Good news for cranky people

I had planned on posting a longer essay today, with images and everything, but it appears that TypePad’s server fell off the wagon last night. I don’t feel like poking a hungover drunk to see if vomit will spew, so instead I’ll post this, and see if it goes through. Have a good weekend.

Irascible, brilliant, spiteful Philip Roth spews out bile and insight in roughly equal measure in the Guardian. Here he is, sparring with his poor interviewer:

“But you are seen as an American-Jewish writer. Does that mean anything to you?”

“It’s not a question that interests me. I know exactly what it means to be Jewish, and it’s really not interesting. I’m an American. You can’t talk about this without walking straight out into horrible cliches that say nothing about human beings. America is first and foremost … it’s my language. And identity labels have nothing to do with how anyone actually experiences life.”

There are lots of ways of disagree with that statement–the interviewer himself does so in the very next paragraph–but it’s invigorating to see a serious, truly great writer still willing, at age 72, to grapple with tough ideas, and to be willing to infuriate. When the interviewer says that interviewing Roth can be difficult, Roth puts just the right tack on it: “Well, I wasn’t put on this earth to make your life easy.” Damn right.

Love for cranky geniuses must be contagious. PopMatters is hosting a three-part Philip Roth appreciation.

Over at the New York Times, Paul Theroux takes aim (and names names) at the do-gooders who he thinks are screwing up–and are condescending to–Africa. The opening salvo is this:

There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can’t think of one at the moment.

And it only gets more combative from there. Theroux–whose Dark Star Safari I couldn’t finish–nevertheless makes salient points and offers a long-term plan for African countries to fix themselves with limited, and well-monitored, aid from the West. More importantly, Theroux doesn’t see the multitudes of African nations as a singular “Africa” nor does he condescend to its peoples. For a similar, (slightly) less caustic but somewhat more obviously conservative take, here’s Theodore Dalrymple. Like Theroux, Dalrymple was a Westerner who, as a young man, went to Africa to “help.” I guarantee that you’ll disagree with some of his premises, but it’s an interesting expansion of Theroux’s ideas.

And, finally, did you expect the most cogent, well-argued take on the Philadelphia Eagles’ meltdown to come from über-crank Camille Paglia?

Yeah. Me, neither. Nevertheless…

Two years ago, when Rush Limbaugh commented on TV about [quarterback Donovan] McNabb’s status as a black quarterback, the resulting furor seemed to be among the national media and made little impact here. The passionate, often rabidly negative commentary on the Eagles by radio callers of every race has always been colorblind. Players were mercilessly evaluated only for their talents and execution on the field.

But [wide receiver Terrell] Owens let the racial genie out of the bottle. Suddenly, Owens’ dwindling supporters in the city were calling radio stations and denouncing McNabb as a “sellout,” the cooperative “house Negro” kowtowing to “the man,” the plantation master (Eagles and NFL management), while Owens is the proud, brave, uppity “field hand” whipped for his defiance and independence. Others dismissed McNabb as “Wonderbread,” the coddled “golden boy,” the “$100 million man” who “got his” and left his brothers behind.

A black caller recently said of McNabb’s Campbell’s soup commercials (which unsettlingly feature his bossy, dynamic mother), “Donovan gave up some of his blackness to be accepted by white corporate America.” Last week, the head of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP published a harsh column in a local black newspaper berating McNabb for denigrating the scrambling tradition of mobile black quarterbacks by obstinately refusing to run instead of throw.

This is Terrell Owens’ toxic legacy–ugly talk that has poisoned the well and sparked racial discord in a generally tranquil city with a black mayor. Owens gave the Eagles indelible sports moments, but no highlight reel can compensate for the chaos and bitterness he brought.

Hop to it, folks, if you’re prepared to gnash your teeth.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Atlanta, GA. He is the co-author (with Daniel Couch) of Bob Mould's Workbook (Bloomsbury, 2017). His work has been published in The Quarterly Conversation,, Bookslut (RIP), The Comics Journal, The Baseball Chronicle, and other periodicals. Twitter: @walter_biggins.
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One Response to Good news for cranky people

  1. dad says:

    i recall the media in philly interviewing a citizen on the street of the city and this common man put it this way “i never thought one man (owens) could bring so much disruption, ill feelings, to a good team and to a beautiful and tranquil city”. the man shook his head and walked away. if the city and team allow this idiot (owens)to destroy what it took years to build , then they deserve what they get.

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