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Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Philip Roth Mini-Seminar

Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 08/28/05 at 05:05 PM

Plot_against_americaFor the next few days the Valve will host a mini-seminar on Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America.  I kicked around some ideas about Roth’s ambiguously acknowledged debt to Sinclair Lewis‘s It Can’t Happen Here yesterday.  I’ll post a completed version of that post when, well, when I complete it to my satisfaction.  Also, I entreat readers who want to write a substantial response to either the novel or our criticism of it to send me an email.  You could be the Valve’s next “Guest Author.”

(Also, how does everyone feel about the visual accompaniment?  I think it makes the discussion seem more substantial, more material.  And maybe even topical: “See that thing?  Right thereThat is the current topic of conversation.  Should you wish to continue swapping marmalade recipes, I request you please do it here.  Sincerely Yrs., The Topicality Nazi.")



Probably as good a place to start as any.  There was also this:


By Matt on 08/28/05 at 08:06 PM | Permanent link to this comment

A bit of historical trivia. Charles Lindbergh came from Minnesota, where his father had been a populist politician. In 1932 the left-populist (socialist) Farmer-Labor Party took power in Minnesota, and in 1936 FL Congressman John Bernard was the only Congressman to actively support the Spanish Republic against Franco. But in 1942 FL Senator Lundeen was implicated in German propaganda activities.

So the 30’s really were pretty volatile, especially in Minnesota.

By John Emerson on 08/28/05 at 08:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Roth has an appendix to his novel where he outlines the true history of political and media figures like Lindbergh, Walter Winchell, FDR, and Fiordello LaGuardia during 1940-45.

In the appendix, there is the distinct suggestion there that one of the reasons Lindbergh admired Hitler was the strength of the 3rd Reich’s aviation program. He was also of course a major anti-Semite, but the technology fetish was also a factor, it seems.

More tomorrow!

By Amardeep on 08/28/05 at 10:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Notice who doesn’t get a mention in said appendix?  Sinclair Lewis.  More tomorrow!

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 08/28/05 at 10:33 PM | Permanent link to this comment

If anybody out there reads German, there’s what seems to be a fascinating interview with Roth at Die Zeit:

(My German’s pretty basic, but I was at a lecture recently where sections of it were translated, and it was provocative.)

By Matt Cheney on 08/29/05 at 12:03 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Here’s the historical question we should ask ourselves (and settle) before buying Roths’ newest potboiler; what did Lindbergh really know about the nazis? (since the book seems to be based on the assumption that “Lindbergh was a nazi"). He did accept a medal from Reichmarshall Goering in ‘38 I believe and did not return it after the nazis invaded poland and the concentration camps were exposed. That may not be very ethical, but certainly does not put him in Goering’s league. I’m not a Lindbergh expert, but there is little evidence in popular bios that indicates that Lindbergh supported “Lebensraum” or genocide or the nazis after ‘39. (And some anti-semitism does not equal genocide supporter). HE did in fact attempt to volunteer for WWII combat and was involved in some attacks against the japanese.

By snake on 08/29/05 at 01:43 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m sorry that Amardeep closed comments on his own entry, as I was under the impression that we ought to be able to discuss each entry freely.  However, I’ve posted my own reaction at [address erased to so as not to reward John Bruce for his pointless and misinformed attack on Amardeep’s person and character].

By on 08/29/05 at 05:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

After reading Mr. Bruce’s both un- and misinformed rant about Amardeep’s post and Roth’s novel--of which Bruce will no doubt now read a little more so that he might snip passages which, out of context, misrepesent Roth’s novel but refute the straw man he’s made of Amardeep’s argument--I’ve taken the editorial initiative and edited his comment.  If you would like to read Bruce’s nonsense, feel free to track it down on your own.  For now, let me present a sample:

Amardeep wrote:

Alongside the entertaining (and sometimes uncanny) comparison between the real President Bush and the imagined President Lindbergh, there is a distinctly American politics of fear that maps quite directly to the crackdown on Muslim immigrants taking place in the U.S. today under the USA Patriot Act.

Bruce responded:

Huh? Let me see. The real President Bush is an isolationist, like Lindbergh. Bush is against sending US troops abroad, right? In fact, Bush, like Lindbergh, is against listening to the Jews and joining the British in a foreign war, an unnecessary adventure cooked up by the Jews to serve their own interests. Do I have this right? Why, the comparison between Lindbergh and Bush is simply uncanny! And there’s a politics of fear directed agaisnt Muslims in the US—sorry, Amardeep; if you mean to equate the circumstances of US Muslims after 9/11 to the traditional circumstances of European Jews, up to and including the Holocaust, that dog won’t hunt.

Amardeep’s analogy is between the fictional circumstances in Roth’s novel and the contemporary crackdown on Muslim immigrants in the U.S. today, not, as Bruce offers, between the current situation of Muslims and the traditional circumstances of European Jews.  To paint Amardeep’s argument otherwise is to demonstrate 1) that you don’t understand the terms of the analogy (quite possibly because you haven’t read the book) or 2) or that you’re deliberately misrepresenting said terms to score empty and dishonest rhetorical points.  (Note further that Bruce conflates

This isn’t to say that Amardeep’s correct to consider this novel an allegorical account of post-9/11 America.  My entry--which I’ll post whenever I can recover the 90% of it from my currently non-functional computer--will take issue with that account.  But there’s a distinct difference between the approach I’ll take to refuting allegorical claims for the novel (though not necessarily Amardeep’s, since I wrote most of my entry before reading Amardeep’s) and the sort of character assassination Bruce does.  (Another example: he attacks Amardeep for cross-posting his entry to his own site and the Valve.  How egotistical could Amardeep be! Or maybe he treats he thinks that some of his readers don’t read the Valve.  Long Sunday, for example, links to Amardeep’s site but not the Valve.  No, never...)

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 08/29/05 at 08:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Snake, I removed the URL because 1) Bruce treats traffic like heroin, and there’s no reason to encourage his habit, and 2) because he doesn’t honestly question the terms of Amardeep’s argument so much as rip it from its context, mischaracterize it and then use that decontextualized mischaracterization as grounds for character assassination.

I think Good-Snake knows better than anyone know that when a comment is critical but sincere and productive, it need not fear deletion.  (When Bad-Snake insults other posters and commenters with juvenile sexual taunts, however, he should fear deletion.  I believe both Snakes know this well.)

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 08/29/05 at 08:29 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Singh does suggest that Roth’s fictional story of jewish Americans in the late 30s/40s “maps, quite directly” the crackdown on Muslim immigrants “taking place in the U.S. today under the USA Patriot Act.” Does he mean Jewish Americans were subject to such crackdowns in the 30s? If so obviously he is wrong; if he means only that the novel suggests that in terms of fiction, then I think that is sort of equivocal and questionable in terms of a fictional device (i.e seems more like agit-prop of some type). If Singh means jewish people in Germany in the 30s he is also wrong and also guilty of a gross and quite unethical exaggeration. In a sense these issues point to a real problem of taking literary texts as some sort of casebook or pseudo-history (English scholars hereabouts most likely realize that but the truth status of lit. is something which is generally overlooked). Bruce may have been a bit harsh, but his points were cogent and well-stated; what’s more troubling is that a reasoned, skeptical response like Bruce’s is simply disregarded if not mocked. Current leftist academics, instead of thinking about bo-ring freedom of expression issues as everyone did back in the 60s and 70s, are now worried about saving face or some trivial aesthetic point, and they tend to reach quickly for the delete button (just as they do when something nonPC is sent to a journal in hopes of getting published).  Whatever, it’s your joint, but the little spat shows how discourse is being manipulated by both right and “left” in blogland. In the old gonzo newsgroup days, such control freakism as yours Scottski, would be labeled far right conservatism. Why not be real leftists and allow unmoderated dialogue, full of profane language
(like the language in those old obscene books by Miller or Mailer that you value) and featuring unsentimental, even uncivil criticism instead of the tea-shoppe chat. I’ll wager Normie Mailer would concur.

[btw there’s no Bad nor Good Snake, but there is Big, Mean Snake.]

By snake on 08/29/05 at 09:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Does he mean Jewish Americans were subject to such crackdowns in the 30s?

Have you read the novel, Snake, or is all this moral grandstanding based on ignorance?  I think “crackdown” is maybe not the precisely right word, but Roth imagines a combination of limited, but scarily illiberal state action and social prejudice motivated by fear and anger that is enough to ruin the lives of the vulnerable.  Perhaps you noticed, this is an alternate history.  There’s no suggestion by Roth or Singh that the events described in the past actually happened.

btw there’s no Bad nor Good Snake, but there is Big, Mean Snake

Doubtful.  But as you say, yours and Bruce’s posts point to a real problem--the confirmation bias of zealots.

By on 08/30/05 at 07:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Delete without guilt, guys! This is your place.

For me, the advantage of the internet is that it allows me to get past the professional gatekeepers. But on the other hand, John Bruce and the Troll of Sorrow also get past.

Borderline-personality trolls are expert at explaining why you have to pay attention to them, but they’re wrong. You don’t have to pay attention to them. There’s no free-speech issue and no fairness issue.

“Real leftists”, whom Snake doesn’t like anyway, do not allow unmoderated dialogue. The guy argues like a teenager, picking up everything he can find to throw at you.

By John Emerson on 08/30/05 at 08:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Rth s chsy, tw-bt gg wrtr wh’s bn tryng t b “srs” wrtr fr yrs, bt lss pwrfl thn Wdy lln, nd wldn’t py wht yr mm gts fr, m, cr dt fr hs “bks.” Y’r fllwng sm bgs prty ln whr nythng spwd t by th bg pblshng hss r by vy lg nrtcs hs tmtc vl. n fct PK Dck wrt n ltrtv hstry (Mn n th Hgh Cstl) dcds g whch m sr s bth mr ntrstng nd mr rtnl thn Rth’s vrsn.

Mrvr, t s y tht s stpng t th jvnl nd t th prdctbl lttl sndy schl mrxst thcs. Brc smply pntd t th bvs rrrs n Sngh’s “rsnng”, (Bsh ds nt ql Lndbrgh, nd th S-Mslm sttn s nt qvlnt t ll t th jwsh ppl’s sttn n 30s) bt yr PC--mtr snsd sm frc thr, sm “nt fllwng prty ln” nd gt scrd. 

(nd f y wnt t ply th slly “crd.” gm, sspct hv s mny grdt phl. nd lt crdts s mst f y, s hgh s GPS, nd s dcnt GR scrs( prhps srpssng ths f Sngh--f h ddn’t brb hs wy t f tkng ‘m)

Th dltn/cnsr plcy shld, f nythng, b bsd nt n yr trvl d hmnms r PCnss bt n lgc nd frc f rgmnt, nd n trms f lgc Snghs’ rgmnts/nlgs wr mrly cnjctrl f nt cmpltly ff th mrk. Strp wy th strbcks dlgy nd Brc chckmtd n lss thn 15 mvs.

By snake on 08/30/05 at 09:47 AM | Permanent link to this comment

What a worthless person you are, Jake. What a wasted life—and you’re still so young!

Bragging about GRE scores is a loser’s game—you should have figured that out by now. It’s like bragging about your high school grades.

No one here thinks you’re dumb, but we worry about your mental health—especially since it may impact others, given your propensity for threats.

By John Emerson on 08/30/05 at 10:21 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Cnfrmtn bs thgh, tht’s gd ‘n. Fght Cnfrmtnsm!  Wh crs bt th trth f wht smn mght rg, s lng s t’s stbl fr th Bkhrn T Rm.  Whtvr. Y’r hdng twrds Lng Sndy r gch lk gt prp. Myb cll sm f th crzy frnch r ngl brds frm LS t wrt sm stff n Lcn r Fclt wth sm ndgy “mndng” lk bts nd y’ll b st, cmrd.

(dlt ftr rdng)

By on 08/30/05 at 10:23 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Shakes, Snake, and Jake: 

Surely some one of your intelligence can recognize the distinction between confirmation and confirmation bias, even if in practice you have a hard time telling them apart.

By on 08/30/05 at 10:33 AM | Permanent link to this comment

sn shwn prwn:

n thnk y hv n sthtcs bs-dsrdr whch y prvnts y frm dlng wth th stts f th clm/nlgy/rgmnt pt frth.

Brc’s pnts wr nt s hrsh r ngtv.  dn’t knw th mn, dnt cr t, bnt d thnk th rsn hs RL ws dltd ws nt bcs f hs rgmnts (whch d srt f rft Snghs pnts r t lst cll thm nt qstn) bt bcs f sm prcvd slght t nslt whch ws nt rly th ss.  Yr t tm

By phakes on 08/30/05 at 11:05 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Here is a terrific 1st time novel that fans of Roth will like. SWAP by Sam Moffie.

By on 04/06/07 at 07:21 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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