Friday, October 21, 2016

an old one, 1992.

The Process of Weeding Out (The Idea of North), oil on canvas, 84"x84"

Friday, October 14, 2016

Who Voted for Brexit? A Comprehensive District-Level Analysis [PDF]
On 23 June 2016, the British electorate voted to leave the European Union. We analyze vote and turnout shares across 380 local authority areas in the United Kingdom. We find that fundamental characteristics of the voting population were key drivers of the Vote Leave share, in particular their age and education profiles as well as the historical importance of manufac- turing employment, low income and high unemployment. Migration was relevant only from Eastern European countries, not from older EU states or non-EU countries. We also find an important role for fiscal cuts being associated with Vote Leave. Our results indicate that modest reductions in fiscal cuts could have swayed the referendum outcome. In contrast, even drastic changes in immigration patterns would probably not have made a difference. We confirm the above findings at the much finer level of wards within cities. Our results cast doubt on the notion that short-term cam- paigning events had a meaningful influence on the vote.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Capitalism, in an irony Marx would have enjoyed, returns us to the ancient past, the Bronze Age: the age of stories. The Golden Age is the age of kings, or at the very least aristocrats; capitalism at its grandest is gilded. Architects now are stage designers. The museum of capitalism is the shopping mall, our greatest art made from the conversations of observers of the scene, sitting and talking under the palm trees at Starbucks. 
The performance ranges. The harmonica playing is mostly bad. He changes the lyrics for the worse.
And he's a performer not a writer. I'm not going to quibble over whether he deserves the award.

Pop stars as artists, artists as pop stars. "Popularity" is a drug. Drugs are problematic.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trump's collapse, liberal triumphalism, etc.
repeats, from a month ago.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The genealogy of philosophy

I should close out my interest in Leiter. I let this slide once. I shouldn't have. Referring to the wife of a philosophy professor -a philosopher- as a "civilian observer" should be some sort of final nail in the coffin. If he were interested in following his own understanding of Nietzsche he'd be attacking philosophy with piss and vinegar. If philosophy is to be taken as seriously as he claims, then theology is the equivalent of creation science, and deserves the same contempt. But he can't admit that without undermining his own notion of "doing philosophy". So he's left to celebrate arguments about angels and pinheads, focusing on the logic and ignoring the angels as long as he can. I linked to this the last time. Following Leiter's sense of professional etiquette, it would be rude to examine the genealogy of the moral realism of a Zionist philosopher. It would be disrespectful to see it as a reaction formationin defense of the moral relativism foundational to Zionism. Examining its origin would undermine the autonomy of philosophy. What a fucking asshole.
He's done.

Another run by Leiter

A nice statement from Jason Stanley (Yale) about the right-wing media brouhaha

Here (in response to events we referenced here). (I don't find the anti-Semitism bit at the end very helpful, but that's minor.)

UPDATE: At the link, above, Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers), a very prominent Christian philosopher who has made major contributions to metaphysics, writes:
I know firsthand, having been his colleague for quite a few years, that Jason is highly sensitive to the fact that Christians are something of a minority within philosophy. There were several Christian graduate students at Rutgers while Jason was here, and with whom he interacted frequently, and I am confident that none of them ever felt disrespected by Jason because of their faith. To the contrary, in my experience Jason seems to optimistically and automatically think well of his Christian colleagues and students — as though he could count on serious Christians to exemplify the virtues we profess. I’m grateful that he doesn’t lump us all in with political conservatives who are hijacking religious language, some of whom will apparently use any means to inflict psychic damage upon those they perceive as their “enemies”. Thank you, Jason.
"a very prominent Christian philosopher who has made major contributions to metaphysics"

Wisconsin's Elliott Sober interviewed... 3AM.
The interview begins with a quote.
"Evolutionary theory, properly understood, does not conflict with the idea that God occasionally intervenes in nature..."
I stopped there.

I'd made a comment on Stanley's post; he'd put a link on twitter. My comment was kept in moderation while others went up and I assumed it wasn't going to make it, but I'd taken a screenshot, so I posted it in a reply to his tweet. A couple of days later it appeared on the site.
At the end of a semester of freshman comp, sometime in the 70s, a student walked up to my father and pounded his fist on the desk. “Fuck the nuns.”
He’d been lied to all his life.
My father loved telling that story. it made him proud.
It’s amazing how far things have fallen.

And again [again] I’m taken aback by Jason Stanley’s odd relation to his Jewishness. He refers to it again and again as a faith, as if religion were the only thing keeping him from being German. Look at your face Jason, at your Jewish face. It’s a Semitic face, a Palestinian face. Zionists were secularists. Religion was peasant belief. The Jews are a people. But I have as much patience for Zionism as I have for god.
Tom Wolfe is an appalling ignoramus 
This is an amusing, and very well-informed, critique of Wolfe's attempted "condescension from below" towards Darwin and Chomsky.
"condescension from below"

Philosopher Sally Haslanger (MIT) on her sense of "ideology" 
This interview gives a useful précis of Prof. Haslanger's distinctive sense of "ideology" that figures in her work about the social construction of race and gender (it also includes some interesting autobiographical details). (I should say I found the interviewer a bit annoying at times: he interjected too much I thought.) From a Marxian point of view, it's an unusual conception (as I've noted before), in three respects in particular: first, it doesn't necessarily involve beliefs which can be false, but seems to be centrally concerned with what Haslanger calls "practical consciousness" and "know-how"; second, its genesis does not matter (though it shares, loosely, with the Marxian sense the idea that an ideology has the functional property of supporting certain kinds of [oppressive] social relations); and third, there is no special explanatory role for economic relations in understanding ideology. ...
"it doesn't necessarily involve beliefs which can be false"
"genesis does not matter"
"no explanatory role for economic relations"

All of which apply to Leiter's ideological commitment to the philosophical academy.

"concerned with... 'practical consciousness' and 'know-how'"

She's describing the importance of lived experience (I'd forgotten already that I'd made a tag)

The genealogy of Jason Stanley's thought.
Stanley in 2006
Judith Butler is not by any stretch of the imagination a public intellectual.
Academic philosophy, academic free thinking, is not serious. How many times I think of Marfrks
For academics, ideas are games, as Kerr illustrates when he speaks so proudly about how he follows reason wherever it takes him. He seems to find that admirable, whereas I–having now sat through many faculty meetings where the propriety of rules about faculty parking are argued from Platonic first principles–find it both tiresome and puerile.
Religion is for grandmothers and peasants. Philosophers descend from theologians and are still connected at the hip. The issue now with Islam is that the grandmothers aren't grandmothers yet. Some are young and chic. Peasants are moving to cities on a massive scale again as they did a hundred years ago, including cities in Europe and America. Time for them is moving quickly. They're still more interesting than their grandchildren will be.
"On the sidelines of police 'hostage liberation exercises'" (Isfahan)
"Iran's domestic culture clash has become almost a cliche. But sometimes it just leaves you speechless."

Photo: MEHR News-Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization (IIDO), Tehran

Monday, October 10, 2016

Working, for a living maybe. The drawing is a few years old but the photograph is new.

Friday, September 30, 2016

"I know how to write, but I don't know how to read."

more of the same (see the previous post)

It is and it isn’t
"Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ is not just a radical kind of art. It’s a philosophical dialetheia: a contradiction that is true"
In 1917 a pivotal event occurred for art and philosophy: Marcel Duchamp unveiled his artwork Fountain in Alfred Stieglitz’s New York studio. This was simply a porcelain urinal, signed ‘R. Mutt’.

Fountain was notorious, even for avant-garde artists. It has become one of the most discussed works of art of the 20th century. The Society of Independent Artists rejected it, though every artist who paid the exhibition fee was supposed to have their work shown. For almost a century, it has remained a difficult artwork. The philosopher John Passmore summed up Fountain as: ‘a piece of mischief at the expense of the art world’, though many have taken it very seriously.

No doubt there was some tomfoolery involved – Duchamp did not choose a urinal randomly. Yet there is more to Fountain than nose-thumbing. What makes this artwork so striking is its philosophical contribution.
"Je sais bien écrire, mais je ne sais pas lire."

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A nice little run of posts by Leiter, in order,  each separated on his site by one or two others.
Like his idol Nietzsche but at the level of pedantry, an exemplar of the decadence he claims to oppose. It's really pathetic.

Against Canary Mission, redux 
Following up on this (many of you signed), there is now a website with the letter and the full list of signatories. Someone really needs to create a list of faculty and students behind "Canary Mission," since a list of disgusting fascists would be useful!
Even if Clinton wins the election, we won't be done with Trump 
This is worth emphasizing: the Trump nightmare won't end with the election. Even if (as I still expect) Clinton wins, we know (he's told us) that Trump won't be a graceful loser, since he's psychologically incapable of that. The threat to the constitutional and democratic order will continue, as Trump hurls reckless accusatiosn of voter fraud and a stolen election, accusations that will be repeated by the increasingly openly fascist mass media--Fox on TV, Breitbart on-line--that threaten civilization. Like any broken clock, or psychopath, Trump is occasionally right, and one thing he may be right about is that our speech laws permit too much falsehoods (he is wrong about what is false, obviously, which is also telling). Until we can shut down Fox and Breitbart and Drudge, we are all in danger, not only in America, but in the world, since this benighted country continues to be the greatest threat to human well-being on the planet. I have no faith, alas, that this country is capable of closing down only the sociopathic morons, so the libertarian legal regime that sanctions 24-hour lies and stupidity may mark the future for this dying empire.
"I have no faith, alas," links again to his own paper,  "The Case Against Free Speech"
...I also argue for viewing "freedom of speech" like "freedom of action": speech, like everything else human beings do, can be for good or ill, benign or harmful, constructive or pernicious, and thus the central question in free speech jurisprudence should really be how to regulate speech effectively — to minimize its very real harms, without undue cost to its positive values — rather than rationalizing (often fancifully) the supposed special value of speech. In particular, I argue against autonomy-based defenses of a robust free speech principle. I conclude that the central issue in free speech jurisprudence is not about speech but about institutional competence; I offer some reasons — from the Marxist "left" and the public choice "right"— for being skeptical that capitalist democracies have the requisite competence; and make some suggestive but inconclusive remarks about how these defects might be remedied.
Another keynote speaker rebuked... 
...In the case of the other keynote speaker controversy du jour, Professor Shelby was asked by a Black woman in his Q&A why he had not cited or discussed any Black feminist authors; Professor Shelby, unsurprisingly, was dismissive of the question, calling it a request for a "bibliography" and indicating he was just trying to do philosophy. He, correctly, supposed that a question of the form, "Why didn't you mention authors with particular racial and gender attributes?" is not a serious philosophical question, in contrast to, say, the question, "Why didn't you address the following argument by author X [who is also a Black feminist]?", which is an appropriate question. (Readers should review the full statement by the aggrieved audience member at the end of this post.) Other audience members shared this aggrievement as well.
"...he was just trying to do philosophy. He, correctly, supposed that a question of the form, "Why didn't you mention authors with particular racial and gender attributes?" is not a serious philosophical question,..."

It's a metaphilosophical question.
If philosophy is technical it becomes necessary to invent a new sub-field.
This is nothing to do with claims that Shelby's arguments were hurtful. Those arguments and Leiter's are variations on a theme: the childish desire for safety.

Dick Cavett on Paul Weiss

From an interview with the former T.V. host about his undergraduate days at Yale:
Q: To what extent did Yale teach you the art of critical thinking? 
DC: Any critical thinking that I got from Yale was in my undergraduate courses, maybe in the true sense of the term, from the great Paul Weiss, Sterling professor of philosophy. Paul Weiss taught his class Socratically, asking to have questions fired at him, and he never failed to take down any five students simultaneously, if he needed to. I later put him on television, on the Jack Paar Tonight Show, and then I had Paul Weiss on my own show, as I did William F. Buckley, [whose] faculty advisor was Paul Weiss.
Weiss, by the way, was the first Jew hired with tenure in philosophy at Yale. (The episode is described in Neil Gross's biography of Richard Rorty: basically, Brand Blandshard championed the appointment, but it met with opposition from his anti-semitic colleagues and administrators, but Blandshard prevailed.) Fifty years on, the former Sterling Professor of Philosophy at Yale is now barely known or read. ...
repeats, with (some) credit to Corey Robin.

"Most college educated people and most academics have no idea who Paul Weiss is, but almost all know the name James Baldwin. That fact is important in any discussion not of philosophy but of philosophers, even in serious discussion of the subjects they claim to deal in."
I didn't mention the most glaringly obvious point about Baldwin's comments: "I don't know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions". Debating ideas vs observing behavior.
It gave me an excuse to fix an old graphic I was never happy with.

"Doing philosophy"
Moral Realism as Moral Relativism
Raymond Klibansky,
and Richard Seaford

Friday, September 23, 2016

Full page ad in the NY Times today. Think for a minute what "liberalism" means.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

To visitors from Language Log

My last comment, deleted by Mark Liberman:

- Link to the OUP Press Blog on experiments showing that the more you look at bad art the less you like it and that the reverse is true for good art.

- Link to Gambetta and Hertog on engineers and political extremism.

- Quote from John von Neumann:"If you say why not bomb them tomorrow, I say why not today? If you say today at 5 o'clock, I say why not one o'clock?"

- Engineering was the model of Modernist intellectualism. it failed.
- Exposure to complex stimuli makes you smarter. They should redo the experiment.
- Chomsky's "poverty of the stimulus" is bullshit.

Monday, September 19, 2016

old and new. rewriting again, and again. The last three paragraphs. footnotes are stripped.
I’ve never had a problem seeing Eliot’s work both as brilliantly complex craftsmanship and as a desperate defensive mechanism propelled by fears of political, social, and sexual failure: impotence of every sort. To separate one from the other -form from subject- would be like separating sadness from the blues. But that separation is something Modernism demanded, either in terms of “pure” form, or of subject matter reformulated as “ideas”, “content” and reducible to ideology.
Consider a discipline such as aesthetics. The fact that there are works of art is given for aesthetics. It seeks to find out under what conditions this fact exists, but it does not raise the question whether or not the realm of art is perhaps a realm of diabolical grandeur, a realm of this world, and therefore, in its core, hostile to God and, in its innermost and aristocratic spirit, hostile to the brotherhood of man. Hence, aesthetics does not ask whether there should be works of art.
Aesthetics was an invention of the eighteenth century and the age of reason, a theory of art in the shadow of production, as something to be taken or left, optional, superfluous, “parasitic”. But military uniforms are the outward manifestation of a military ethos, and they serve a purpose. The outward signs of regimentation reinforce the fact of it. Max Weber’s manners are Germanic and bourgeois. He didn’t analyze the way he dressed, walked, talked and parted his hair, but these aesthetic choices are documents of his relation to a culture, and his ideal of value-free science is as much the product of an age as he was. The fantasy of objectivity is the fantasy of the universal through the elision of the particular, beginning with the elision of the particular self. All you have to do to undermine Weber’s moralizing pedantry is to imagine him mumbling the words to himself while adjusting his tie in the mirror. It’s fascinating that although military orders don’t always conflate the militaristic and the universal it’s one thing you can count on philosophers to do. And Weber’s goal of course was to replace one form of aristocracy with another. 
Compare Weber with the art historian, Panofsky. 
When an acquaintance greets me on the street by lifting his hat, what I see from a formal point of view is nothing but the change of certain details within a configuration forming part of the general pattern of color, lines and volumes which constitutes my world of vision. When I identify, as I automatically do, this configuration as an object (gentleman), and the change of detail as an event (hatlifting), I have already overstepped the limits of purely formal perception and entered a first sphere of subject matter or meaning. The meaning thus perceived is of an elementary and easily understandable nature. and we shall call it the factual meaning; it is apprehended by simply identifying certain visible forms with certain objects known to me from practical experience and by identifying the change in their relations with certain action or events. 
Now the objects and events thus identified will naturally produce a certain reaction within myself. From the way my acquaintance performs his action I may be able to sense whether he is in a good or bad humor and whether his feelings towards me are indifferent, friendly or hostile. These psychological nuances will invest the gestures of my acquaintance with a further meaning which we shall call expressional. It differs from the factual one in that it is apprehended, not by simple identification, but by "empathy". To understand it, I need a certain sensitivity, but this sensitivity is still part of my practical experience, that is, of my everyday familiarity with objects and events. Therefore both the factual and the expressional meaning may be classified together: they constitute the class of primary or natural meanings. 
However, my realization that the lifting of the hat stands for a greeting belongs in an altogether different realm of interpretation. This form of salute is peculiar to the Western world and is a residue of mediaeval chivalry: armed men used to remove their helmets to make clear their peaceful intentions and their confidence in the peaceful intentions of others. Neither an Australian bushman nor an ancient Greek could be expected to realize that the lifting of a hat is not only a practical event with certain expressional connotations, but also a sign of politeness. To understand this significance of the gentleman's action I must not only be familiar with the practical world of objects and events, but also with the more-than- practical world of customs and cultural traditions peculiar to a certain civilization. Conversely, my acquaintance could not feel impelled to greet me by lifting his hat were he not conscious of the significance of this act. As for the expressional connotations which accompany his action, he may or may not be conscious of them. Therefore, when I interpret the lifting of a hat as a polite greeting, I recognize in it a meaning which may be called secondary or conventional; it differs from the primary or natural one in that it is intelligible instead of being sensible, and in that it has been consciously imparted to the practical action by which it is conveyed.  
“...but this sensitivity is still part of my practical experience, that is, of my everyday familiarity with objects and events.” Weber simply bypasses this as if it were irrelevant. He imagines an impersonal relation to the world. It’s a common trope of the literature of the period, but the impersonal in art and technocracy, though the product of the same events are very different things.
By the time anything becomes known as an idea, it’s been around for awhile. Concepts come late to the game. Sensibilities predate their clear articulation. Most serious scholars of Eliot have read Weber; the reverse is less a given, at least in English.

Franz Kafka published The Metamorphosis ten years after Weber published The Protestant Ethic. In 1905 Kafka was a student of Weber's younger brother; In the Penal Colony is now assumed to have lifted images and phrases from Alfred Weber's essay, Der Beamte, (The Official or The Bureaucrat),  so it’s safe to say Kafka had read Die protestantische Ethik. Talcott Parsons' translation came out in 1930, and the image of the "iron cage" has become ubiquitous as a description of the individual within modern bureaucratic systems. It wasn’t until 2001 that what Kafka read as stahlhartes Gehäuse was translated simply and directly as the more psychologically intimate, “shell as hard as steel”.
That political scientists don’t read Kafka or Eliot is not a matter of taste or aesthetics -whatever term you prefer to describe something unnecessary- but error, the mistake Weber himself makes, that all philosophers make in imagining themselves an unmoved mover, the cause but not the product, imagining their own freedom even as their arguments describe, and prescribe, the lack of it for others.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sandy Levinson
When I demurred, suggesting that his election would simply be catastrophic and that there was no reason at all to accept it graciously, the reasonable question was asked of me: what did I envision as the alternative? Taking up arms? A military coup? Or, as I have written several times, a secessionist movement led by Pacifica and New England (plus New York) that would reasonably state that they had no desire any longer to be part of a country that would place a sociopath in its highest office. All, to be sure, sound either fanciful or out-and-out dangerous (or, to some, lunatic). But exactly why is it less dangerous or lunatic to accept without question the legitimacy of a Trump presidency?
America, the Dunning-Kruger nation
Yes indeed. And for thirteen years, I've been covering it under the heading "the less they know, the less they know it."
Quiggin: Recognizing racism
While tribalism (roughly, an identity politics of solidarity with “people like us”) need not, in principle, imply support for racism (I plan more on this soon), the distinction is a fine one, and has broken down completely in practice. There are at least two reasons for this:
  • Political tribalism throws up demagogic leaders like Trump, Farage, and (in Australia) Pauline Hanson, whose appeal relies, in large measure on their rejection of political correctness, that is, on their willingness to appeal openly to racism. 
  • The centrality of migration to current political debate, inevitably bringing race issues to the forefront. 
For the same reasons, it seems clear that overt racism is going to be a significant part of politics for the foreseeable future. Individual demagogues like Trump may (or may not) flame out, but the existence of a large base of support for overtly racist policies and politicians is now evident to all, and the agreement that kept this base from having its views expressed in mainstream politics has now broken down.

In response to this it’s necessary to recognise racism as a substantial, if deplorable, political tendency. First, and most obviously, that means abandoning euphemisms, explicitly naming racism and, even more, naming people like Trump and Hanson as racists.
"the long list of failures at Crooked Timber on questions of race" One more for for extra comedy

Three posts from the last week by Brighouse, and one linked.

1-Making a classroom discussion an actual discussion
In this post I mentioned a time that I had my small (21 person) discussion based class recorded, and then watched the video with several colleagues (and 3 students I invited who were actually in the class). Someone observed, pretty quickly, that the discussion had a kind of ping-pong feel. The students were all willing to talk (event the student who told me in the previous class that she was ok with being recorded as long as she didn’t have to speak in the discussion), but they were all just talking to me.
2-(linked above): How could a research university systematically improve undergraduate instruction?
Regular readers know that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about improving the quality of teaching and learning in universities like mine. I believe that instruction in research institutions is suboptimal. What I mean by suboptimal is something like “quite a bit less good than it could be without large investments of time energy and attention”.
3- 50 years and one day later…
since the premiere of The Monkees. He posts a video of the credit sequence.

4- An observation and a conjecture about HRC’s health
1. Walking pneumonia is really not a big deal any more. I’ve had it maybe 10 times; it is very annoying indeed, but, normally, like HRC, I have not bothered telling anyone about it. Indeed, whereas she apparently told close friends and family, I sometimes don’t bother (its not as though anyone is going to have any sympathy—“Go get antibiotics and steroids, now, you idiot”). [1] Her failure to tell the world she has a minor ailment is not part of a pattern of secrecy. 
2. Or maybe she doesn’t even have the ailment. Could it be that there is nothing wrong with her, and this is just a rumour spread by her campaign i) to make her seem a bit more like a normal person and ii) to panic people (like the Bushes, for example[2]) who think they can sit this out without having to take responsibility for the deranged performance artist becoming President, and move them into positive action?
Levinson refers to Richard Hofstadter. repeats

repeats  Blyth's irony is the irony of self-awareness.

"If all humility is false humility then Socratic humility, as Socratic irony, is the irony of contempt. Euripidean irony is the irony of our shared burdens, and failures."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"a fatal cheapness"

High Camp?
Shriver is annoying. The censorship is absurd. The criticism isn't.
[update: Suki Kim: there was no censorship.]
Styron and Nat Turner, etc. The problem is deeper.

Henry James
The "historic" novel is, for me, condemned, even in cases of labour as delicate as yours, to a fatal cheapness, for the simple reason that the difficulty of the job is inordinate & that a mere escamotage [slight of hand, trickery], in the interest of ease, & of the abysmal public naïveté, becomes inevitable. You may multiply the lithe facts that can be got from pictures & documents, relics & prints, as much as you like - the real thing is almost impossible us do, & in its absence the whole effect is as nought: I mean the invention, the representation of the old consciousness, the soul, the sense, the horizon, the vision of individuals in whose minds half the things that make ours, that make the modern world were non-existent. You have to think with your modern apparatus a man, a woman -or rather fifty- whose own thinking was intensely-otherwise conditioned, you have it simplify back by an amazing tour de force - & even then it's all humbug. But there is a shade of the (even then) humbug that may amuse. The childish tricks that take the place of any such conception of the real job in the flood of Tales of the Past that seems of late to have been rolling over our devoted country - these ineptitudes have, on a few recent glances, struck me as creditable to no one concerned.
And as far as "appropriation" is concerned, if you want to be serious about it, we're back to discussions of race and gender

I remember reading a James story written in the first person with a matronly American protagonist. The character was so obviously a drag performance it was annoying.

Shriver as book critic, in the FT
No Place Like Home
So are the powerful emotions surrounding immigration on the receiving end inherently unworthy of compassion? Are westerners who are uncomfortable with a tide of uninvited new arrivals ipso facto the villains of the tale? I think not. That discomfort need not proceed from bigotry alone, but surely from the same primitive notion of home that concerns Segun Afolabi. Illegal immigration occasions the sensation of a householder when total strangers burst through his front door without knocking and take up indefinite residence in the guest room. Britain memorialises its natives' brave fight against the Nazis in the second world war. In sufficient quantity, the arrival of foreign populations can begin to duplicate the experience of military occupation - your nation is no longer your home. Yet native western citizenries are implicitly told on a daily basis that to object is prejudiced, and they had best keep their mouths shut. This is a silencing in which fiction has been complicit. 
As an American resident of Britain, I am an immigrant myself. Perhaps I can never quite regard the UK as home either, so that on my yearly trips to New York City I would like to relish returning somewhere that is. Yet one in four adults in New York today does not speak English. The recreation area where I once hit a tennis ball against a backboard in Riverside Park has now been colonised by immigrants from Guatemala. The last few times I practised my forehand, I drew wary looks and felt unwelcome. I don't practise there any more, and I resent that a bit. Does that make me a bigot? In a story, would I look bad?

Surely fiction could stand to render as passably sympathetic an unease - or even fury - at being made to feel a foreigner in one's own country. In the face of mainstream disquiet over immigration, most centrist politicians abdicate to the venomous rightwing. By likewise failing to engage with understandably primal reactions to the compromise of one's home, fiction writers may abdicate the role of comforter and champion to future Jean Raspails of a subtler, more beguiling stripe. Literarily, readers are being cheated, for filling in only one side of the equation deprives a compelling modern drama of its delicious complexity.
She hadn't heard of Houellebecq in 2006. Now her novels are being compared with his.
And good writers can be idiots.
“I really like the idea of this country, and I wish we were more loyal to it,” she said. “I think the initial concept of a place where you could do pretty much whatever you wanted to as long as you didn’t hurt anybody else is positively brilliant. And most countries don’t have ideas. Most countries are just places, and collective histories. And we have an ideology. We have a set of principles. And that is crucial to the very concept of this country.” She was gathering passionate steam. “The country has a concept. I think that is cool.” Even if she were to renounce her citizenship and work to change her accent, the facts of her life would remain the same. She’s glad of that. “There’s nothing wrong with being an American,” she said. “Everyone has to be something.”
Houellebecq is honest; his books are as much about reaction as much as they are reaction. Maybe Shriver's novels are more mature than she is. But most of those attacking her for her ideas would attack Houellebecq for his, and most of those defending her wouldn't defend him. Art's a bitch