“you heard the governor, HARRUMPH.”

So I don’t write much these days. You know why? It gets SO UNBEARABLY HOT in these parts I think it’s just turning my brain into blood pudding. I’ll be surprised if I can remember to put on pants in the morning by the end of summer.

Anyway, so as not to tax my little pudding-brain this will be an open-commenty kind of thing. So, readers (all six of you): is there an author that is widely beloved by most of the people in your social circle who you just cannot stand at all? Why is that?

There’s a few that come to mind for me, actually: Chuck Palahniuk (writes the same book, over and over, with no eye for detail or characterization), Hakim Bey (fucking awful headache-inducing writing style combined with creepy affection for adolescent boys), Charles Bukowski (I don’t give a tinker’s damn about your sex life or your drinking habits or your shitty, tedious poetry that you think is blowing my mind because it centers around the aforementioned things). Probably the most prominent one is Derrick Jensen. Which is kind of funny, because I think he actually does construct convincing arguments a lot of the time. It’s just that he seems so damned smug about them I usually just end up wanting to sock him in the jaw. I also have no love for how he writes about indigenous cultures. While it’s not garden-variety “noble savage” nonsense, since he actually does bother to differentiate between different cultures and note that various levels of stratification exist/have existed within them (pointing to the Aztec and Inka cultures as example), it doesn’t seem that far off to me sometimes. I mean, I can acknowledge that maybe warfare in the medieval-era Americas wasn’t quite as brutal as warfare in medieval-era Europe (for example, it was unheard of for Native Americans to use rape as a weapon of war), and that there’s something to be said about that as far as how Western civilization has modeled warfare vs. how other cultures have done so, but saying that the warfare of indigenous peoples resembles/resembled “an exhilarating form of play”? Dude. Really?

I also was just skimming the graphic novel he co-wrote and there’s some lengthy bit in there about how psychiatrists are just trying to get us to fall in line with The System, blah blah blah. Where have I heard that before? Oh, right, from myself and other people when we were trying to justify not treating what ended up being some serious mental-health issues. Mine came pretty close to ripping my life apart before I decided to dock myself a few radical points and do something about it. I guess not constantly being shut up in my room crying makes me a tool of the man. Darn.

Anyway, it’s hot and I’m grouchy and I’m in exactly the kind of mood for this sort of thing, so pour on the Haterade!

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~ by Smellen on August 8, 2010.

12 Responses to ““you heard the governor, HARRUMPH.””

  1. jessica valernti & michelle tea. a million times ugh. also, dave eggers.

    • I actually haven’t met that many people who are really into Jessica Valenti, at least not since I graduated college. I don’t understand why anyone would be, given that she doesn’t really say anything new. People seem to get really excited about her use of vernacular, but she’s hardly the first one to do so. For example: bell hooks uses vernacular all the time, and also she doesn’t seem to think typing the words “puke” and/or “fuck that” is a good response to a sexist argument.

      And I am pretty sure that Michelle Tea is as popular as she is because she writes about a very specific demographic that is under-represented in most fiction. I think I read maybe three pages of Valencia and just couldn’t get past all the forced-sounding references to various feminist-lady bands. Yeah, I listen to those folks too, but dropping their names doesn’t make me want to read your tedious writing.

  2. Amen to Palahniuk, Bukowski, and Eggars. Add Bret Easton Ellis, John Zerzan, Kerouac and Ginsberg (with a few exceptions). The latter two have provoked raised eyebrows and audible gasps, but face it, the majority of their work just wasn’t that good. Enormously influential, granted, but that’s another discussion. If you had been around them during “On The Road,” you’d have thought they were a bunch of self-indulgent jerks.

    I’ll give Kerouac “The Dharma Bums” and “Desolation Angels” – the most giddy and poignant of anything he did, right as the disillusion began to set in.

    • oh, John Zerzan. I am torn between wanting to read more of his stuff (whatever one may think of him, he has been quite influential in American anarchist/radical circles), and remembering that the Zerzan ultra-fans I’ve met have been some of the most fucking irritating people I’ve ever encountered. Oh, and his conception of language as something only humans use seems really silly and short-sighted.

      And yes to your opinion of the Beats. “Self-indulgent jerks” seems about right. I liked them a lot when I was younger, but then again I was a self-indulgent jerk back then too.

  3. YES on Derrick Jensen. I feel like I should love him, because I tend to agree with the things he says, but he’s so goddamned smug that whenever I’m finished reading an essay of his, I feel like driving a Humvee around in circles for hours while eating baby seal topped with processed cheese and spraying DDT over everything I see.

  4. Smugness aside, which of Derrick Jensen’s arguments do you find convincing? Just curious, which of his books have you read?
    Is there any reason why you’ve lumped Jensen, Palahniuk, and Bukowski together, except for the fact that you don’t like their work?

    I also would like to point out that while Jensen’s depiction of the mental health system might not resonate with you, it certainly falls in line with some of my experiences with particularly bad therapists and mental health practitioners. I’m sure that I’m not alone on this one, either.

    • I thought his meditation on what a “hate crime” is was very useful – I’ve seen far too many people conclude that racial/class/gender/whatever injustice is based on personal feelings of hate, which both simplifies the issue and ignores its social implications. And I do like that he makes fun of pacifist-at-any-cost liberals, even if he does do so rather smugly.

      And no, there is no similarity between him and the authors I disliked other than the fact that I dislike. In fact, I’d imagine Jensen would have some rather disdainful things to say about Bukowski’s repeated, desperate assertions of his own tough-guy masculinity.

      Also, while I am not going to argue your experience with terrible mental-health practitioners, I would like to offer my own experience with radical communities that romanticized or dismissed issues of mental health. Really, it’s two sides of the same terrible coin, and I think Jensen should have been more aware of that when he wrote that particular bit. It just sounded like he was saying “depressed? Well, the world is terrible, so of course you’re depressed” without recognizing that many people get upset over the terrible state of the environment and global politics and yet don’t want to kill themselves or drink themselves into a stupor seven times a week. Do horrific sociopolitical circumstances play a part in mental illness? Sure. Are they the sole cause? Of course not. To imply otherwise is simplistic, dismissive, and offensive to people with mental health issues. I mean, you’re basically saying their condition is imaginary.

  5. HELL FUCKING YEAH ON JENSEN. i just drudged through endgame part one and i had a lot of the same gripes with it. plainly, i don’t think he’s a very good writer, and i get sick of reading “so just last night i was reading the paper and…” or “i JUST got off the phone with my best friend and here’s a six-page letter that a well-known professor wrote to me on how awesome i am”. and i definitely skipped through the pages-long excerpts of his other books that he sprinkles throughout endgame.

    the way he uses anything or anyone that is indigenous or brown to justify his beliefs and experiences is irritating. he’ll express a belief and then mention how his Maori or Native American friend was sitting right there with him agreeing with it. that’s all fine, but as a brown person and as a human being on this earth i’m insulted that he plays on liberal whites’ glorification of brown and native cultures to lend “credibility” to anything he says. brown people and indigenous people can have bad ideas and behaviors just like white people, and fuck derrick jensen for saying, “see? he’s indian, he said it was cool!”

    i’d add henry miller to the list of authors i can’t stand, although it’s mostly been dudes in my experience that dig it and girls that are repulsed by his disgusting attitudes towards women.

    • Wow, apparently Endgame is a step down from his other stuff. I had many gripes with The Culture of Make Believe but I did think he did pretty well at constructing his arguments and not rambling too much (an impressive feat for a book that lengthy). Was Endgame just supposed to be a more concise rehash of shit he’s already written about? Either way, there’s no excuse for citing yourself. (That’s my inner cranky history researcher talking.)

      And you are absolutely right about the “well, my indigenous pal says this…” shit. It’s obnoxious.

      I think part of my problem was that I read Jensen right after I read Charles C. Mann, who wrote this amazing history of the pre-colonization Americas which neither stereotypes the natives as exotic savages nor ignore the less pleasant aspects of their civilizations. For example, he talks about the use of human sacrifice in Aztec society by comparing it to the public hangings that used to happen at the Tyburn gallows in London – both being sacrifices of human life intended to emphasize the divine right of the ruler. So, not a good thing (as we would judge it today, anyway) but also not at all unique in the global context at the time.

      So I went straight from Mann’s exhaustively researched and nuanced take on things straight into “NATIVE AMERICANS ALL LIVED IN FUNSHINE LAND AND RODE UNICORNS AND NOTHING BAD EVER HAPPENED TO ANYONE, EVER.” While I (and Mann, judging from his book) definitely think that life in the Americas would probably be a whole hell of a lot better if Europeans hadn’t colonized there, I hesitate to agree with ANY portrait of ANY people that is that unfailingly rosy.

      And yes on Henry Miller. I was reading Anais Nin’s diary a while ago and while I enjoyed her writing style I really wanted to say “God, shut up about Henry Miller. I know you probably had a fun time boning him but he is a truly worthless writer, and that is why he’s not getting published, so quit wringing your hands about it and concentrate on your own (far superior) writing, dang it.”

  6. basically endgame begins with a list of 20 premises that are intended to be more concise than the premises of his previous books, and then he spends the whole book explaining them. indeed, this book was a step down from his others, even less structured and coherent. i’d say it’s the book to skip of his catalog.

    word on anais nin.

  7. Miller gets a lot of “yays” for his supposed joi de vivre and quasi-spiritual insight into things. Yeah, great. Predecessor to the Beats, and another one who seems unable to reconcile their immensely enthusiastic experience of life with being kind and caring towards other people, especially those who aren’t other white guys. Blink blink.
    This somehow also speaks to Jensen and Ken Wilber and the like, who, as Coco said, play on white liberals’ romantic notions to grease their arguments. There is a similar gap of complexity and completion involved.

  8. ALL OF THEM PLUS STIEG LARSSON. I do really love Language Older Than Words, but after that is when DJ started hanging out with John “once we’re neoprimitivists all other oppression will just disappear” Zerzan and his books went to shit.

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