Monday, November 11, 2013


Last week’s main difficulties were, surprisingly, directly related to finally becoming acquainted with the literary work, rather than the magazine-rack and newspaper celebrity, of Toni Morrison.  Jane had been assigned Morrison’s famous novel Song Of Solomon in her 11th grade English course and we, endeavoring to be good parents, wanted to discuss it with her. 

My daughter is alternately a direct or a discursive speaker, unpredictably so, and I never know which Jane I’ll be facing.  So, when I asked her what Song Of Solomon was about and she answered “milkman dead,”  I assumed abstraction and digression were the carte du jour.  I have had a lot on my mind and am easily provoked, so when I began to object to the description, Jane, who knows me and “the drill” all too well said: “No.  Dad.  It really is about Milkman Dead,” and she began to explain the whole sorry, wretched, incomprehensibly symbolic story of Song Of Solomon .

During its glory days, before Kurt Anderson and Graydon Carter metamorphosed into the world’s most annoying, pretentious dweebs, Spy magazine used to assign really funny nicknames to the public figures making up its “Rogue’s Gallery.”  One of them was “short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump,” and Spy’s influence over me was so powerful that the next time I sighted Mr. Trump in Manhattan (close up at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room), I immediately checked out his astonishingly short fingers.  But for me, their best insulting description was the one they assigned to the New York Times’ then-managing editor, A.M. Rosenthal, who was dubbed “Abe ‘I’m Writing As Bad As I Can’ Rosenthal.”  No one was ever more deserving of that sobriquet than the late journalist who, by the way, presided over a much better newspaper than the New York Times being published today.

All that being said, Abe’s writing wasn’t nearly as bad as Toni Morrison’s.  Discovering the horrors of Morrison set me off on a quest to see whether: (a) there were others who agreed with me; and (b) given her political/social personage role as quasi-mentor to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (according to this "celebrity round-up" piece (Link), Song Of Solomon is Obama's favorite book, something people familiar with the public relations mechanics behind celebrity round-ups know is arrant nonsense), anyone would be willing to say so in print.

My search was brief and mostly futile – we live in a benighted era of grotesquerie and overpriced dehumanizing cheap thrills – but it turned up this excellent piece by Peter Wood entitled You Too Can Write Like Toni Morrison!(Link), published several years ago in the National Association Of Scholars Journal.   If you have any interest in this subject, and especially if good literary parodies appeal to you, please read it – it hits the nail on the head and is very funny.  The article even contains an unintentional piece of self-parody by the unreadable “performativity”-diva Professor Judith Butler.  A few years ago, I was actually “dropped” by someone I considered a friend because I objected to Professor Butler’s literary style and questioned whether some of the things she seemed to be writing about made sense or were gibberish.  

As I’ve mentioned previously, I was extremely interested in structuralism and semiology in college, and Claude Levi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques autobiography is still a touchstone work for me (read its last paragraph and you will see why), but I found myself lost at post-modernism and post-structuralism, and unimpressed (just call me underinformed or, if you would prefer, stupid and crude) by queer theory.  Crossing over into post-queer theory, then, seemed entirely unnecessary and consequently, Professor A.Parker permanently misplaced my phone number and, gasp, defriended me on Facebook.   

Do read the celebrity round-up.  It's genuinely fun, both for its Pseuds Corner aspect and because it illustrates the genuine Star Quality confidence of the fine movie actor John Travolta, who selected Arthur Hailey’s wonderful Airport as his favorite book.

Call me Ozymandias (Shelley’s fair copy manuscript page illustrates this post) for my short-sightedness, impotence and irrelevancy in and to the universe.  Call me Ishmael.  Just don’t call me Milkman.


  1. Hello Mister Craven I am remembering what you tell me I know you know of Tuesday, I and Acme Explosives is soon together meet, it be relief hear I am wanting to agree say penthouse me style. The reminding can’t wait the hurry of it. Am agree Judith Butler sentences that fit not a language but the back of a bus in which capital is understood to torture social relations in relatively homologous ways to a rosier view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and delicate rearticulation bringing the question of temporality into the thinking of exquisite nostril when a dog’s profile plays on the steam of a kettle. I explain.

    1. Yes, that's about the size and shape of it. I didn't immediately recognize Peter Wood's name and associate the National Association of Scholars journal with the conservative campus watchdogs busy attacking the Bowdoin College curriculum (among other intiatives), but I was pleased to find someone willing to address this. Jane just found the novel "draggy" and the teach-the-symbols-by-numbers pedagogy didn't spark the greater interest in literature we've been hoping for. She recently told me a funny story about our move to Pennsylvania when she was 10. Our big grocery store chain is ACME and Caroline and I were always saying things like "what do we need at the ACME?" or "Are you going to the ACME?" Jane only knew ACME from Roadrunner cartoons and said she was really disturbed by this, thinking that it was basically a dynamite store. I think she's over it now, but I doubt she'll ever be over it. It's like the Susanne Pleshette commercial in the Ron Padgett poem this morning. Things seep in. I hope Toni Morrison and Judith Butler seep out. Curtis