Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Animal Farm: barnyard epitath

One loves this book beyond all reason, but when might we
begin to use Don DeLillo's "White Noise" as a narrative warning
against the unassuming stance that the language of authority
is , in itself, the right one?
There is nothing like re reading a classic novel you first considered a masterpiece in high school some decades later, let us say thirty five years or more, and realizing that the book you esteemed has travelled less well through time than your memory would like. George Orwell, although a particularly potent essayist on matters of politics and culture, was a ham-handed prose stylist when it came to his fiction and, one might add, a story teller for whom the obvious moral is the only point to consider. The cautionary lesson is fine as it goes-- the roads to mankind's worst, deadliest dilemmas are paved with good intentions-- but it is such a safe position that taking issue with it is the equivilent to declaring yourself insane, untrustworthy, a morally bankrupt stakeholder in Bad Faith Futures. Partisans left and right nod to the sentiment and find new ways to bark at one another and , notably, contrive new ways to assume the Absolute Power both sentiments warn readers and voters against. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and once you understand this as the point of the tale that has farm animals standing in for the History of the Soviet Revolution and it's brutal goonishnness, one feels as if they're being clubbed over the head with a point that was clear to begin with. This is a dry , brittle parable, a fairly gutless morality play; we need be suspect of those books that are easily co-opted by both right and left wing ideologues as a metaphorical evidence of their more convoluted explanations and apologies for why things are they way they are.

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