December 9, 2016
Here’s what’s going on
by Melville House
Ahoy-hoy! Another week down; another bunch of insane Trump appointees, another bouquet of oh-c’mon-now tweets, another round of casualties to 2016 (goodbye to language poet Ray DiPalma, legendary New York bookseller Robert A. Wilson, and Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth).
Here’s some (mostly) better news:
1. Franz Kafka’s sexual terrors were completely normal!
Sian Cain has written for the Guardian that, frequent assumptions to the contrary, the legendary Franz Kafka’s habits actually fell well within the parameters of generally accepted nastiness in his time and place. Cain wrote after an interview with Reiner Stach, the writer behind a recent three-volume biography of Kafka, which Princeton University Press finished publishing in the English translation of Shelley Frisch last month. In Trump’s America, we know, to be well-adjusted is to “enter a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behavior, begins to fall to pieces” — which is to say, Kafkaesque is the new whatever.
2. Dr. Chuck Tingle unveils BUTTBART.com
We have been known to raise our arms to the sky and sing the praises of Dr. Chuck Tingle, still unrivaled as “surely the most successful author of gay dinosaur erotica that the world has ever seen.” Because Dr. Tingle is looking out for the many buckaroos who comprise his fan base, this week he unveiled a new website, a fractured take on the reactionary false-news fount known as Breitbart. Dr. Tingle’s version is called Buttbart. Rejoice, humanity.
3. Oh come on, Italian schoolchildren
Listen, we understand—people in glass houses, and all that—but still, this really sucks: Italian kids are getting into Hitler. In a not-intentionally-controversial move to boost enthusiasm for reading, the Italian government has conducted a survey asking schoolchildren what books they love best; the Führer’s Mein Kampf made it to the top-ten lists of fully ten secondary schools. The news comes a few months after reports that a rightist Italian paper, Il Giornale, has been distributing free copies of Mein Kampf to subscribers. And here in the US, as we reported in September, Mein Kampf is permitted in Texas prisons that prohibit books by the likes of Jon Stewart, Studs Terkel, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Barf.
4. That weird thing where public schools in Virginia were censoring classic American literature
Yeah, remember that? That’s over now.
5. A conspiracy so dense
We also wrote recently about the “Professor Watchlist” being assembled by Turning Point USA, a non-profit of the fascistic fringe-right that seems to think Joe McCarthy was a pretty chill guy. Included on their list are a couple of professors at the University of Notre Dame — like Gary Gutting, who earned suspicion by writing this New York Times editorial arguing that the “enthusiasm gap” between those who support and those who oppose gun rights owes in part to racial disparities among the victims of gun violence. (Bolshevism!) Now, more than a hundred Notre Dame professors are demanding in an open letter that they be included as well. “We are coming forward,” they write, “to stand with the professors you have called ‘dangerous,’ reaffirming our values and recommitting ourselves to the work of teaching students to think clearly, independently and fearlessly.” The list includes writers Roy Scranton and Joyelle McSweeney, among many. Right on, guys!
6. Donald Trump believes very much in an eye for an eye
You could probably discern as much from his serial harassment campaigns against the people who cross him. Here’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston:
7. Get down
This one goes out to our friends at Amazon — they’re still at it. (And no, not that Solange.):
Here’s one that should not have been allowed to become so prescient:
The second best way to celebrate our new edition of Melville’s Billy Budd, after reading it, may be to watch Terence Stamp make his film debut in Peter Ustinov’s 1962 cinematic adaptation:
This short scene from Benjamin Britten’s opera version (with a libretto partly written by E.M. Forster) is pretty great, too (you can watch the whole thing on youtube):
And of course, we wish a very happy 100th birthday to the great Kirk Douglas.