Allow me to get something off my chest and then pose a question. I wasn’t really planning on reading this Cristina Nehring “Books Make You a Boring Person” article as so many had panned it (see Dan Green’s evisceration of it in particular). But then I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It turns out it is clichÃ© and obviousness dressed up as sophistication. Apparently books are not an uncorrupted moral good but rather inanimate objects or tools that can be used for good or ill. Amazing no?!
But that is not what I wanted to get into, but rather one sentence in the piece that pissed me off. In the course of discussing how books can be bad or good Nehring offers this sentence:
You can learn to be a suicide bomber, a religious fanatic or, indeed, a Bush supporter as easily as you can learn to be tolerant, peace-loving and wise.
Please excuse my hyper-sensitivity but why must the author include a Bush supporter along side suicide bombers and religious fanatics and then compare them to tolerant, peace-loving and wise people? Why the gratuitous dig? Forgive me if I assume that Nehring is a snobby, leftist, pinhead who assumes she is morally superior to our current president. Was she really trying to get in a dig at Bush or was she just saying something she took for granted was true? Has the sort of idiotic moral equivalency now become par for the course on the left? Is it just me? That line seems like a slimy slam to me.
Indeed, I must admit that (as I have mentioned here before, probably to your annoyance) these kind of digs and worse are scattered across the left leaning literary blogosphere (if that is not redundant) and they occasionally get on my nerves. Notice the recent spat of posts on the forthcoming Nicholson Baker novella that includes discussion of assassinating President Bush (see here, here, here). Do you think the reaction would be the same if say a conservative evangelical wrote a book about assassinating Bill Clinton? Interesting that lefty favorite Gerhard Schroeder had a book that involved assassination of the German leader quashed and nobody seems to think he is evil reincarnated. Does anyone really think Bush will attempt to prevent the book from being published? Does anyone think Bush will attempt to arrest or in some way intimidate the author? I don’t think so, but there are plenty on the left who seem to think that John Ashcroft and George Bush are book burners out to destroy freedom as we know it.
Okay enough of that, here is the question: Do you think authors and journalists covering books risk alienating a large group of people with their politics? It seems to me that much of popular culture is dominated by people on the left (admitted large generalization). In particular, do literary fiction authors risk alienating people by becoming politically active (see here or here)? Or is the culture such that the authors and their intended audience are coming from the same perspective and therefore there is a synergy rather than a risk?
Obviously, I am more conservative than most of the literary bloggers I read and equally obviously, I hope, I don’t make literary choices on politics. I am just wondering if anyone thinks this has an impact.