was a conversation he had with Tollers and Hugo Dyson -- but at the time, Lewis considered Tolkien a B-list friend. And it didn't prevent Jack from calling Tolkien a Papist.)

You can see this immediately, with 1933's The Pilgrim's Regress, though I think the classic example of Lewis's intellectual dishonesty would be his, "Look, either Jesus Christ was the Son of God, or he was a gibbering madman, and there is no in between! Why? Because I, C.S. LEWIS, said so!" I believe that would be a sin against the Holy Ghost in some theologies. But I could pick other examples from his apologetics.

Then there's That Hideous Strength, which shows Lewis in full culture warrior mode. (My favorite implication of THS? that the *republic* as a form of human government is not only Fallen, but Satanic. who has the bloodline to be King of America?) H.G. Wells -- Horace Jules -- should have sued.

Yet Lewis had the capacity to be a fine and perceptive critic. I mean, I have his volume of OHEL. He could be eloquent and nuanced and, most importantly, fair in his readings and his arguments in the service of his scholarship; but in the service of his faith, he chose to be otherwise: a professional asshole.

He didn't figure it out till the Davidman years.

And this is setting aside Mrs. Moore and Lewis's difficulties in relating to strangers with breasts.

Nich Hills

Carlos wrote:

'I think the classic example of Lewis's intellectual dishonesty would be his, "Look, either Jesus Christ was the Son of God, or he was a gibbering madman, and there is no in between! Why? Because I, C.S. LEWIS, said so!"'

Ah. The famous Lewis trilema. Although, as the name suggests, Jack offered a third stark alternative, that Jesus was EVIL, EVIL FROM THE DAWN OF TIME!! for deliberately misrepresenting himself as God.

Where the trilema breaks down is, of course, that nowhere in the gospels of Mark, Matthew or Luke does Jesus claim to be the second person of the Trinity. But as I lived through all the Christology debates of the 1960s, and Lewis didn't, I wouldn't presume to suggest that Jack was being intellectually dishonest. I merely observe that his trilema nowadays is discredited in theological circles.

Andrew R.

I only have a brief comment this morning, namely a quibble in your timeline. I think that his change of attitude came before Joy--it was much more likely that it came from his getting schooled while debating Elizabeth Anscombe in the Socratic Club.


Nich, I don't think you need to have studied Christology for this one. Christopher Hitchens could make the same argument as Lewis, though he would doubtless reach a different conclusion.

It's not an argument designed to advance discussion, but to stifle it, and Lewis, having studied the forms of rhetoric as deeply as anyone in the twentieth century, surely knew this.

Andrew, ooh. Good point. It certainly shut him up for a bit.


Incidentally, this thread kind of shows exactly why I am so screwed.


I'm not sure how to respond gracefully or without sounding like I'm trying to be sarcastic, but thanks for taking the time to answer my query.

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