If you haven’t caught Allison’s and my posts on the incestuous/pederastical passage from one of Virginia Dem senatorial candidate James Webb’s novels that Hugh Hewitt calls the “Cambodian Hello,” do click here, here, here, and here. And we’ve got e-mails.
“I’m not sure that I agree with you that the sordidness of a writer’s work defines the morality of that writer. We’d draw quite a false conclusion about the soul of Flannery O’Connor if we assumed it matched the soul of Hazel Motes [the protagonist of O’Connor’s novel ‘Wise Blood’]. Of course, I can’t imagine Miss O’Connor putting herself forward as an artist on the campaign trail.”
As a longtime and fervid reader of O’Connor, N.Y., I don’t quite see the analogy. The one thing that Flannery O’Connor avoided like crazy in her fiction was kinky sex scenes that served no purpose in furthering her plots or illuminating her characters. Sure, graphic sex scenes in fiction are fine, when they’re handled with literary artistry and serve to further the author’s moral vision (example: Tom Wolfe’s “I Am Charlotte Simmons“). Neither of those conditions applies to the fiction of James Webb. So you then have to ask: Why are those scenes in Webb’s books? And the only answer, in my opinion is: There’s something a mite peculiar about the author’s mind.
And from W.W., on this quotation from a Washington Post story that tiptoed around the actual contents of Webb’s sex scenes (that might turn off voters!):
“Margaret R. Soltan, an English professor at George Washington University, said voters should not regard Webb’s novels as indicative of his views, any more than voters in England should have been deterred by some of Winston Churchill’s more shocking writing.
“‘To think along those lines exposes you as a person who has no culture,’ she said.
“‘…any more than voters in England should have been deterred by some of Winston Churchill’s more shocking writing.’ I have read most of Churchill’s writings, and the only thing shocking was the stupidity of the English electorate turning their backs on him so often.”
Yes, I too found Prof. Soltan’s Churchill-Webb comparison puzzling. The fabled prime minister published only one novel, “Savrola,” in 1900–a political allegory not exactly famous for naughty bits. So–was Prof. Soltan reading wet-T-shirt double-entendre into Churchill’s famous words, “We shall fight them on the beaches“?
Or maybe Prof. Soltan was thinking of the pet parrot–still alive today–that Churchill trained to utter anti-Nazi obscenities.