June 14, 2005

Lucy's Letter to the World

Lucy Elmann had to get something off her chest, it seems, and a review of Francine Prose's A Changed Man was as good a forum as any:

American sentimentality may once have seemed endearing, but now we know it's just another instrument of evil. Every aspect of American culture has begun to stink of the grave. The pizzas and hamburgers: this is how world tyrants fuel themselves. The cars, the drugs, the music, the TV: this is how they distract themselves from their crimes. But how can they still think they're right about anything? Their children are deep-fried, drug-soaked numbskulls, the adults hapless lemmings in their SUVs, heading straight into the back-end of the American dream. Where is the guilt - and where the apology?

Norm Geras cites this as an example of how "recent world events have unbalanced the judgement of a lot of people of the well-meaning, right-thinking classes." I keep imagining Francine Prose, reading the review on her laptop, shaking her head in a kind of disbelief. (I'm not Francine Prose and I'm still shaking my head in a kind of disbelief, hours after I read it.) "How was I supposed to know," Francine would say to her husband or co-worker, "that in order to get the Guardian seal of approval my novel would have to be structured around an apology for the crime of being American? Why couldn't they have assigned the review to a less, um, unstable reviewer? And have you read this bitch's book? Just what the world needs, more tedious chick-lit. It's really sad that you weren't the PRETTIEST girl in the class, honey, but I sure am glad you landed ON YOUR FEET in the end..."

That's how reviewees tend to react to unfavorable reviews and the reviewers who write them. It is.

But what's striking is not the fact that the review is unfavorable - that "goes with the territory," as the saying goes; what's striking is that it is psychotic. Lucy Ellmann is presumably capable of empathy in a general way as far as psychotic book reviews are concerned. People, as she's probably aware, keep careful track of such things, and they never forget. And she has to know that she has made an enemy for life here, and for no point.

Toward the end, Elmann also appears to blame American Sentimentality and the US Marines for the Holocaust. Truly weird.

(via Gary Farber.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at June 14, 2005 04:28 PM | TrackBack

Hmm, your hyperlinks are kind of screwy. And now I'm dying to know who Francine Prose is (hypothetically) calling a bitch.

Anyway, I think we should call for a ban on the label "right-thinking". And can we please stop trying to equate or compare war crimes? Any man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. And so on.

Posted by: Wes at June 14, 2005 05:52 PM

Sorry, Wes. The links should work now, for whatever they're worth.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at June 14, 2005 06:01 PM

In retrospect, I suppose that should have been obvious.

Posted by: Wes at June 14, 2005 06:43 PM

A pedestrian writer's thoughts are run of the mill. Still, you don't expect writers to be as susceptible to acting smart by posing as, say, actors. Its probably worse, being the Guardian they went for this hateful opinion from a person with extra cred - a former American herself! I'll never be able to eat pizza again.

Posted by: slickdpdx at June 15, 2005 03:30 AM

Say, Frank, you're not thinking the Marines have something to do with the Holocaust because of the "Aw, tell it to the marines" at the end, are you? Because that's an old expression.

It's used really stupidly here, but never mind that.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at June 15, 2005 04:06 AM

Well, Angie, I guess I was trying to be whimsical and flippant or something. Not that that paragraph makes much sense anyway you slice it....

Posted by: Dr. Frank at June 15, 2005 04:50 AM