As is our recent habit, do treat this as a semi-open thread. What items of public interest or concern would you like to share with the friends and readers of WARN? Any interesting finds to offer this week?
How do you balance uncomfortable and unpleasant knowledge about a given writer/author/actor/musician or other creative worker's personal life with your appreciation and enjoyment of their work?
One of my ex-girlfriends refused to listen to Miles Davis because he was a woman beater.
We argued a few times about the need to separate the person from their art. She was beautiful. Miles was not. I shut my pie hole and let her win the debate. Other matters took precedence.
Last summer, I finally read Robert Heinlein's tome Stranger in a Strange Land.
The book is considered a "classic" of science fiction. I felt obligated to read it--even more so after attending the World Science Fiction Convention here in Chicago where almost every other panel seemed to mention Heinlein and his "Golden Age" peers.
I was "grokking" everything that week. I grokked my friends. I grokked the birds and squirrels at the lake. I grokked my beer. I grokked my buffalo chicken wings. I tried to grok myself.
I then learned from a student about Heinlein's book Farnham's Freehold. I then did some more research and discovered his ugly, bigoted, and racist attitudes about black people.
Heinlein's thoughts on the subject?
Nor do I feel responsible for the generally low state of the Negro—as one Negro friend pointed out to me; the lucky Negroes were the ones who were enslaved. Having traveled quite a bit in Africa, I know what she means. One thing is clear: Whether one speaks of technology or social institutions, “civilization” was invented by us, not by the Negroes. As races, as cultures, we are five thousand years, about, ahead of them. Except for the culture, both institutions and technology, that they got from us, they would still be in the stone age, along with its slavery, cannibalism, tyranny, and utter lack of the concept we call “justice.”A rotten pearl:
Buz, one of the sacrosanct assumptions is that the two races, white and black, really are “equal” save for environmental handicaps the Negro has unjustly suffered. Is this true? I don’t know, not enough data observed by me, not enough reliable data observed by others, so far as I know. Obviously the two races are different physically, not only in color but in hair, bony structure, and in many other ways—blood types, for example. Must we nevertheless assume that, despite obvious and gross physical differences, these two varieties are nevertheless essentially identical in their nervous systems? I don’t know but I do know that in any other field of science such an assumption would be regarded as just plain silly even as a working hypothesis, more so as a conclusive presumption not even to be questioned.An antecedent and precursor to contemporary white supremacist colorblind racism?
I had better shut up or I’ll never finish this letter—I started out in this vein just intending to make a passing comment on your article. “Equality before the law”—Is it right to force white children to ride buses halfway across Manhattan in order that a kid in Harlem can sit next to a white child in second grade? I don’t think so; I think the white child is being discriminated against because of his color.I was embarrassed for having surrendered to Heinlein's mystique after having read only one of his books.
Jeet Heer's review of William H. Patterson's book Robert A. Heinlein, Vol 2: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better has cemented my distaste and discomfort towards reading any more of Heinlein's work.
Like most Ayn Rand types--their foremother included--Heinlein was a libertarian hypocrite who sucked on the government tit while deriding the very idea of government.
Heer writes about how:
Heinlein became a midshipman at Annapolis in 1925 and graduated near the top of his class, but his promising Naval career ended when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1934, forcing him to retire. His disability pension proved an indispensable life jacket, making possible his entire career as a writer. Heinlein not only weathered the Great Depression, but also pursued a wide variety of interests—he speculated on a silver mine, took graduate science courses, sold real estate, and tried his hand at architecture—before settling into science fiction. Aside from his naval pension, Heinlein also took money from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to study art.
Later in life, as a libertarian, he would rail against “loafers” and the welfare state but in his leftist days he knew how much he depended on the government. As he acknowledged in a 1941 letter, “This country has been very good to me, and the taxpayers have supported me for many years.” The popularizer of TANSTAAFL ate more than his share of subsidized meals.Such politics are despicable. In the Age of Austerity and Neoliberalism, especially as channeled by the Republican Party and their ideological cousins in the Democratic Party, Ayn Rand's philosophies are a threat to the Common Good and American prosperity. I have no interest in reading such material for pleasure. Yet, I want to find a way to rationalize reading Robert Heinlein's other work and finding some small amount of enjoyment from the experience.
How do you solve this puzzle in your own life? Are you able to separate the artist from their art? Any tips or thoughts on how to approach Heinlein's fiction?