September 19, 2002

A Smart Young Norweigian's ...

Posted by at September 19, 2002 09:06 PM

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Dear Matt,

From what little I know, Hamsun's endorsement of the Nazis came when he was an old & senile man. I forgive such things when somebody's not right in the head. And hell, even if he became a Nazi at age 35, I wouldn't dismiss an author who wrote books like "Hunger" and "Pan."

I believe he probably fell for the same sort of Nordic mythology that today stains Wagner -- another guy I will never quit appreciating. Remember, it was a skinny little failed painter who turned these old folkloric tales into an evil political party.

Posted by: Ken Layne at September 19, 2002 10:43 PM

Ken -- If you read Bjorn's deal, he sticks up for the writing, saying something along the lines of "he made Norwegian sound beautiful, which is a miracle in itself." In fact, seems (from his post) that the Hamster's Nazi-sympathizing has prevented many a Norwack from reading their premier novelist....

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 19, 2002 10:46 PM

Matt - Bjørn completely gets it. I was just talking about the habit of dismissing artists who are later associated with unpopular politics.

(You ought not call people "the Hamster," however.)

You know, a lot of people -- including some of our smart pals -- jumped all over Hunter Thompson for his recent, admittedly embarrassing parroting of the Fisk line. But I'll be damned if I ever renounce the finest stylist of the American language since Mark Twain just because he doesn't trust a Bush. (Do you trust a Bush? I sure don't.) It's a shame Thompson doesn't write more, because he could articulate these things much better, but would anyone expect Thompson to trust Gore?

That's another topic, obviously, but I find it semi-important to regularly defend great writers who sometimes don't make much sense. I won't defend the nutbags on the far right or far left who aren't even good writers and have rarely been accused of making sense, but a great writer can make a compelling argument for just about anything.

(And Norman Mailer was never any good, despite what you people told me for decades.)

Posted by: Ken Layne at September 19, 2002 11:04 PM

Ken -- Yeah, I didn't intend to use the post to slime the guy (who I still haven't read, being illiterate); rather, I just found Bjorn's bit interesting, and that was the new information that jumped out.

If I had to vet my book collection of all the authors who made bad-to-disastrous political calls during their lives, there wouldn't be much to read. That said, it's also useful to heap praise on the good writers who get the great questions *right*, and early -- Orwell and Martha Gellhorn come to mind. Though their art probably belongs to a different category than that of Hemingway, etc.

Still haven't picked up a Mailer book since slamming "Of a Fire on the Moon" down on the floor of the haunted Elektrarenska flat after (I believe) a particularly horrifying Hornberger recitation. I wonder how those books I liked so much in college (Armies of the Night, Prisoner of Sex) will hold up, once I dare to open them again. There is no such fear, obviously, with HST.

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 19, 2002 11:30 PM

Thompson's recent comments bothered me when I first heard them. But I quickly recalled his long-standing hatred of the whole Bush clan.

Part of what draws me into Thompson's writing, particularly his political writing, is his ability to come from the outsider's perspective and dissect the situation with an insider's level of knowledge.

So I can't complain when that outside perspective manifests in an opinion with which I disagree.

And really, he seems to be holding together well considering the magnitude of his drug and alcohol consumption.

Posted by: Jackson Cooper at September 20, 2002 11:15 AM
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at writers who sometimes don't make much sense. I won't defend the nutbags on the far right or far left who aren't even good writers and have rarely been accused of making sense, but a great writer can make a compelling argument for just about anything.

(And Norman Mailer was never any good, despite what you people told me for decades.)

Posted by: Ken Layne at September 19, 2002 11:04 PM

Ken -- Yeah, I didn't intend to use the post to slime the guy (who I still haven't read, being illiterate); rather, I just found Bjorn's bit interesting, and that was the new information that jumped out.

If I had to vet my book collection of all the authors who made bad-to-disastrous political calls during their lives, there wouldn't be much to read. That said, it's also useful to heap praise on the good writers who get the great questions *right*, and early -- Orwell and Martha Gellhorn come to mind. Though their art probably belongs to a different category than that of Hemingway, etc.

Still haven't picked up a Mailer book since slamming "Of a Fire on the Moon" down on the floor of the haunted Elektrarenska flat after (I believe) a particularly horrifying Hornberger recitation. I wonder how those books I liked so much in college (Armies of the Night, Prisoner of Sex) will hold up, once I dare to open them again. There is no such fear, obviously, with HST.

Posted by: Matt Welch at September 19, 2002 11:30 PM

Thompson's recent comments bothered me when I first heard them. But I quickly recalled his long-standing hatred of the whole Bush clan.

Part of what draws me into Thompson's writing, particularly his political writing, is his ability to come from the outsider's perspective and dissect the situation with an insider's level of knowledge.

So I can't complain when that outside perspective manifests in an opinion with which I disagree.

And really, he seems to be holding together well considering the magnitude of his drug and alcohol consumption.

Posted by: Jackson Cooper at September 20, 2002 11:15 AM
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