History and Literature’s Complaint Against a Modern: A J.K Rowling Poem
Below is my ham-fisted poetic reply to the tweet about J.K Rowling below. Why in poetry? It’s a long story. Suffice it to say, when you begin a road trip on a motorcycle with your dog—wearing a World War I pilot’s helmet and goggles—in a sidecar, you finish it that way, even if your realize halfway that a rented RV was a far better idea.
As I strolled ‘cross a public green—a sward
Where just & gross opinion each are marred—
As I do live by dopamine a fool
Began to type & laid a steaming stool
Of such great volume—all before ‘twas waste—
That men before it’s septic flow in haste
Sought higher ground. It’s matter was defense
Of a wealthy scrivener held in woke contempt
Asserting a matter of biology:
That pricks will every man in time belie,
And ladies giving birth monopoly
Do hold. So bold was she! He countered thus:
This J.K. Rowling was nigh virtuous.
(She’s sins, of course—so do we all—her tales
Are ships propelled by clouds of threadbare sails
Where evil comes in classes, terms, exams
And Wonder’s veneer hides lean-tos tightly crammed
With easy solutions & ill-woven threads.) What could
Be said in Lady Rowling’s favor? Good
And merit, value, worth & wisdom serve
To cause a writer’s work to be preserved.
Into the lists, her honor to defend
This wag struts bold. His armor’s strength depends
On this idea: Dame Rowling’s showed the poor
With virtue as had ne’er a pen before.
I’d like to channel the spirit, if I may,
Of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath: The fuck you say?
The Weasleys were altruistic innovation?
Then History, Literature speak in indignation:
Did not Our Lord with whores and debtors move
And was this not example of His love?
Was ‘t not St. Bede who sang the swineherd’s hymn?
Was Everyman of mysteries not kin
To all mankind both high and low? I know
That modern minds myopic often grow.
Have we forgotten the porter of Macbeth?
Or the feast prepared for star-crossed Juliet?
Did the ass-headed weaver not give the Duke a play?
Was the bed a queen’s where Falstaff sotted lay?
With muleteers & goatherds did the Don
Of Spain consort, & galley-slaves anon
He freed, & all for the love of a farm girl sweet.
A refutation would be scare complete
Without a stack of Dickens’s works around
Where the best and worst of slovens can be found.
(In the room the women come and go
Talking of Victor-Marie Hugo)
Would Steinbeck’s Grapes have passed this Rowling Test?
Or George & Lenny’s discov’ry that the best
Laid plans of mice & men gang aft agley?
Could anyone in honest conscience say
That such a house of cards—each card a knave—
Was house at all or just a scattered pack
Strewn on the floor? I’ll pry at no more cracks,
But will say this: Such Modern, tidy boors
May stalk our culture, mindless, evermore.
Hehe. I liked that.Report
The only thing I will state about J.K. Rowling is that the Harry Potter books obviously mattered to a great number of people because of how much viritual and non-virtual ink get spilled over whatever she says and what she wrote. Some people still ardently defend her, others are disappointed about being let down by an idol (protip: never have role models). I read the books in my twenties and they were fine. I got tired of the British boarding school stuff quickly (and I saw this critiqued long before anyone knew about her anti-Trans views). The WWII analogies seem to bash over the head with obviousness (Syltherin as Nazi seems super obvious as do terms like mudblood and pureblood). The retconning of Dumbedore as gay seems like a cynical profit play.
But I think that way too much ink is spilled online about the power of the online/twitter. Lots of people still love and adore J.K. Rowling and the super-liberal San Francisco Bay Area had or has a production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on performance during the fall and winter. If I had to guess, I would bet money that COVID turned off more people than her alleged or not anti-trans views.
The whole of on-line dialogue is very surreal to me. You have people on the right-wing who seem able to generate a lot of money for themselves based on “Can you see how horrible left-wing twitter is?” but left-wing twitter does not seem to penetrate into the real world that much and fears of cancel culture are often more heat than light.
I think J.K. Rowling’s views are tansphobic and people have a right to be disappointed and complain about them but a lot of the OMG canceled stuff is over reaction. I have my own complaints on the many ways in which political twitter is unrealistic but I do not see it as a powerful force in politics.
Maybe the very online need to be less so. It seems odd to me that substack can be profitable for people.Report
I pay as little attention as I can to the politics of musicians, artists, writers, and Hollywood hacks and hams. I have heard many awful things about, for example, Eric Clapton’s politics, but I have nearly two dozen albums of his and expect I’ll have more before he hangs up his guitar.
That said, if individuals want to avoid an artist because of his or her (or their) politics, they have an absolute right to do that. If they want to urge people to follow their example, same. If an artist’s politics offend enough people to make him or her (or they) box office poison, studios and publishers have every right not to lose money, however much I may regret not getting more books or music or movies from some favorite of mine. And if some studio or publisher doesn’t want to work with someone otherwise bankable because they don’t want to, that, too, is their right.
I do, however, get annoyed when people with their hands on the cultural taps decide collectively and for reasons other than box office or their own principled objections that no one shall produce or promote someone. If, for example, Edward G. Robinson had become box office poison, or, in the unlikely event that all of the studios had principled objections to casting him, well, too bad for EGR and his fans. But that isn’t what happened. And that is annoying.Report
“protip: never have role models”
Great advice. [eyeroll]Report