Saturday, January 28, 2012
I woke up this morning determined to honor the promise I made over a month ago to post on the Brooks piece, which I did. After I finished I decided to read my email only to find the the ever-intrepid J-Carp had emailed me this bit of related news.
The former DMN editorial boarder and current American Conservative writer has cut himself quite a deal. The New York Post is saying that he landed an “estimated” $1 million deal to write a memoir about how a small Louisiana town supported his sister as she died from lung cancer. The book is titled The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, A Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life. It’ll come out in the spring of 2013.
I asked Rod about this $1 million figure (I’d heard it was slightly higher). He wrote back: “I’m not going to confirm a rumor, but I will say that the money will be sufficient to provide a college education for my sister’s children, provided they go to a state school and, unlike their no-count uncle when he was at LSU, stay the hell out of the barrooms.”
So the no-count uncle confirmed the $1,000,000.00 rumor. Gee whiz, you can't make this stuff up.
I had promised J-Carp and some others a month ago when this David Brooks piece came out that I would be blogging on it. Part of the reason it has taken me awhile is that I wanted the perfect approach to address the what is so laughable about what appears on the surface to be a narration of someone's illness and death from an aggressive form of cancer. I think I found the approach in the article in the fifth paragraph.
Dreher, one of the country’s most interesting bloggers, captured Ruthie’s illness in real time. “It’s so beautiful to see it’s almost painful,” he wrote the night of the [fund-raising] concert, “and so unreal in its generosity that you think it must have been a movie.”
There are two images here and the second one, the likening of the experience to a movie, is worth exploring. Brooks's article is sort of like the review of that movie, but I always preferred TV Guide blurbs to reviews, both to write and to read. Here's my blurb:
Rocked by his sister's sudden death, a struggling writer moves back to the small Southern town of his youth replete with strange and eccentric characters.
That's more of a first impression, I'll admit, and blurbs do little to convey anything but the most general of themes. I'll leave it to others to come up with a title for this blockbuster along with the casting, the front graphic for the Bluray box, etc.
Another aspect of film is changing a story to ensure correspondence of the content to the targeted audience. This is a family drama, I assume, about at least somewhat religious people, so I'm thinking that the character of the one-legged stripper would be either greatly moderated to a more standard floozy of the Violet Bick variety or simply left on the floor of the cutting room.
I think this character would have to be considered by the screen writers and not simply ignored since she is mentioned by the protagonist of the film in, not one, but four separate blog posts. This was all at the time of his sister's funeral. Do you know what the word obsession means, boys and girls? Then he brings it up again in November in a Sunday opinion article for the Dallas Morning News which I'm pretty sure gets more readership than the American Conservative, lest anyone miss it who follows Rod Dreher slightly like Pikkumatti. Here's the pertinent excerpt:
After Ruthie died, I was drinking beer (again) with her friends. Somebody brought up the one-legged stripper at the redneck bar just over the state line in Mississippi. Holy Flannery O’Connor, I thought, this is too good to be true. Then someone pulled his BlackBerry out and showed us all a photo of the half-naked woman, hanging off the pole, rocking that one leg.
“Yeah, I’d heard about her,” an old man said. “Ol’ Terry, he went up there one time and asked for a lap dance. Her leg come off. He was kind of surprised by that.”
I listened to this and thought: Why, exactly, am I living outside the South?
Stop reading for a moment and think about that. Let it sink in.
Yeah, good ol' Terry.
I didn't realize that in the south that a man can indulge in pornography, and as long as the woman providing you with her services is crippled, all is forgiven. Charity, right? Neat.
There is a link on that page that reads Rod Dreher: Reliving the sacrifice of Christ, through modern-day martyrs. This writer claims to represent Christianity as well as Conservatism. Are the modern day Christian martyrs into lap dances?
I mentioned that a movie was the second image from that paragraph. The first image is brought up by Brooks when he writes "Dreher, one of the country’s most interesting bloggers, captured Ruthie’s illness in real time." It was initially the word captured which captured my attention. For some reason I thought about the famous incident where a tiger attacked Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy fame. I would argue that things roaming wild and free in the world may be captured and used for a good purpose, but I would also argue that parading those things around in front of large crowds might not be a good purpose. In fact, it could be ultimately dangerous to the one holding the leash although, for a time, the captor may become materially enriched by the parading.
This is probably a good point at which to mention that the title of this blog post was taken from a quote by Milton Friedman, the libertarian economist who is mentioned at the end of Brooks's piece. You may want to Google it for the full quote. The insinuation is made that Friedman is not "communitarian" like the two hundred or so readers of The American Conservative. I guess he wasn't known for his backyard cookouts or play-by-play accounts of the illnesses of family members.
To me, everything in this whole episode reaffirms the incoherence of the reactionary alternative "conservatisms" which have been advanced by quasi-intellectuals in recent decades. Crunchy Conservatism is the poster boy for these, and falls apart upon close examination as fast as James Brown's most famous lyric. You preach about a locally grown diet, but you publicly rejoice when le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé. You prattle about getting away from technology and big business, but then coo about listening to Diana Krall on your iPod while your wife has a C-section. You lament the skankification of Miley Cyrus, yet you obsessively mention a one-legged stripper in close conjunction to the funeral of your sister. And relative to that topic, you express your anxiousness to move back close to where you can drink beer with buddies who carry around pictures of her engaged in her art.
This is the very essence of incoherence and to me bears no resemblance to Christianity or conservatism. Why would anyone take this man seriously on his pet religious topics when he fails to set a good example on the most basics virtues? Especially given that there is so much available to read elsewhere? Would a good Pagan or a good Jew talk about the glories of a strip joint which posted the sign "Tits for Tots" at Christmas?? I hope all the Catholic bloggers and others who had oodles or praise for Rod Dreher when Crunchy Conservatism came out are feeling more and more uncomfortable about ever having defended and endorsed this guy. Sure, no one is perfect and we should judge a man by the totality of his actions. But in this man's case, I see the totality getting darker and darker.
Thanks for reading my blog. For current commentary and what-not, visit the Est Quod Est homepage