What I’ve been reading lately, part 43

The Constant Rabbit — Jasper Fforde

This is a novel that tries to get to grips with how things would actually work if there were anthropomorphic rabbits of the kind that turn up in fiction from Alice in Wonderland to Bugs Bunny. Rabbits are human-sized, walk upright and talk, and have a distinctive culture. They live uneasily alongside humans, using some of the same facilities but often pushed to the fringes of society, with obvious parallels to apartheid South Africa or some parts of the Deep South of the USA in the 1950s.

It’s an interesting setup, but Fforde doesn’t seem to know quite what he wants to do with it, so we end up with a plot that is half a story of Forbidden Love between man and rabbit, and half 1984-style surveillance dystopia. In the end it all rather comes crashing down. I feel like this could have been much better if the ideas has been left to brew for another six months before the actual writing began.

The Problem with Men — Richard Herring

Every year on International Women’s Day (8th March), Richard Herring searches Twitter for men asking “When is International Men’s Day?” — there are always plenty of them. And he replies “It’s on the 19th November”. This quixotic undertaking has always appealed to me as combining genuinely useful recalibration and an amusingly passive-aggressive way of doing it. This book his his attempt to answer the question “When is International Men’s Day?” once and for all — and of course the more important questions of why International Women’s Day matters, and why it should not be threatening to men. There are also some hilarious examples of mansplaining(*). I picked up the ebook at the discounted price of 99p, which was well worth paying; I’m not sure there’s quite enough substance here to merit a regular-price purchase, though.

(*) Note: by this, I mean Actual Mansplaining, i.e. a man patronisingly explaining to a woman something that she already knows and may be an expert on. I don’t mean the increasingly widespread meaning of any opinion a man expresses that a woman doesn’t like.

Court and Spark — Sean Nelson

An analysis and reflection on Joni Mitchell’s album of the same name. This is the second time I’ve read it, and again I’ve found very insightful, increasing my appreciation of music that I already love. To my surprise, I found this happening the most on the relatively few occasions where I disagree with Nelson: for example, on the prayer “send me somebody who’s strong and somewhat sincere” (in Same Situation), Nelson writes “How lonely do you have to be before you’re willing to settle for moderate sincerity, before you’ll accept half measures of honesty even in your fantasy life, before the best thing you can even bring yourself to want is a compromise?” Which is a perfectly reasonable reading; but I’ve always heard the line instead as encapsulating Joni’s own ambivalence about commitment, her fear of facing a love strong enough and demanding enough to be wholly sincere. I like how Nelson pushes me to see familiar songs through unfamiliar lenses.

On “On Monday, I placed two apples” — Andrew Rilstone

A re-reading of a little book that I reviewed, sort of, back in 2016. As always, Rilstone approaches big and important themes via the side entrance, so that observations take you by surprise and you only realise a little later that he’s said something quite profound under the cover of a joke. See also: Chesterton, Gilbert Keith.

The Firm — John Grisham

A strange one, this. It’s my first John Grisham novel. I somehow had the idea that his books were fairly highbrow and cerebral, like perhaps those of John Le Carré. Instead, within the first few pages it was apparent that Grisham has more in comment with Jeffrey Archer: a writer of books with no literary merit, but telling compelling stories that you just want to keep reading.

I was OK with that: I’m not too proud to admit that I enjoy Archer’s books, so I expected much the same here. Instead, I found myself feeling less and less engaged, so that the further I got through the book, the harder going it felt.

Why? I think it’s because the book is full of all the wrong kinds of tension. Early on it’s apparent that our hero has inadvertently joined a crooked law firm. He works with the FBI to bring them down. Will they realise what he’s doing and have him killed? This scenario is promising, but plays out in long scenes of photocopying incriminating documents and hoping one of the Bad Guys doesn’t tumble to what is happening. It’s worrying, but not interesting. How it became the massive bestseller it did I don’t know.

Anyway, I got so mired down in this festival of photocopying that about 80% in, I just stopped. And that’s awkward: I can give up on a book I’m not enjoying 10% of the way in, but by the time I’m 80% in that’s a lot of sunk cost, and I do feel the sensible thing is to finish the book and get the payoff. So I didn’t let myself start another book until I’d finished this … which meant I didn’t read a book for two or three months. In the end, I ploughed through on sheer bloody-mindedness, and put it down with a sigh of relief.

Not recommended.

(The film adaptation shares all the flaws of the book. Avoid.)

It’s Obvious You Won’t Survive by Your Wits Alone — Scott Adams

The fourth of 26 (so far) compilations of Dilbert comic strips. Its 247 pages cover 82 weeks of strips — a full-page colour Sunday strip and six regular strips printed three to the page each week. I was surprised to find that it was rather heavy going. It’s funny in places, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but the cumulative effect is rather grim. I think it’s because none of the characters are really likeable. Dilbert is an oblivious nerd, Wally is a cynical time-server, the PHB is clueless and malicious, Dogbert is exploitative, and so on.

Individual Dilbert strips can be very good; but I don’t recommend a whole bookful.

The Seeds of Time — John Wyndham

A set of short stories by the author of The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes, with a revealing preface that shows how consciously he was aiming the various stories at different audiences. Each one is enjoyable in its own way, but without leaving particularly deep marks on the mind or emotions. As a compilation, it is exactly the sum of its parts: no deeper themes emerge. Fun, but dispensible.

Heretics — G. K. Chesterton

To my surprise, this turns out to be the first time I’ve re-read this book since I started writing here about my reading. It’s an old favourite, and I have quoted it at length here on more than one occasion. It is a collection of essays, each about a famous thinker of the time — George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, etc. — and analysing what, in Chesterton’s opinion, is wrong with their philosophy. That is the description of a good book; but what makes this a great one is Chesterton’s generosity of spirit. Instead of tearing into his opponents, he is at pains to point out what is admirable about them before getting critical, so that the criticisms, funny though they are, seem to be made in a spirit of disappointment rather than in anger. Highly recommended, and free to read.

39 responses to “What I’ve been reading lately, part 43

  1. Yeah, I tend to agree about Fforde; his more recent work has felt a bit too much like “get this idea into print before someone else tweets it.”
    I mean, the ideas are still great, and his style is never less than approachable, but another couple of rewrite and then edit passes would have improved things a lot.

  2. I feel like this could have been much better if the ideas has been left to brew for another six months before the actual writing began.

    I dunno. Haven’t read this one but the ‘Thursday Next’ books are a similar mix of wild ideas (the most interesting of which is, what if literature was still like rock music, in the way one gathers that it might have been in the era of Byron and Shelley?, but also with genetic engineering, weird religions, resurrected dodos, etc etc) wrapped around pretty pedestrian plots.

    Have you read Malcolm Price’s ‘Louis Knight’ books? I read them around the same time as Fforde and they are much superior.

    the more important questions of why International Women’s Day matters

    What I’ve never understood is why International Anything Day matters. I gather there are hundreds of these International Whatnot Days — perhaps every day is one? — but International Women’s Day is the only one anyone has ever heard of and that’s only because of the ‘when is International Men’s Day?’ guff. Does the book address that question? What the point of these things is and what good they do? Are they Saints Days for the modern post-Christian religion, or what?

    A re-reading of a little book that I reviewed, sort of, back in 2016.

    It would be fascinating, I think, to chart Rilstone’s almost-two-decade decline from someone willing to fearlessly approach ideas from first principles, pull them apart, and criticise them — very much like Chesterton or Lewis, Jack — to the modern Rilstone who seems afraid of his own shadow, unwilling to comment on anything even remotely controversial because he doesn’t know how to do so without being intellectually honest but who has been told in no uncertain terms that intellectual honesty is Not Welcome Here and will get him ostracised because what matter sis whether you are one of the Bad People or one of the Good People and intellectual honesty will mark you out as Bad People Adjacent or at the very least Not One of the Good People.

    But I can’t be bothered, so somebody else should.

    Heretics is great, as is the follow-up, Orthodoxy.

    Personally I have finally got around to reading Berlin Game and Mexico Set, mixing them in with some of Mick Herron’s books.

  3. It might be worth trying another Grisham novel if you’re not too scarred by that one. They mostly feature legal stuff, but I’d recommend The Brethren and The Racketeer. It’s years since I read them, but I don’t remember any photocopying in them :-)

  4. Andrew Rilstone

    I am famous! I am famous! They have divided my life into three periods!

  5. Andrew Rilstone

    Can we assume that H = SK, or are there two people trying to gaslight me?

  6. Andrew Rilstone

    The book is available here (its a 48 page pamphlet) https://www.lulu.com/shop/andrew-rilstone/autoexegete/paperback/product-14rzevm7.html?q=autoexegete&page=1&pageSize=4, by the way.

    I had used one of C.S Lewis’s analogies for the existence of miracles, and one of my non-religious friends had interpreted this as a personal attack. I felt this to be an over-reaction, so in the spirit of Alan Moore, I over-reacted as well. I don’t believe the person in question ever read the book, or anything else I have written since. Probably the “140 characters one” explains my issue with interweb debate better. But I’d rather be writing long books on Spider-Man and Saint Mark, so that’s what I do nowadays.

  7. Three periods? No, four… one little pamphlet still holds out…

  8. I read The Firm when it came out 30 years ago. As I recall, the one scene that seemed to capture everyone’s imagination at the time was when the law firm seduces the young hero with a new BMW. Imagine, a lease on a new BMW! What crimes do you need me to commit…?

    I do think the fascination of that scene represents an interesting moment in American cultural history. On the one hand, idolization of the growing wealth and status of the legal-managerial class, which would only grow more in the decades to follow. On the other hand, the idea that you would want to drive the same model of car as all your work colleagues—a level of corporate conformity that in 1991 was about to go very much out of cultural style.

    I didn’t like the book. At the end of the book, the “good guys” have one of the villains captured and tied up, and then they murder him in cold blood; a war crime; this isn’t supposed to bother the reader at all. I never read any other Grisham books.

  9. On the other hand, the idea that you would want to drive the same model of car as all your work colleagues—a level of corporate conformity that in 1991 was about to go very much out of cultural style.

    After a moment’s reflection, perhaps I should acknowledge that rejection of corporate loyalty (while also lacking faith in government/the FBI) is exactly what The Firm is about. So it’s a very Gen X work I suppose.

  10. I haven’t read The Firm —or any Grisham — but I do remember a chapter on it in, I think, on of those many knock-ofs that followed John Sutherland’s books back in the nineties, pointing out that though the novel was ostensibly set contemporaneously with is publication, or thereabouts, in the early nineties, all the technology, procedures, etc, are those of a decade before, mainly due to Grisham drawing on memories of his own experiences as a young lawyer (which had taken place at the beginning of the eighties) in order to establish the milieu. Perhaps the vehicular attitudes, like the technology, had undergone a similar chronological transplanting?

  11. Huh, I just realized that — having never actually read either! — I had been conflating “Thursday Next” with “The Man Who Was Thursday”. How many books apparently feature people called “Thursday”…?

  12. Sorry for the slow responses, I’ve been away in Germany.

    H, I’ve read the first two Thursday Next books (and reviewed them here, too.) I enjoyed them, but not to the point where I felt a screaming need to move on to the third. Louis Knight is new to me, I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    What is the point of International X Days, for any X? Only awareness. But that answer hides an awful lot of work in the word “only”.

    On “Rilstone’s almost-two-decade decline […] to the modern Rilstone who seems afraid of his own shadow, unwilling to comment on anything even remotely controversial”, I can only wonder which Rilstone you’re thinking of. Obviously not Andrew, in light of his recent detailed and iconoclastic analysis of Mark’s Gospel.

  13. paulmorris, thanks for the recommendation. I guess I will file Grisham under “to give one more chance”, and pick up the next freebie I see of his.

  14. Andrew, yes, I believe H and SK are the same person. Too insightful to ignore, too infuriating to take seriously. He or she falls in the uncanny valley of commenters.

  15. Crash Random, you are right now I think about it: there is a definite period-piece quality to The Firm, which may not have helped endear it to me. Period pieces from before my time have a certain charm, but from the 1980s, when I was growing up and saw quite enough greed-is-good-ness for myself? No thanks.

  16. sniffoy, stop what you are doing now and go read The Man Who Was Thursday! You’ll thank me!

  17. What is the point of International X Days, for any X? Only awareness.

    Given the only ones I could name are international men’s day and international women’s day, I don’t think they do a very god job then.

    People who try to set limits on what you’re allowed to say — or even think — by guilt-tripping, ostracising, or otherwise taking unjustified personal offence at perfectly reasonable, good-faith utterances, are not your friends; they are emotionally manipulative bullies playing power-dominance games.

  18. Here’s a list for some surreal fun:

    https://www.un.org/en/observances/list-days-weeks

    I particularly like World Pulses Day and World Bicycle Day, though I have no strong feelings at all about the International Day of Neutrality.

  19. It’s also cool that you have to try to work out from context for each World X Day whether X is good or bad. Like, the early rounds with World Food Day and World Tuberculosis Day are pretty obvious, but then they throw curveballs with abstract concepts like World Intellectual Property Day and World Statistics Day. I guess the boss level is stuff like International Moon Day and International Asteroid Day (good and bad, respectively).

  20. People who try to set limits on what you’re allowed to say — or even think — by guilt-tripping, ostracising, or otherwise taking unjustified personal offence at perfectly reasonable, good-faith utterances, are not your friends; they are emotionally manipulative bullies playing power-dominance games.

    This seems an odd point to feel the need to make. Are you suggesting that anyone here has claimed the opposite?

  21. I think “H”‘s comment about friends is aimed at what Andrew said about “one of [his] non-religious friends” having reacted badly to something he wrote.

    I share Mike’s bafflement as to how anyone could describe the present-day Andrew Rilstone as “afraid of his own shadow, unwilling to comment on anything even remotely controversial”.

    Though it’s not so baffling when the person so describing him is H/SK, for whom meanspiritedness seems to be a fundamental value. Which is a shame since, as Mike says, sometimes he has insightful things to say.

  22. Some time ago I made some remarks in my blog which could have been construed as supporting a fringe political group which I do not, in fact, support, so I removed them. Perhaps unwisely, I also explained why I had removed them.

  23. I find it interesting that within a couple of weeks H/SK has done the following two things:

    1. Complained (here) that Andrew never writes anything controversial any more because he is incapable of not being intellectually honest and intellectual honesty gets you cancelled.

    2. Complained (on Andrew’s blog) that Andrew’s wokeness will compel him to delete what H/SK has written because wokeness means valuing power over truth and suppressing criticism lest engaging with it force one to _think_.

    Of course it is “H” here and “SK” on Andrew’s blog. But, like Mike, I think it’s pretty obvious that they are in fact the same person.

  24. Actually, to be fair, this week it was apparently ‘World Sepsis Day’ (though that’s not on the UN calendar — who organises these things?) and I saw go round the Tweetbook a graphic spelling out the signs of sepsis so people can watch out for them.

    I may mock (and I will, obviously), but if the memory of seeing that means someone will get medical help when it’s needed rather than too late, some good will definitely have been done.

  25. (Andrew did in fact delete what H/SK wrote. I don’t see any reason to believe that he did it because the Woke cannot admit the existence of opposing arguments for fear of being forced to think, though. I think he thinks H/SK is trolling and one shouldn’t feed trolls.)

  26. What is ‘trolling’?

  27. Commenting whose main purpose is to provoke.

    (I am making the optimistic assumption that your question is shorthand for something like “obviously what I posted was not trolling, so what can Andrew possibly have thought I was doing that he might have referred to that way?”, and that you are not actually trying to pretend that you have no idea what trolling is. In the latter case, of course my response is “That is.”.)

  28. Are either, or both, of these things provocative?

    i. Calling everyone who disagrees with you a racist?

    (b) Pointing out that someone is spouting logically incoherent nonsense?

  29. Both. But I do not think Andrew in fact did the first, and unless you replace “pointing out” with “claiming” in the second it is not clear that you were doing that one.

    (He _did_ imply that everyone who uses the word “woke” these days is a racist. I think that was a deliberate exaggeration, a bit like when he said in a more recent post that The Lord Of The Rings “is a world more real than any other”. One major reason for thinking that is the same in both cases: if taken literally, you get a statement that’s obviously false in a way that I would confidently expect Andrew to notice. E.g., some people who complain about “wokeness” are black, and it seems unlikely that they are using the word to mean “nothing more or less than n*****-lover”.)

    You may feel that Andrew is unduly provocative and that discussions with him are unlikely to be helpful. You’re entitled to feel that way. So is anyone, about anyone. If you feel that way and therefore choose not to engage with him, the way you’d do it is by not reading his blog. On the other hand, if he feels that way about you and chooses not to engage with you, his only way to do that is to ban you from his comments.

  30. I think that was a deliberate exaggeration, a bit like when he said in a more recent post that The Lord Of The Rings “is a world more real than any other”. One major reason for thinking that is the same in both cases: if taken literally, you get a statement that’s obviously false in a way that I would confidently expect Andrew to notice.

    Well, quite. Likewise the idea that ‘fishing [that statue there was the to-do about that summer a couple of years ago when everyone went a wee bit mad] out of the river and putting him back on his plinth would be a huge Alan-Moorish magical act in support of white supremacism’, which is even more absurd (I can, and I’m sure you can, think of several completely un-racist reasons why someone might think that a piece of private property which was damaged by an act of criminal vandalism should be restored to its former state).

    My point was that if the meaning of ‘trolling’ is ‘being provocative on the inter-net’, then those who live in the glass house of having a penchant for peppering up their writing by liberally dusting it with off-hand comments of a deliberately provocative nature by way of rhetorical flurish are skating on thin ice when they chose to throw the stone of trolling.

    On the other hand, if he feels that way about you and chooses not to engage with you, his only way to do that is to ban you from his comments.

    Of course the owner of any particular website is perfectly entitled to delete from it anything they wish. That is what private property means. The interesting question is, why deal with this particular interlocutor by refusing to engage?

    The answer, it seems to me, is that whoever they are, they have Rilstone’s number; and he knows that if he were to engage then intellectual honestly would compel him to concede some points — just as the other would, in turn, likely to be forced to concede some points. That being in the nature of logical debate. Rilstone however knows that some of the points he might be forced to concede would be in the nature of woke shibboleths, the denial of which — or the mere refusal to defend them — would lead those he mistakenly thinks of as his friends to ostracise him as a heretic, or at least to require him to report for a spell in the re-education gulag to make amends.

    So, like the football man, if he speaks he is in big trouble, and he doesn’t want to be in big trouble, so he avoids the topics which are likely to get him into trouble.

    Why does it seem like this to me? Well, from what I wrote above: an observation that Rilstone has increasingly shied away from controversy. The Rilstone of yesteryear wasn’t afraid of writing on contentious topics and spelling out both sides’ position fairly and with even-handedness, presenting each’s strongest arguments. The old Rilstone wasn’t even afraid of positioning himself on the unfashionable side of a debate, such as when he defended Professor Jack against accusations of lipstickophobia. Would the 2022 Rilstone write an article defending a children’s author against even more ridiculous charges? I think not.

    And this makes me sad because I really respected Rilstone, and his intellectual honesty, even when (as happened more often than not) I was on the other side from him.

    And it also makes me sad because at some point he’s going to realise that C.S. Lewis is totally incompatible with wokeism. For the whole bedrock of Lewis’s thought is that there is such a thing as objective truth, that exists beyond language, and that it is knowable. You just can’t square wokery with the man who wrote ‘The Poison of Subjectivism’. The writer who argued so forcefully that the Jesus of the Gospels cannot be a great moral teacher just won’t fit in the same conceptual universe as ‘everyones lived experience is valid’.

    Indeed the two are not just mutually exclusive, they are mortal enemies; and I do mean mortal, for the wokies are clearly the intellectual children of Gaius and Titius, and their philosophy is that of The Green Book taken to the extreme, and it is a philosophy that, Lewis realised earlier than most, can lead only to the death of the human race (and he didn’t even know the technologies we now have, which enable us to do in reality what he only foresaw in his third-chapter nightmares; but though he was not a scientist and would not have understood the powers we now wield, he was an expert on human nature, so he could tell they were coming, and he well knew the fearful uses to which they would be put).

    You can tell how diametrically opposed Lewis and the world of woke are by thinking of his famous passage in Mere Christianity about wishing our enemies were worse than they are. Imagine the reaction in the wokosphere if a recording were to turn up of a certain children’s author saying, ‘Well, of course I always make sure to have a Jewish agent — that way I know they’ll fight for any penny’. Imagine the glee. and then imagine it turned out that the tape was one of these profound fakes, and she never said that at all, or anything like it. Would the reaction be, ‘Thank goodness — we know we disagree with her, but at least she isn’t as bad as that’? Or would it be disappointment? Would the line be, ‘Well, she didn’t say it that time, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t thinking it’? Would it, in short, be the reaction that — Lewis observes — will turn us into devils, and leave us ‘fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred’?

    I think we know which it would be.

    So the attempt to straddle both is futile and doomed; and anyone who tried will at some point be forced to make a choice. And I just hope that when that time comes there is enough honestly — enough courage — left that Rilstone can make the right choice.

  31. [Mike, do feel free to tell H and me to stop having this lengthy conversation not at all about what you’ve been reading lately, in the comments of your post about what you’ve been reading lately.]

    I do not find myself able to concur with your analysis of Andrew’s psychology; in particular I can, and I am sure you can, think of several possible explanations for why he might not consider you someone he wants to engage with that don’t at all come down to “you have Andrew’s number and he knows that if he engaged he’d have to concede things he’s afraid to concede”.
    Nor can I concur with your analysis of “wokery”. I am sure there are “woke” people of whom all your accusations are true. But to whatever extent “wokery” means, say, something that Andrew Rilstone endorses, I am fairly sure it doesn’t entail any of those things.
    (I’m only, say, 95% sure about this, because my actual reasoning process here goes something like “I largely agree with what Andrew says about woke-ish issues, and I am confident that my opinions about those issues do not entail radical subjectivism about anything”, and it’s possible that I am misunderstanding Andrew’s position. It’s also possible that I’m wrong about the implications of my own opinions, of course, but I have good reason to think I’m pretty good at seeing what things are implied by what other things.)
    I don’t see that Andrew shies away from controversial topics. I can’t help suspecting that much of what actually bothers you is that he is so negative about your positions on them. (I don’t mean that he says negative things about _you_, I mean he says negative things about X and X happens to be similar to what you think.) And the sort of thing you are disturbed by his saying now (e.g., that complaints about “wokery” are often just a thin disguise for racism) he has been saying for more than a decade, though previously it was “political correctness” rather than “wokery” that was the social conservatives’ target. See e.g. http://www.andrewrilstone.com/2010/12/homosexual-frogs-6.html (if the last line seems over the top, there is some important context earlier in the series of which that post is a part).
    I would be extremely surprised to find that Andrew endorses “everyone’s lived experience is valid” in any sense incompatible with objectivity about (e.g.) moral values. I would also be extremely surprised if Andrew’s reaction to discovering that J K Rowling had not in fact said some awful thing, were one of disappointment.
    I think a sufficient explanation for all this is that you and he are taking “woke” to refer to different things. Of course there is no One True Meaning that the word “woke” must always have, so it isn’t even necessary for either of you to be using it wrongly, but the following seems clear to me: When e.g. someone complains about a woman or a black man being cast as The Doctor, and says that this shows that the BBC has been taken over by “wokeness”, either (1) _they_ are badly wrong in thinking that the one is good evidence of the other, or (2) what they mean by wokeness is something much weaker than what you evidently mean by it.

  32. Ugh, sorry about the crappy formatting of that comment. I wrongly thought that line breaks would turn into actual paragraph breaks, which it turns out they don’t.

  33. But to whatever extent “wokery” means, say, something that Andrew Rilstone endorses, I am fairly sure it doesn’t entail any of those things.

    I fear you have totally missed the point. Like, the point is here and your arrow landed way over there, see, over in the distance there, the hill with the shaft sticking out of it? Yes, there.

    My whole point — which I keep repeating — is that I don’t think that Rilstone has fallen for the radical subjectivism of wokery, because he knows it’s logically incoherent; but that he is afraid to say so because he also knows that pointing out the logical incoherence is a good way to get yourself ostracised by the fashionable people. So he keeps schtum about what he really thinks, in order not to upset people. That’s what I wrote right back up there at the top, if you look.

    And this kind of deliberate alienation from the truth is not healthy. You’ll have read ‘The Power of the Powerless’, obviously, everyone has, so remember the greengrocer? It eats away at the soul. It corrodes one’s ability to resist. You might think, ‘oh, I’ll go along with it for an easy life, but inside I know what’s real and what’s not’, but the very act of outwardly lying makes you complicit in the grand deception, and undermines your moral authority so that when the time comes that you have to stand up you find you have nothing left to stand on. Or with. And, legless, you find yourself carried along with the flow.

    And the sort of thing you are disturbed by his saying now (e.g., that complaints about “wokery” are often just a thin disguise for racism) he has been saying for more than a decade, though previously it was “political correctness” rather than “wokery” that was the social conservatives’ target.

    I know. I read that at the time. He was wrong about that then and he’s wrong about it now, but at least that’s him being intellectually honest and saying what he actually thinks, even if he’s wrong, and I respect him for being intellectually honestly wrong.

    I would be extremely surprised to find that Andrew endorses “everyone’s lived experience is valid” in any sense incompatible with objectivity about (e.g.) moral values. I would also be extremely surprised if Andrew’s reaction to discovering that J K Rowling had not in fact said some awful thing, were one of disappointment.

    I would to. But I fear that Rilstone would not have the courage to come out and state that people’s ‘lived experience’ is not ‘valid’ or ‘their truth’ but is in fact just subjective sense-impressions which may or may not match objective reality; or that Rilstone would publicly defend a children’s author who turned out not to have said an awful thing, when all the fashionable people were performing intellectual backflips to cling to the idea that there was some truth in the discredited story (even if that is just that it ‘chimes with some people’s lived experiences’).

    When e.g. someone complains about a woman or a black man being cast as The Doctor, and says that this shows that the BBC has been taken over by “wokeness”, either (1) _they_ are badly wrong in thinking that the one is good evidence of the other, or (2) what they mean by wokeness is something much weaker than what you evidently mean by it.

    Well, that requires a lot of unpacking, and isn’t directly relevant to the subject of the Rilstone which was read by the author of the article at the head of this page, so let’s return to it some other time.

  34. Proposition 1. Some “woke” people are radical subjectivists
    Proposition 2. Andrew Rilstone thinks “woke” is generally used as a contentless insult
    Conclusion: Andrew Rilstone is a radical subjectivist.

    H, I find it bizarre that you’re choosing to carry out this attack in the comments of a blog-post reviewing books. I also find it distasteful that your comments are growing increasingly personal. It is my proud boast that in the 12 and a half years of its existence this blog has received 12,332 comments and I have not once (to my recollection) had to delete one or ban a commenter. I feel that this record is in more danger right now than it has been before.

    H, please discontinue this thread; or, better continue it on your own blog. (You are welcome to post a link here for those who want to follow you across and continue the discussion there.)

  35. Conclusion: Andrew Rilstone is a radical subjectivist.

    I must not have been clear, because though this has never been claimed two people seem to have come to the same misunderstanding. This is concerning.

    carry out this attack in the comments of a blog-post reviewing books

    Who’s attacking? I’ve been discussing authors mentioned in the article (Fforde, Grisham, Rilstone) (and, admittedly, Lewis, who wasn’t mentioned).

  36. I perceive it as attacking; so does Andrew. So whether or not that is your intent, that is what’s being perceived. So I am asking you to stop. Again, feel free to write whatever you want on your own blog (as though you need my permission!) but I don’t want my own used as a venue to attack a friend. Thank you for your understanding.

  37. In keeping with Mike’s request to H, I am not going to attempt to continue the discussion, beyond the following clarifications that I hope are sufficiently not-provocative that neither Mike nor H is troubled by my making them.

    1. I agree that H is not saying that Andrew is a radical subjectivist. But I think that what H is saying about wokeness is only _relevant_ to what he’s saying about Andrew to whatever extent either (a) Andrew is a radical subjectivist or (b) Andrew agrees with H that wokeness necessarily leads to radical subjectivism. And I don’t see any reason to believe that either (a) or (b) is true. (The main point of the paragraph beginning “I think a sufficient explanation for all this” was to suggest one particular way in which (b) is false.)

    2. The thing H says “requires a lot of unpacking, and isn’t directly relevant” does in fact seem to me to be directly relevant; the case Andrew was discussing this time (ethnic diversity in “The Rings of Power”) is pretty much exactly parallel to the one I mentioned (ethnic diversity in “Doctor Who”).

    3. There is plenty in H’s last comment with which I disagree. This is unlikely to surprise anyone; I mention it only in case anyone mistakes “g is dropping the discussion because that’s what the host wants” for “all remaining disagreements have been resolved now” :-).

    And with that, I’m done; my apologies for my part in helping the comments here get filled with only-tangentially-relevant discussions.

  38. Thank you, both of you. I don’t like to shut down discussion, and will hopefully not need to do it again until another 12 years have passed!

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