Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Privilege at the Classics Cafe"

Rachel K. Jones gives us a parable about unpalatable parts of (cult) classic literature. 


  1. Time period does affect my emotional tabulations of this kind of thing, although in a more relative way... if something is implicitly dismissive or discriminatory as a function of the broader social context of the time, I can make a note and look past it. If something is aggressive and hateful above and beyond that, it doesn't matter how old or how classic it is, I can find plenty of other books to read.

    My book club read Solaris a few months ago. It's very much in the Asimov/Clarke mode of being exclusively concerned with a group of men doing equations and being men because science equals men. I rarely go into fist-shaking feminist rages, having other priorities as I'm reading, but that one really activated that impulse until I realized it was published in 1961. (My copy only had the digital publication date, which I think was 2009.) After that it was like, eh, well, sure.

    Orson Scott Card, by contrast, gets no quarter from me. I honestly do not care how great of a novel or not Ender's Game is, and I'm tired of hearing about how I should look past the artist and appreciate the art. I'm certain I can find other equally compelling books to read without tacitly condoning heterosexist bullshit.

    1. Stanislaw Lem was Polish, I believe. I don't know if that affected his perspective with regards to women participating in Great Things or not.

      I tend to judge people from our own time more harshly too, though some approaches bother me more than others in older books. Even as a kid, I preferred books that were more recent. Why? Because they were more likely to have girls and women doing things that were interesting to me and not being dismissed by the male characters just because of their gender.

  2. Yeah, I found that clicking back through blog posts linked to blog posts and comments and whatnot. It was far enough down the rabbit hole I figured I'd share it.

    I certainly find myself making allowances for time period, and absolutely not pushing people who say "I don't want to read that because it's sexist/racist bullshit", especially when it is, largely, sexist racist bullshit.

    I dunno, I thought it was a fun little analogy, though, and it is something I think about a lot, particularly as I try to catch up on more classics.