Frederick Crews writes in 2001:

* Darwin’s contemporaries saw at once what a heavy blow he was striking against piety. His theory entailed the inference that we are here today not because God reciprocates our love, forgives our sins, and attends to our entreaties but because each of our oceanic and terrestrial foremothers was lucky enough to elude its predators long enough to reproduce.

* Richard Dawkins has asserted that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” What he meant was not that Darwinism requires us to disbelieve in God. Rather, if we are already inclined to apprehend the universe in strictly physical terms, the explanatory power of natural selection removes the last obstacle to our doing so. That obstacle was the seemingly irrefutable “argument from design” most famously embodied in William Paley’s Natural Theology of 1802. By showing in principle that order could arise without an artificer who is more complex than his artifacts, Darwin robbed Paley’s argument of its scientific inevitability.

* the Darwinian outlook is potentially a “universal acid” penetrating “all the way down” to the origin of life on Earth and “all the way up” to a satisfyingly materialistic reduction of mind and soul.

* Working evolutionists, once they notice that Behe’s and Dembski’s “findings” haven’t been underwritten by a single peer-reviewed paper, are disinclined to waste their time refuting them. Until recently, even those writers who do conscientiously alert the broad public to the fallacies of creationism have allowed intelligent design to go unchallenged. But that deficit has now been handsomely repaired by two critiques: Robert T. Pennock’s comprehensive and consistently rational Tower of Babel, the best book opposing creationism in all of its guises, and Kenneth R. Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God, whose brilliant first half reveals in bracing detail that intelligent design is out of touch with recent research.

* The proper way to assess any theory is to weigh its explanatory advantages against those of every extant rival. Neo-Darwinian natural selection is endlessly fruitful, enjoying corroboration from an imposing array of disciplines, including paleontology, genetics, systematics, embryology, anatomy, biogeography, biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, physical anthropology, and ethology. By contrast, intelligent design lacks any naturalistic causal hypotheses and thus enjoys no consilience with any branch of science. Its one unvarying conclusion—“God must have made this thing”—would preempt further investigation and place biological science in the thrall of theology.

Even the theology, moreover, would be hobbled by contradictions. Intelligent design awkwardly embraces two clashing deities—one a glutton for praise and a dispenser of wrath, absolution, and grace, the other a curiously inept cobbler of species that need to be periodically revised and that keep getting snuffed out by the very conditions he provided for them. Why, we must wonder, would the shaper of the universe have frittered away thirteen billion years, turning out quadrillions of useless stars, before getting around to the one thing he really cared about, seeing to it that a minuscule minority of earthling vertebrates are washed clean of sin and guaranteed an eternal place in his company? And should the God of love and mercy be given credit for the anopheles mosquito, the schistosomiasis parasite, anthrax, smallpox, bubonic plague…? By purporting to detect the divine signature on every molecule while nevertheless conceding that natural selection does account for variations, the champions of intelligent design have made a conceptual mess that leaves the ancient dilemmas of theodicy harder than ever to resolve.

* In recent decades both Kristol and Himmelfarb have been ideological bellwethers for the monthly Commentary, which, interestingly enough, has itself entered combat in the Darwin wars. In 1996 the magazine caused a ripple of alarm in scientific circles by publishing David Berlinski’s essay “The Deniable Darwin,” a florid and flippant attack that rehearsed some of the time-worn creationist canards (natural selection is just a tautology, it contravenes the second law of thermodynamics, and so forth) while adding the latest arguments from intelligent design. And as if to show how unimpressed they were by the corrections that poured in from evolutionists, the editors brought Berlinski onstage for an encore in 1998, this time declaring that he hadn’t been taken in by party-line apologetics for the Big Bang, either.
In answering his dumbfounded critics, Berlinski—now a fellow of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, an organization founded to promote anti-Darwinian ideas—denied that he is a creationist. What he surely meant, however, was that he isn’t a young-Earth creationist.

* Commentary is not the only rightward- leaning magazine to have put out a welcome mat for intelligent design. For some time now, Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the conservative religious journal First Things, has been using Phillip Johnson as his authority on the failings of natural selection—this despite the fact that Johnson’s willful incomprehension of the topic has been repeatedly documented by reviewers. On the dust jacket of The Wedge of Truth, furthermore, Neuhaus calls Johnson’s case against Darwin “comprehensive and compellingly persuasive,” adding, remarkably, that its equal may not be found “in all the vast literature on Darwinism, evolution, creation and theism.”

Further: when, in 1995, the neoconservative New Criterion sought an appropriate reviewer for Daniel C. Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea—a book that rivals Richard Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker as creationism’s bête noire—it was Johnson again who was chosen to administer the all-too-predictable put-down. The New Criterion’s poor opinion of evolutionism can be traced to its managing editor Roger Kimball’s esteem for the late philosopher David Stove, whose book Darwinian Fairytales (1995) is notable for its obtusely impressionistic way of evaluating scientific hypotheses. But since Kimball and The New Criterion regularly divide the world’s thinkers into those who have and haven’t undermined Western ethics, here once again the ultimate source of anti-Darwinian feeling may be moral gloom.

* Liberals and radicals who have been taught in college to believe that rival scientific paradigms are objectively incommensurable, that the real arbiter between theories is always sociopolitical power, and that Western science has been an oppressor of dispossessed women, minorities, and workers will be lukewarm at best toward Darwin. The latter, after all, shared the prejudices of his age and allowed some of them to inform his speculations about racial hierarchy and innate female character. Then, too, there is the sorry record of Social Darwinism to reckon with. Insofar as it has become habitual to weigh theories according to the attitudinal failings of their devisers and apostles, natural selection is shunned by some progressives, who are thus in no position to resist the creationist offensive. And while other leftists do broadly accede to evolutionism, much of their polemical energy is directed not against creationists but against Darwinian “evolutionary psychologists,” a.k.a. sociobiologists, who speculate about the adaptive origins of traits and institutions that persist today.

* Take, for example, The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith by Robert Pollack, a molecular biologist at Columbia University and the director of its recently founded Center for the Study of Science and Religion. The title of Pollack’s book appears to promise a vision encompassing the heavens above and the lab below. By the time he gets to evolution on page 2, however, the project has already collapsed. There he tells us that a Darwinian understanding of the natural world “is simply too terrifying and depressing to me to be borne without the emotional buffer of my own religion.” By cleaving to the Torah he can lend “an irrational certainty of meaning and purpose to a set of data that otherwise show no sign of supporting any meaning to our lives on earth beyond that of being numbers in a cosmic lottery with no paymaster.”

Posted in Evolution | Comments Off on Darwin

The Trauma Trap

Frederick Crews writes for the New York Review of Books in 2004:

In the 1980s, as McNally relates, day care workers risked prosecution and imprisonment on the coerced testimony of bewildered and intimidated three-year-olds who were prodded to “remember” nonexistent molestations. Meanwhile, poorly trained social workers, reasoning that signs of sexual curiosity in children must be “behavioral memories” of rape, were charging parents with incest and consigning their stunned offspring to foster homes. And most remarkably, whole communities were frantically attempting to expose envisioned covens of Satan worshipers who were said, largely on the basis of hypnotically unlocked “memories,” to be raising babies for sexual torture, ritual murder, and cannibal feasts around the patio grill.

In the same period many psychotherapists, employing hypnosis, dream analysis, “guided imagery,” “age regression,” and other suggestion-amplifying devices, persuaded their mostly female patients to “remember” having been molested by their fathers or stepfathers through much of their childhood, in some cases with the active participation of their mothers. The “perpetrators” thus fingered were devastated, embittered, and often publicly shamed, and only a minority of their accusers eventually recanted. Many, in fact, fell in with their therapists’ belief that young victims of sexual trauma, instead of consciously recalling what was done to them, are likely to develop multiple personalities. Disintegrating further, those unfortunates were then sent off to costly “dissociative identity” wards, where their fantasies of containing five, a dozen, or even hundreds of inner selves were humored until their insurance coverage expired and they were abandoned in a crazed condition. At the height of the scare, influential traumatologists were opining that “between twenty and fifty percent of psychiatric patients suffer from dissociative disorders”—disorders whose reported incidence plummeted toward zero as soon as some of the quacks who had promoted them began to be sued for malpractice.

What we experienced, McNally shows, was a perfect storm, with forces for mischief converging from every side. The fraudulent 1973 bestseller Sybil had already helped to relaunch the long-dormant fad of multiple personality and to link it to childhood sexual abuse. Beginning in the early 1980s, the maverick Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller taught many American readers what Sigmund Freud had once believed, that memories of early abuse are typically repressed and must be therapeutically unlocked if the resultant neuroses are to be cured. Jeffrey Masson’s melodramatic book The Assault on Truth (1984), misrepresenting Freud’s “seduction” patients as self-aware incest victims rather than as the doubters that they remained, fanned the feminist anger that Miller had aroused, encouraging women to believe that molestation by fathers must be pervasive. Self-help manuals such as The Courage to Heal (1988) then equipped scientifically ignorant psychotherapists with open-ended “symptom checklists,” ensuring that their patients would be diagnosed as suffering from buried memories of violation. And all the while, Geraldo Rivera and less cynical alarmists were whipping up fear of murderous devil cults.

* Like Holmes and Pope, McNally finds that no unanswerable evidence has been adduced to prove that anyone, anywhere, has ever repressed or dissociated the memory of any occurrence.

* …the 1990s recovered memory therapy made significant inroads into the practice of North American psychoanalysis. Even today, feminist clinicians bearing diplomas from analytic institutes are probing for missing memories of abuse and vigorously defending that practice in psychoanalytic books and journals. But the American Psychoanalytic Association, representing over 3,000 members, has turned a blind eye to this trend—and one can understand why. The psychoanalytic movement is already embattled, and too much about the historical ties between Freudianism and recovered memory would prove embarrassing if attention were called to it. The elected custodians of Freud’s legacy have no desire to confront his early phase as a self-deceived abuse detecter; or to admit the precedent he set, during that phase and thereafter, in treating dreams, tics, obsessional acts, and agitation in the consulting room as “behavioral memories” of inferrable traumas; or to revisit the grave doubts that have been raised about repression; or to be reminded of the way psychoanalysts, until quite recently, insulted real victims of molestation by telling them that their “screen memories” covered a repressed desire to have sex with their fathers. No longer given to excommunicating dissidents, the tottering Freudian patriarchy has made its peace with “recovered memory psychoanalysis” by pretending that it doesn’t exist.

* This reluctance to challenge the judgment of its therapist members is deeply rooted in the APA’s philosophy. Ever since 1971, when the association gave its blessing to Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs that omitted any scientific training, the APA has guided its course by reference to studies indicating that the intuitive competence of clinicians, not their adherence to one psychological doctrine or another, is what chiefly determines their effectiveness.

* PTSD, like Victorian hysteria and like recovered memory itself, can now be understood as an artifact of its era—a sociopolitical invention of the post-Vietnam years, meant to replace “shell shock” and “combat fatigue” with an enduring affliction that would tacitly indict war itself as a psychological pathogen. However crippling the symptoms associated with it may be for many individuals, the PTSD diagnosis itself has proved to be a modern contagion.

Once certified by the American Psychiatric Association as natural and beyond the sufferer’s control, post-traumatic stress disorder began attracting claimants, both civilian and military, who schooled themselves in its listed symptoms and forged a new identity around remaining uncured. By now, as McNally relates, PTSD compensation is demanded for such complaints as “being fired from a job, one-mile-per-hour fender benders, age discrimination, living within a few miles of an explosion (although unaware that it had happened), and being kissed in public” (p. 281). According to Paula Jones among others, PTSD can even be the outcome of a consensual love affair. In view of such examples, the attempt to subsume forgotten abuse under post-traumatic stress makes more cultural than scientific sense; the same atmosphere of hypersensitivity and victimhood brought both diagnoses to life.

* Attention to the chimerical task of divining a patient’s early traumas is attention subtracted from sensible help in the here and now. The reason why psychotherapists ought to familiarize themselves with actual knowledge about the workings of memory, and why their professional societies should stop waffling and promulgating misinformation about it, is not that good science guarantees good therapy; it is simply that pseudoscience inevitably leads to harm.

Posted in Abuse | Comments Off on The Trauma Trap

Tom Wolfe – Stalking The Billion-Footed Beast

00:00 What do novels do better than movies/TV?
02:00 Why Authors Are Important: Tom Wolfe On His Favorite Books, Writing, Art, Style (1996),

05:00 Tom Wolfe on realist fiction, https://harpers.org/archive/1989/11/stalking-the-billion-footed-beast/
27:00 From 2006: Writer Tom Wolfe on journalism and voyeurism, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe11E2u4jkk
37:00 Gay Talese and the art of “New Journalism”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJ1WRbRjcpE
42:20 Dennis Dale joins
45:00 Tom Wolfe – race realist, https://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2013/09/09/is-tom-wolfe-a-race-realist-part-1-of-3/
1:03:00 Crossroads: A Novel (A Key to All Mythologies), https://www.amazon.com/Crossroads-Novel-Key-All-Mythologies/dp/0374181179
1:15:00 Tom Wolfe: The 60 Minutes interview, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tW9RNE0gyQ
1:22:00 RICHARD SPENCER & ED DUTTON | Aliens: Where Are They? Would They Kill Us?, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oydAqCpC8o
2:02:00 Is Atheism Even Possible? (RS, Ed, Devon), https://www.spreaker.com/user/altright/atheism-and-the-west
2:07:00 The Bachelor comes out as gay, gets closer to God
2:08:00 Laura Loomer Is a Victim Of ‘Digital Extermination’ on Social Media
2:19:00 The Word According to Tom Wolfe, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdFs0eTeHOA
2:25:00 NICK FUENTES: TUCKER AND THE RISE OF RACIAL CONSCIOUSNESS, https://www.bitchute.com/video/OfS1f1UR8o3Q/
2:27:00 Tucker Carlson On The White Replacement Theory And The Importance Of It, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHIRjNZRRJU
2:29:30 Tucker fires back at criticism over immigration, voting comments, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0e4QjoJ4wc
2:35:00 Fauci SLAMS Tucker Carlson, “Typical Crazy Conspiracy Theory”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceig5ePU6y8
2:38:00 Why the Last Geniuses of Mid 20th century were in California, and Why the Remnant is Moving to Texas, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI5fvfhYUPk
2:42:40 Alex Jones v the ADL, https://www.bitchute.com/video/wQGRyXNiHsMZ/
2:47:00 Jerusalem, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_5BLTdukAY&t=32s

Posted in Tom Wolfe | Comments Off on Tom Wolfe – Stalking The Billion-Footed Beast

Bellow: A Biography

James Atlas writes in 2000:

* A sickly child, afflicted with respiratory ailments, he was his mother’s favorite; she treated him like an invalid.

* It was in temperament that Bellow diverged from the family line. He was the designated “nostalgia-man,” as he described himself, the keeper of warm memories; the brothers were aggressive and practical. Idealized versions of them showed up in Bellow’s books: the wealthy, satisfied Amos in Dangling Man; the woman-hungry, larger-than-life Simon in The Adventures of Augie March; the Cadillac-driving, capable Will in Herzog; the rich, brutish entrepreneur Ulick in Humboldt’s Gift . Likewise, the heroes of these books were all versions of Bellow—variously depicted as a dreamer, a bookish, head-in-the-clouds intellectual, a confused soul in need of guidance from his fraternal “reality instructors.”

* In life, the two older brothers loomed over the youngest one. While even in middle age Bellow had trouble patching together the rent, their empire-building feats—and, on occasion, their criminal deeds—were reported regularly in the Chicago newspapers: Sam’s nursing homes, Maurice’s hotels and landfill ventures. Their worldly success was a persistent rebuke to the impecuniousness of their intermittently broke and never wealthy brother. Together with Abram, who at last became a prosperous businessman in his forties, they formed a triumvirate from whose judgmental gaze the novelist struggled to free himself—without much success—throughout his days.

* “We read British books and sang God Save the King and recited the Lord’s Prayer and all the rest of it.”

* Abram was a proud man who—in his own estimation—had lost status. In Russia, he had considered himself a gentleman; in America, he was a laborer. Like his wife, he felt he’d come down in the world.

* he romanticized their relationship, casting it as all sweetness and light. In reality, he was erratic in his constancy, greedy for attention, and fiercely jealous. On one memorable occasion, when he noticed that Fox was wearing the fraternity pin of a lanky basketball player who was popular with Tuley girls, Bellow grabbed it and tore it off, ripping her blouse. “I was afraid of the guy,” she recalled. (This scene, too, found its way into Humboldt’s Gift . “You were a violent kid,” Citrine’s high-school girlfriend Naomi Lutz recalls. “You almost choked me to death because I went to a dance with some basketball player.”)

* His mother’s death made him—in the words of Herzog—“mother-bound.” It was a bondage doomed to play itself out in five marriages and a string of failed relationships, as Bellow struggled to free himself from the intensity of his need by denying its primal hold over him.

* Bellow’s self-dramatizing impulse, so crucial to his development as a writer, grew out of a need to make himself heard. To his siblings, he would always be the baby of the family.

* Maurice lost patience with his brother’s habit of reading on the job, and they parted after a bitter confrontation.

* His parents spoke to each other in Russian and Yiddish; he and his three siblings spoke English and Yiddish at home; on the streets of Montreal they spoke French, and in public school they spoke English.

* The University of Chicago was a place where Jewish professors taught Roman Catholicism to Protestant students.

* Bellow was discouraged by his teachers’ failure to recognize his promise. “I suppose I wanted attention.”

* For many years after he graduated, Bellow was too insecure to let on that he had gone to Northwestern. It was a good school, but it could hardly compete with the University of Chicago. As his own fame grew, he began to look more favorably upon the place and seemed almost defiant about his affiliation. It was less prestigious, he conceded, but his teachers there had shown greater appreciation of his talents.
Yet Northwestern was in many ways more elitist than Chicago. In the 1930s, the teaching of literature in universities was a career for gentlemen. English departments were dominated by New Critics and Southern Agrarians for whom all literature was English. “University English departments were still under the vigilant protection of something called the Anglo-Saxon tradition,” wrote Diana Trilling in an account of the early career tribulations of her husband, Lionel.

* “Anthropology students were the farthest out in the 1930s,” Bellow recalled, looking back on his Northwestern days:
“They seemed to be preparing to criticize society from its roots. Radicalism was implicit in anthropology, especially sexual radicalism—the study of the sexual life of savages was gratifying to radicals. It indicated that human life was much broader than the present. And it gave young Jews a greater sense of freedom from the surrounding restrictions. They were seeking immunity from Anglo-Saxon custom: being accepted or rejected by a society of Christian gentlemen.”

* Anthropology, the study of foreign cultures, provided expression for Bellow’s own sense of exclusion from American society—a condition that haunted him long after he had become an exemplary (and deeply assimilated) spokesman for the opportunities it offered. Like many Jewish intellectuals of his generation, Bellow never rid himself of the suspicion that he wasn’t quite part of America.

* As graduation approached, the question of what he was going to do with his life acquired a certain urgency. In search of career advice, Bellow called upon the chairman of the English department, William Frank Bryan. “You’ve got a very good record,” Bryan told him, “but I wouldn’t recommend that you study English. You weren’t born to it.” No Jew could really grasp the tradition of English literature, the chairman explained. No Jew would ever have the right feeling for it.

* The history of modernist literature is in large measure a history of discipleship: Joyce saluting Ibsen; Beckett apprenticing himself to Joyce; Pound sitting at the feet of Yeats. But Chicago-area literary masters were in short supply in 1938. Apart from a few bookish friends, his Proustian “little band,” Bellow was on his own. When it came to the lonely work of mastering his craft, he turned to the works of the writers he loved best: Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Joyce, and his local hero, Theodore Dreiser.

* In 1938, American novels written by Jews—as opposed to more ethnic Jewish-American novels such as Ludwig Lewisohn’s The Island Within or Abraham Cahan’s The Rise of David Levinsky —didn’t exist.

* Referring to the best that has been thought and said was a literary tic. Yet he was suspicious of high culture for the same reason that he was suspicious of all efforts, real and imaginary, to impose on his freedom, whether in the form of brothers or wives or in the forms of institutions: They were all aspects of authority. One of the most striking features of Bellow’s work is its refusal to be bound by the conventional definitions of what constitutes literary seriousness. Unlike so many Jewish writers of his generation—Leon Edel, Lionel Trilling, Harvard professor and critic Harry Levin—he was drawn to the gritty side of life. “He has a nose for bad odors to the point where he seldom smells anything else,” as Edward Shils, Bellow’s longtime colleague at the University of Chicago, put it. He worshiped European literature as much as these eminent professors did and was just as eager to demonstrate that he knew his way around it; but he disdained their habit of using their familiarity with the Great Books to put distance between themselves and their immigrant roots, invoking their preoccupation with Jane Austen or Henry James as evidence of their newly elevated class status. For all his assiduous reading—and pretense of reading—Bellow was impatient with the civilizing imperatives he’d encountered in the Great Books, eager to renounce what he called the “high-culture gymnasium route of Thomas Mann” and explore a subterranean realm. “Mortimer Adler had much to tell us about Aristotle’s Ethics , but I had only to look at him to see that he had nothing useful to offer on the conduct of life.”

* His real education was formed by a different set of books. In the deserted second-floor library of the psychology building on Ellis Avenue, he was boning up on the works of Géza Róheim. A trained psychologist, Róheim was a pioneer of psychoanalytic anthropology. He was convinced that it was possible to discover within the rituals and customs of any human group the structure of its collective unconscious—a structure, Róheim hypothesized, that was invariably the same: The psyche of the most advanced European was identical to that of the most rudimentary tribesman. §
Róheim’s work was a revelation. It supplemented the lessons about supposedly primitive cultures that Bellow had learned from his undergraduate work in anthropology anthropology (and from Dostoyevsky), positing the existence of a more spontaneous and robust human nature—what Lawrence in his book on Mexico called “the great origin-power of life.” Bellow was a great believer in the quest for the essential self. In the fifties, he turned to the sexual-liberationist teachings of Wilhelm Reich, in the seventies to the mystical teachings of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, who exhorted people to escape the prison of consciousness and experience the world the way it really is—to “burst the bonds that fetter the human spirit,” as Bellow once proclaimed in a moment of rhetorical overheatedness. Lawrence was only one literary guru among many.

* Like the self-regarding heroes of his books, proud of their flat stomachs and their stamina on the paddleball courts, Bellow delighted in his physical appeal. (“You know you’re a good-looking man,” Ramona, one of Herzog’s many women, chides him: “And you even take pride in being one. In Argentina they’d call you macho —masculine.”) The narcissistic traits that a succession of psychiatrists diagnosed in him were no doubt fed by this gift from nature—as was his prose, which suffered at times from an excess of self-delight.
It didn’t take Bellow long to embrace the progressive morals of New York bohemia circa 1943—to discover, as Alfred Kazin memorably put it, that “everything could fall apart at the sight of a young girl with very wide cheekbones standing at an overcrowded party in Greenwich Village.” For Jewish intellectuals of that generation, sex was a revelation as charged as their first encounters with Marx and Freud. It opened up a whole new world. Their parents’ marriages, constrained by provincialism and the pressures of adapting to the New World, seemed intolerably suffocating to their newly liberated children.
Bellow claimed not to feel guilty about his infidelities—indeed, he considered them his due. But the satisfactions of conquest outweighed the physical transaction; his sexual appetite was never voracious. (“It was his pride that must be satisfied,” as Herzog acknowledges. “His flesh got what was left over.”) “I miss Anita, but not carnally,” he wrote to Sam Freifeld during one of his sojourns in New York. “Strangely enough I haven’t had an erection in two weeks.”

* He was deeply suspicious of people, intent upon fending off any entanglement that might interfere with the ambitious work he was preparing himself to undertake. Friends noted that Bellow was “touchy,” unnervingly quick to take offense; on more than one occasion, Kazin watched him “nail with quiet ferocity someone who had astonished him by offering the mildest criticism.”

* Keeping himself free from encumbrance was a strategy that was to govern Bellow’s life. Whether it was wives, children, publishers, lawyers, friends, or even ideas, he maintained his distance as a way of preserving his fragile sense of self.

* He also got a call from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer—but not, as expected, for an option on the novel’s movie rights. A studio executive had seen his photograph in a newspaper and offered to make him a star. Bellow wasn’t an Errol Flynn type or a George Raft type, the man from Hollywood explained—that is to say, he wasn’t handsome or tough in the conventional sense. But he could have a great screen career in the sensitive role, the guy “who loses the girl to the George Raft type or the Errol Flynn type.”

* Like many powerful figures, Bellow preferred the company of lesser lights who made few demands on him, didn’t compete for attention, and enjoyed—or at least were satisfied with—reflected glory.

* Like the talmid khokhem of his distant shtetl past, wise men revered for their learning, he spent his days hunched over books.

* Soul mates had to be men, but they didn’t have to be Jewish; they just had to possess what he considered Jewish qualities: emotional intensity, a reverence for Russian literature, a love of high-minded gossip.

* Anita was too practical, too controlling; she didn’t give him room to breathe. Someday he would be “claimed” by a woman who appreciated him, Bellow vowed to Mitzi McCloskey, “and I will go.”
The passive construction was significant. For Bellow, choosing a lover meant allowing himself to be chosen. It was the same way that he “chose” jobs and domiciles and wives: He waited for someone else to make the first move. In his work, Bellow asserted himself with courage and tenacity, but when it came to domestic arrangements, others dictated the terms—until he chafed at them. Saul does what he wants: The phrase recurs among his friends and associates. Pretending to be at the mercy of others was a way of disguising his fiercely independent will. By denying responsibility for the choices he made in life, he could circumvent the powerful forces—father, brothers, society—ranged against his ambition. Passivity in Bellow’s hands was an instrument of freedom.

* The Victim , Martin Greenberg declared in a prescient review in Commentary , was “the first attempt in American literature to consider Jewishness not in its singularity, not as constitutive of a special world of experience, but as a quality that informs all of modern life, as the quality of modernity itself.” It was through Bellow’s efforts that Jewish literature was to become American.

* As a teacher, Bellow was “a clock-watcher,” according to Herb McCloskey. He wasn’t one to nurture talent.

* He, too, delivered high-minded lectures on the modern world and dabbled in improbable investments. He borrowed money from his brothers. He made advances to other men’s girlfriends and on occasion to their wives; and he proposed marriage with unnatural frequency. He craved affection from those he antagonized.

* Philosophy, then and later, was one of the unfortunate legacies of Bellow’s immersion in the University of Chicago Great Books culture. His heroes shared a penchant for belaboring ideas. They were the products of a provincial Chicago boy’s effort to show that he wasn’t provincial, that he was at home with the whole of Western thought; unconsciously, perhaps, they expressed an impulse to distance himself from his true and more painful material—a flight into abstraction.

* Domestic life was thought to stifle the artist; it was middle-class. “To be modern,” as Bellow glossed this encounter, “meant to be detached from tradition, traditional sentiments, from national politics and the family.”

* The main problem with Paris was the Parisians: They didn’t seem to know who Saul Bellow was. At parties, Bellow talked about his book in a “heavy-handed” way, recalled a fellow expatriate, and vacillated between grandiosity and self-doubt. He was unaware that in Parisian literary circles to discuss one’s work was considered gauche.

* For Bellow, the hunger for approval was outweighed by an even deeper hunger to express himself on his own unique and unnegotiable terms.

* While Bellow had been in Europe discovering the voice of Augie March, Rosenfeld had been in the Village discovering Wilhelm Reich. “Village thought in the late Forties had a strong psychoanalytic tendency,” Bellow noted in his “Zetland” manuscript. Reich’s The Function of the Orgasm was as widely read in progressive circles as Trotsky’s Art and Revolution had been a decade before. Paul Goodman, a reliable indicator of intellectual trends, was a Reichian, as were a number of former Barrow Street regulars, for whom Reich’s emphasis on sexual gratification merely validated long-standing practice. Reich was an intellectual fashion of the day, and Bellow wasn’t above embracing such fashions; a decade earlier, he had been just as enthusiastic about Trotsky. But the attraction of Reich went deeper; his method represented the psychoanalytic equivalent of what Bellow aspired to in his own work (and in his life): the freedom of unfettered self-expression.
Reichianism wasn’t a philosophy, its founder insisted, but a science. Reich considered himself an heir of Freud and had developed an elaborate physiological explanation for his theories. It was his belief that cathartic total orgasm was the key to health, or what he called full genitality; but most human beings were prevented from achieving these convulsive orgasms by the presence of what Reich termed character armor: rigid defenses that stifle development and block the free flow of sexuality. Damming up the libido not only causes neurosis, he postulated, but represses psychic energy. For Reich, there was nothing hypothetical about the existence of this energy; it was organic, biological. He had even found a name for it: orgone energy, which was said to be a primordial cosmic power latent in all things. Thus was born the science of orgonomy.

* Bellow was a master of self-exculpation; he was never to blame for the breakups of his marriages or friendships, the books that found disfavor with the critics, the plans that went awry. He could always find an explanation—one that revolved around the notion of himself as victim. It was important for Bellow to see his life this way: He lacked the reserves of self-esteem needed to engage in rigorous self-criticism. “I never gave psychoanalysis so much as a two-year lease,” he testified, depicting himself as a reluctant participant in Rosenfeld’s Reichian experiments: “I enjoyed it as a game then being played.”

* Even by the standards of artistic touchiness, Bellow’s fragile grandiosity stood out. He was capable of bearing a grudge for decades, but he was capable of forgiveness, too.

* Bellow had trouble engaging his students; they simply weren’t real to him. He preferred—a remarkable act of chutzpah—to read from “The Life of Augie March.” “It was obvious that he had work of more importance than writing lectures,” as one of his auditors remarked magnanimously. One afternoon, Bellow read a passage about Augie’s adventures in Mexico, laughing delightedly at what he considered the funny parts. “He was having a wonderful time,” said John McCormick, “better than the rest of us.” His self-delight was typical: Bellow always laughed at his own jokes and derived huge enjoyment from the recital of his work. He wasn’t looking for criticism; he was looking for praise. By setting the tone himself, he had a better chance of getting the response he wanted—at least in the short run.

* An increase in his already frenetic pace of travel came to be a reliable portent of the dissolution of a marriage.

* That he refused to give up on the idea of marriage long after it should have been apparent to him that he was unsuited to the institution shows only how powerful its hold over him was. Bellow longed for a home and family, but he longed for them much as a child might: The need for constant attention and devotion alternated in him with a powerful need to go off and explore the world on his own at will. The contradiction seems never to have occurred to him. He was to pursue his fantasy of the perfect marriage and wife again and again, yet the marital bond was strongest with Anita. More than any of his subsequent wives, she belonged to Bellow’s world—which helps to explain why his first marriage lasted as long as it did. Anita was part of him.

* “Saul had always had trouble with women; maybe he thought he wouldn’t have all these troubles with a girl.” (There was also a practical motive: As Bellow crudely put it to R. W. B. Lewis, he “needed to get his ashes hauled.”)

* As Thea Fenchel, one of Augie’s lovers, says: “You want people to pour love on you, and you soak it up and swallow it. You can’t get enough. And when another woman runs after you, you’ll go with her. You’re so happy when somebody begs you to oblige. You can’t stand up under flattery.” The autobiographical note is hard to ignore; Thea’s critique of Augie was Bellow’s pointed recognition of his own passivity, his suspension of judgment in the face of praise.

* The heroes of his novels aren’t renderings of Bellow the man; they’re idealized versions of himself. They are very often tall, like Artur Sammler in Mr. Sammler’s Planet and Dean Corde in The Dean’s December (Bellow is five foot seven); of distinguished lineage, like Eugene Henderson in Henderson the Rain King; or of indeterminate ethnic origin—even the characters who are obviously Jewish make little of the fact. And why should it be otherwise? Bellow was writing fiction, he impatiently reminded those who probed his work for clues about his life. What’s remarkable about his inventions is the balancing act they negotiate between proximity to the truth and deviation from it: It was as if, by altering the details to suit him, Bellow could become, in his books, the person he wanted to be.

* He was ardently loyal to anyone who passed the rigorous test of friendship—for as long as they served his needs.

* Bellow wasn’t a nurturing person—to students, children, wives, or parents. He wanted the nurturing.

* For Bellow, like Rogin in his story “A Father-to-Be,” children represented another encroachment on his “freedom,” the life force “trampling on our individual humanity, using us for its own ends like mere dinosaurs or bees.” Less grandly put, children—like wives and friends and lovers—were always in danger of making emotional demands, requiring attention, expecting to be loved.

* Covici belonged to the long line of powerful and disapproving businessmen on whom Bellow focused his need for approval and the anger that insatiable need engendered.

* No amount of praise was enough. The void could never be filled. In the words of Bellow’s Bard colleague Theodore Weiss, “He was a hungry man.”

* His excitement at finding acceptance among the New York intellectuals had given way to contempt, his sense of inadequacy vanquished by grandiosity. He no longer needed their approbation, and the more his reputation grew in the literary world, the more distasteful he found that world.

* Bellow got to a point in every book, he confided to one of his girlfriends, at which he had to “ tear up his life.” The opposite of Flaubert, he cultivated chaos at home. “I have everything I need here, but it’s getting to be too safe,” he said of his Tivoli haven, acknowledging that he “thrived on adversity.”

* At a literary dinner party in New York, one of the guests came up to Ludwig and said, “I understand you know Saul Bellow.”
“Know him?” [Jack] Ludwig replied. “Hell, I’m fucking his wife.”

* Theodore Weiss summed up Ludwig’s motive best: “If he couldn’t go to bed with Saul, he’d go to bed with his wife.”

* Nor was Bellow’s friendship with Ludwig the only one with sexual overtones. Sam Freifeld and Bellow shared “a boyhood closeness that was almost like a teenager’s homosexuality,” said Freifeld’s second wife, Marilyn Mann. “There was something funny about it.” Aaron Asher, his editor for many years, also remarked on the unnatural intensity of Bellow’s friendships with men: “People noticed.”

* Writers who posed a threat to Bellow’s hegemony got the cold shoulder; writers who occupied a place safely below his own on the literary ladder were seen as comrades in the “travail business,” as Bellow liked to refer to his profession. Toward these needy souls he gladly extended a helping hand.

* There was something indiscriminate about Bellow’s letter writing; it denoted a kind of literary profligacy. That he wrote so openly to so many correspondents reflected his egalitarian spirit, his willingness—as he put it to Hyman Slate—to “accept the wider range of other people’s facts.” But it also reflected his loneliness, his eagerness for company, any company. There was a certain impersonality in his boisterous epistolary style; no matter whom Bellow was writing to, his letters have a single tone. It was as if he was writing to just one person: himself.

* Nevertheless, in the spring of 1960, he was once again on the couch, this time under the care of the sexologist Dr. Albert Ellis. (“That wasn’t psychology,” Bellow said of the Reichian Dr. Raphael, “that was zoology.”) A famous figure in his day, Ellis shared with Bellow a Jewish-immigrant background and a reputation as a ladies’ man. He’d already been through several wives and bragged openly about his conquests; Bellow diagnosed him as a “phallic-narcissistic type” (the same diagnosis diagnosis Ellis applied to Bellow). Flamboyantly eccentric, Ellis, a tall, hawk-nosed figure with a long, sallow face, munched on sandwiches during sessions, explaining that he was a diabetic and required a special diet. Apparently, it didn’t agree with him: Bellow later remembered Ellis’s “ high-smelling farts.”
Ellis’s libertine views found a sympathetic ear in Bellow. Speaking to packed halls around the country, Ellis anticipated the “free love” movement of the late sixties, espousing the credo that puritanical views about sex “create untold havoc in our love, marriage, and family relations,” as he put it in one of his popular manuals. The goal of therapy, Ellis proclaimed, was sexual pleasure, pure and simple. Freud “didn’t know a fucking thing about sex.” Part of Ellis’s persona included talking like a drill sergeant: Reich was “full of horse-shit”; the human race was “out of its fucking mind.” For Ellis, therapy was a matter of common sense: “ I talk people out of their bullshit.” His method was to get his patients to act on their wishes and not feel bad. No one was perfect: Even Hitler, he said, was just “a fallible, fucked-up human being.” (There Bellow drew the line: He and Ellis had a heated argument over Hitler.)
Bellow entered treatment to cope with his rage at Sondra. “My goal was to get him unangry,” Ellis recalled, “which wasn’t easy with a person like that because he was a novelist, and novelists think that all emotions are good.” Bellow minimized the therapy, as he always did. He went into therapy when he was desperate and left as soon as he could tolerate the level of pain. “It was poolroom grad work: what to do, how to lay a girl, getting rid of character problems that are an obstacle to pleasure.” He broke off treatment after a few months.
Ellis, like Meehl, never reached a formal diagnosis—not that Bellow would have accepted one. In the end, he was convinced that psychoanalysis could no more “explain” him than any other dogma could. “What a man thinks he is doing counts for nothing,” he wrote in a draft of Herzog . “All his work in the world is done by impulses he will never understand.” As with marriage, Bellow went through the therapeutic process but never engaged with it—instead he found material for satire.

* As a lover, Bellow received indifferent marks. He was “the put-it-in-and-take-it-out type,” noted the poet Sandra Hochman, a self-proclaimed “art tart” who took up with Bellow not long after Henderson the Rain King came out: “He didn’t know a clitoris from a kneecap.” Another lover, who found him “passionate and virile,” remarked on his lack of interest in “experimentation.” Like Herzog, he was “a Quaker in his lovemaking” who “couldn’t abandon himself sexually.” “The compulsive seducer invariably turns out to be the most insecure man,” observed Helen Garrie, an actress who had a brief affair with Bellow in the sixties. She also remarked on Bellow’s “sexual dos and don’ts.”
Sex was never the driving impulse behind his conquests. “He doesn’t seem to have chosen women merely out of lustful desire, and I had no reports which described him as a stud,” said Ted Hoffman, who knew a number of Bellow’s women. “I think he sought some kind of uncommitted temporary intimacy, perhaps even affection, rather than sexual possession.” The truth was, he found women “overly demanding sexually.” Their sexual aggressiveness was just another effort to impose upon his freedom—another demand.
Bellow, however, persisted in viewing himself as an old-fashioned romantic spurned by unfeeling women.

* “He met these women and he made them up,” a friend said of Bellow’s wives.

* “So many of these ladies who hungered after Saul wanted to be touched by the magic of his artistry and they would willingly give themselves to Saul—to be touched by his magic wand, so to speak,” said Dave Peltz.

* Literary fame could still leave an empty bank account, as Bellow (like generations of writers before and after him) was beginning to discover. Not only had Henderson not made him rich, it hadn’t even made him solvent.

* For someone as cynical as he was about the virtues of marriage, Bellow was notably casual about proposing it. Sandra Hochman, who had met Bellow on the pretext of interviewing him for a magazine, claimed that he talked about marriage on their second date—a story that would seem unlikely had other women not reported similar discussions at premature phases of an affair. Bellow made much of the fact that Hochman was his “physical type,” the woman he’d been looking for all his life. But after he took up with Glassman, Hochman realized she “was just someone he wanted to fuck.”

Helen Garrie, whom Bellow invited to join him in Puerto Rico, also sensed that a proposal was in the works. She recalled resisting: “If I got involved in his grinder, it would be bad news.” Bellow made light of these refusals. “Don’t you think the Bennington alumnae association owes us both wound-stripes?” he joked to John Berryman, whose second marriage, to Ann Levine, a roommate of Sondra at Bennington, had rapidly fallen apart. Bellow called himself “the Nathan Hale of sex”: He would sacrifice his life to it. The only time he liked being married, he quipped, was at dinnertime.
Bellow’s insouciance about his irregular marital history masked his deep confusion about it. On the one hand, he missed his boys. “Twelve years in one marriage, seven in another, two sons whose lives are withdrawn from me,” he summed up his situation to Keith Botsford, sounding a rare note of regret (while getting the dates wrong; his marriage to Anita lasted fifteen years, to Sondra four). “I measure my complaints. I try to come to clarity with grief.” But he never made a concerted effort to grapple with the issues that underlay his propensity for serial marriage, preferring to attribute it to women’s supposedly predatory natures. (“What do women want?” Herzog says plaintively, supplying a histrionic answer to Freud’s question: “They eat green salad and drink human blood.”)

* What animates Bummidge is what animates all of Bellow’s heroes: pure rage.

* Unlike so many of his tragic predecessors, for whom success itself became a hazard—F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrecked by hackwork and drink; Faulkner, squandering his genius in Hollywood; Hemingway, destroyed by his own myth—Bellow adapted easily to fame. “ Herzog hasn’t changed my life so much,” he told Gloria Steinem. Apart from the new suits in his closet and his new co-op and a new car—“a modest, American-made sedan”—he showed few signs of outward alteration. Successful writers, he noted in a lecture called “ The Arts and the Public,” which he delivered around this time, are transformed into major literary figures and for the rest of their lives do little more than give solemn interviews to prestigious journals or serve on White House committees or fly to the Bermudas to participate in international panel discussions on the crisis in the arts. The writer is eclipsed by the celebrity.
Bellow was adept at managing both. If he was comfortable in his new role, it was because, on some level, it fit his self-image, ratifying his conviction that he had been destined for greatness: Fame was only the world’s belated confirmation of S. Bellow’s genius. As far as he was concerned, nothing had changed.

* The arrival of a child meant that Bellow himself was no longer the child; he had been displaced by his own son. This was always the moment he chose to leave.

* Bellow’s sexual conduct was a paradox: He regarded with increasing dismay the so-called sexual revolution, inveighing against the unregulated sex of the permissive sixties while passing up no opportunity to indulge in it himself.

* “He had a biblical Old World morality, but his fly was entirely unzipped at all times,” said Arlette Landes, a young painter who met Bellow in the elevator of the Windermere that year. Landes was twenty-six and had recently come to Chicago from Stanford with her first husband, an assistant professor in the economics department. Their marriage had just broken up, and it was her apartment that Bellow had sublet. “ ‘You’re living in my apartment,’ I said to him, and he said, ‘Would you like to see what it looks like now?’ ” The apartment tour marked the beginning of their affair. “It was the sixties,” explained Landes.
Bellow’s “quota of adultery”—as he had described his needs to Anthony Hecht—wasn’t satisfied by extramarital affairs; he cheated on his girlfriends, too. “I don’t know when he was first unfaithful, but he certainly was,” said Maggie Staats. “Once the chase was over and he had me, he began to wander.” On one occasion, when Staats was staying with Bellow at the Windermere, Landes stormed in and confronted them in a jealous rage. “Don’t you want to marry me?” she demanded. Bellow hesitated, then answered firmly, “No.”

Posted in Literature | Comments Off on Bellow: A Biography

Extremism In US Military

00:00 The Military Says It’s Confronting Extremism. A Prominent White Nationalist Just Finished Boot Camp., https://www.huffpost.com/entry/extremists-military-shawn-mccaffrey-white-nationalist_n_60706a94c5b634fd437d8e09
02:00 The Art of Debate w Jim Goad, Nick Fuentes, Baked Alaska, Irony Bros, https://rumble.com/vefngp-the-art-of-debate-w-jim-goad-nick-fuentes-baked-alaska-irony-bros.html
28:00 The Jewish Question, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Question
48:00 Our 5 year fight to imprison Holocaust denier Alison Chabloz, https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/our-five-year-fight-to-imprison-holocaust-denier-alison-chabloz/
57:00 Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey, https://lukeford.net/blog/?p=138334
1:05:00 Writing About Jews by Philip Roth, https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/philip-roth/writing-about-jews/
1:17:00 Philip Roth: Life in the Shadow of Portnoy, https://blog.nli.org.il/en/philip_roth/
1:58:00 Dennis Dale joins, https://dennisdale.wordpress.com/
2:15:00 Portland neighborhoods, https://dennisdale.wordpress.com/2021/03/28/portland-lawfare-beat-march-28-the-madness-of-crowds/
2:21:00 Portland’s police chief, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/762402
2:39:00 The mental health benefits of outdoor exercise
2:43:00 Blake Bailey – Philip Roth: The Biography Interview, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPWC8qkWi9M

Posted in America | Comments Off on Extremism In US Military