Friday, March 5, 2021

Not in a box, not aired by Fox, not here or there, not anywhere

T.S. Eliot
     The poetry of T.S. Eliot is just the right salve to grease the aging process. Snaking himself into the machinery of existence, like Charlie Chaplin shot through an enormous maze of gears, Eliot applies his lyrical truth to the rusty flywheel of life. “Old men ought to be explorers/Here or there does not matter.” Yup.
     Though Eliot has a problem. 
And no, not the cat poems. They're easy enough to skip. Something far more troublesome. He was an anti-Semite, and wrote poems mocking Jews, most notoriously “Burbank with a Baedecker: Bleistein with a Cigar,” where he clamps a perfumed hankie to his nose and shudderingly cringes:
     But this or such was Bleistein’s way
     A saggy bending of the knees
     And elbows, with the palms turned out,
     Chicago Semite Viennese.
     A lustreless protrusive eye
     Stares from the protozoic slime.
     Ouch. You don’t need a master’s in literature to figure that one out.
     It gets worse.

               The rats are underneath the piles
               The Jew is underneath the lot.

     Into the dustbin of history with Eliot, then? Off the shelf, in that one-strike-you’re-out purity in vogue nowadays? Umm, no, at least not for me. I love Eliot, and find him a comfort and a guide, the vile bits notwithstanding. How? Because literature, like life, is complicated, and once you start tossing out authors and artists with some loathsome aspect to their resume, the shelves and walls empty rather quickly.
     And no, I’m not joining FoxWorld, clutching at myself and keening because the Dr. Seuss estate announced Tuesday they are pulling half a dozen of his lesser works from publication for containing dated caricatures. I get what they’re trying to do: keep the Seuss money machine humming away. It’s called capitalism. Every company refreshes the product line by ditching old models and adopting new ones. Books go out of print every day.

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  1. That guy honest to God thinks "the Biden administration" banned Dr. Seuss's books?

    There's just no fighting aggressive stupidity, especially when it's egged on by the leading cable news network.

  2. One would think that the owners of the Suess estate might remove the offending art and perhaps edit the words if needed and simply re-release the books. Or not. There are standards in the collection that will undoubtedly still be being bought fifty years from now. Also, I personally believe that much of what is now considered "cancel culture" is what we older folks use to refer to as "consequences". Adding that the mad tearing down of statues and memorials is amazingly third world. Those things might need their historical descriptions expanded to included the bits of what is now considered offensive reality, but they speak of our history. Good, bad and ugly. History contains only the fewest number of saints. And even those might have some nagging imperfections if investigated deeply enough

  3. I guess I'm missing something. Doesn't "Why endanger the huge sales of 'The Lorax' to keep a third-rater like 'If I Ran the Zoo' in stock?'" imply the corollary "Why endanger the sales of 'The Waste Land' to keep a third-rater like 'Bleistein?'"

    1. Good question. I suppose because school boards and such were starting to flinch at Seuss, while Jews are more accustomed to accepting a world of relentless hostility and, with the regrettable exception of purging "jew" from the Scrabble dictionary, aren't generally complaining about how they're represented, that Shylock is not a good poster boy and such. Plus our minority card was sorta revoked by the success of Israel, so now we get to be both generally despised and yet viewed as part of the oppressive upper class.

    2. "When the chosen people grew too strong
      The right, at length, became the wrong." John Dryden


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