Art & Sexual Politics

Alyssa Rosenberg, reflecting on Salman Rushdie, offers some choice words about art & politics:


…quality conversations and political ones aren’t separate from each other. Falling into dreadful politics can also mean falling into cliche without transcending it. Ignoring the details and realities of life in your search for “what is the case, what is truth and untruth,” a failure to reckon with politics, can mean a failure to tell a truly engaging and revealing story. Good politics aren’t enough to make literature, of course—there’s a lot of awfully stiff execution of noble ideas. But an entirely careless approach to the politics of your subject is a danger, too.


There are many people who take umbrage at this suggestion.  But I think Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recent discussion of Raymond Chandler offers a window into what, specifically, is really meant here:


I don’t recognize a single one of these dudes. It’s a kind of pornography, a humiliated boy’s idea of what manhood must be. I wish more of the art I loved, the art rendered by dudes, did not take sexual vulnerability as something to be defeated, but as an actual fact. You do not get the girl. More directly, you have no actual right to get the girl. Most times, she just don’t want you. And when she does, your reply is, very often, to pine after some other “her.”


TNC’s concise analysis feels more artful to me – a member of the overlooked or less-than-human half of the population, caricatured in such writing by strict codes of masculinity – than any Chandler I’ve ever read.  His wordsmithing is equally skilled, and his humanity is much more apparent.


It’s not about ideology.  It’s about empathy: a precondition for both good politics, and good art.

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