Sunday, June 4, 2017

Great Moments in Brooksology

From the Buch der Natur of Konrad von Megenberg (1308-74) as printed at Augsburg in 1481, via Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Symbolforschung.
That was an exciting week, when Tuesday Brooks's clannishness column gave me an opportunity for a hard-boiled dick parody and Friday Brooks for a Full Driftglass, as they say, and Drifty himself went Full Yas, with a cunning argument that the Brooks column as a literary form should be treated as genre fiction in its own right. Speaking of literary forms, an actual great novelist stepped into the Brooksological arena: Gish Jen, a wonderful writer, in a letter to the Times on the Tuesday column:

Mr. Brooks’s conflation of clannishness with “family-first devotion” and “loyalty to kith and kin” is also problematic. In fact, clannishness is only a subset of family-based social orders; a great many people believe in self-sacrifice and putting family first yet feud with no one. And does Mr. Kushner’s family even fit Mr. Brooks’s definition of clannishness?
Are we to conclude that Mr. Kushner’s family built “a barrier between family — inside the zone of trust — and others, outside that zone” when Mr. Kushner’s uncle maneuvered to have Mr. Kushner’s father jailed and when Mr. Kushner’s zone of trust appears to include the Russians?
On the subject, commenter Jumpin Jehosephat was complaining, not without some justification, about all the Brooks the other day:
The Fall Of House Harkonnen is going on around our ears, in real time - why should I give a shit about David Brooks? Taking him down a notch is necessary work, I'll grant, but I don't agree that it's as important as all the hubbub would suggest. Watching the Baron fail his ongoing gom jabbar is the real "Must-See TV."
I haven't dealt with this question—why indeed?—for a while, so I thought I'd just put down a few words.

First, for Driftglass, I think, Brooks, along with Sullivan and Fournier and Matthew Dowd and the rest of the Bothsiderist Caucus, belongs to literally a worse, more corrupting force than the open movement conservatives; the latter are such fools and clowns, compared to the conservatives of the past, who at least had a little personal dignity and classical education, that it would be impossible for the world to take them seriously without the Bothsiderists coming out at every turn to say, "Yes, but the left..." It's the thinking that has given us Trump ("true, he's an ignorant, vicious, corrupt psychopath, but what about her emails?"), and these people still have extremely lucrative jobs, in which they are paid to spend their time pretending they had nothing to do with it. It's a moral outrage, especially when somebody with Drifty's talent and integrity can't get a gig.

Second, for me, I'm in it for the shits 'n' giggles, and it's fun. Which everybody needs.

Or, part of me becoming a writer. I've described it before as a kind of exercise added to the morning routine on Tuesdays and Fridays: see what Brooks did today and make something out of it, no matter how stupid and boring it looks. Precisely because the stakes are so low—I don't think he has any real influence any more, it's not important to combat his thinking—I can concentrate on the form of it, and it builds up my skill.

The value to me is also in terms of knowledge. I can't tell you how much I've learned over the past five years just by assuming that whatever Brooks says must be wrong at some level. Then you get to learn it too, if you like, as you watch me doing my stylistic pushups and stretches.

And the other thing is it really does get audience, as everybody in Brooksology knows, from Mr. Pierce on down to us peasants. Everybody hates Brooks, and loves to read about what a dirtbag and crappy writer he is, who knows why? But for me in particular attention is what I get paid in.

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