Monday, February 18, 2008

More Whining, Plus A Book Report

In a doomed effort to cheer myself up this weekend, I read Robert Parker's latest work less one. (Now and Then, which I cannot recommend -- dude, stop, please.) Parker used to be, well, you know, he never was brilliant. But he was a good writer. He was competent, he was a good read, he had something to say, and he said it.

Plus, he was fun. The interplay between Hawk and Spenser, the juxtaposition of a tough detective who cooked and read philosophy and discussed poetry, you know, it was amusing. His misogyny occasionally itched, the way no women who weren't either Susan or exactly like Susan (Parker's obvious Ivory Girl) were traitorous bints, well, you know, I just swallowed hard and slid past that as fast as I could.

Lately, though, ai. First, his slide to the right. Granted, we have all been polarized over the past seven or eight years, thanks to King George III. So, well, maybe not his fault. But it makes me even itchier, having to read the work of this fella who once, I remember clearly, if he was not a liberal, at least allowed for liberals not being evil; who if he did not agree with feminists, at least acknowledged they had a case. (Now he makes snotty remarks about female professors "keeping their names" because that's how "they" do it -- like it's a fad, or who knows what, those flighty women.)

Further, he should keep Spenser off university campuses if he can't go spend some time on a few himself, and open his eyes while he is on one. I understand he hates academics. Most on the Right do, for reasons that are both plain and puzzling to me. (Because ideas and truth rule us, and bullshit and nonsense won't, and because we keep on arguing long after most people would have nicely shut up -- why would that be a problem?)

Still, if he doesn't like academics, shit's sake, stay away from them. Write about dock workers. Write about guys who work in bars. Write about dairy farmers -- I hear they're good loyal Americans. Take Spenser to Kansas! Spenser ain't been to Kansas yet! He can go to Kansas City and eat some damn BBQ!

Don't write about academics and tell fat fucking lies. Which is what he's done in this book. Which is what he's done every time he tries to write about the Academy: writes some grudge he's got about the academy, and never gets it right.

And then this guy, too, while we're on it: though at least you can tell he's been on a campus. But really -- a dress code?

(That was one of Parker's complaints, too: the university faculty, not to mention the students, did not dress nicely. The students wore rumpled clothing. So did the professors. Alors! Further, and I know this will shock each of you, when he went to visit a pair of graduate students? The male partner's (they were not wed, if you can believe such a thing!) clothing showed signs of being -- no! -- home laundered!)

Well, here's the deal. This guy Jensen thinks professors dress appallingly, and students do, because we wish we were ten. Parker thinks it's liberals and, no doubt, feminists, destroying the world as usual. Neither of them consider what might be the real cause: cost. (Parker tries to quash this by claiming the rumpled clothing is pricey. May I doubt his veracity?) Cost in time and cost in fact.

Home laundered, you ass? Do you think graduate students have the money to dry clean anything, much less their fucking jeans?

Do you think graduate students have time to iron?

I barely have time to home launder, and I'm a professor.

I don't own fancy dress (this is the flat truth) because my salary doesn't run to buying it, or maintaining it; I have one interview suit, which I can't fucking well wear to teach in, since I would then have to have it, as Mr. Parker notes, professionally cleaned. We wear cords and khakis because they don't have to be ironed -- not because we don't want to iron (though who does? Does Mr. Jensen? Is that how he wants to spend his twenty minutes of free time per day? Or does he have more than that? How did he get it? Does his wife do the ironing? Or does his maid handle that? Maybe his clothing comes back from the professional launderer already ironed?)

Dress code? Pay me the scale professors were being paid in the fifties. Give me a wife at home, doing my chores. Maybe I'd dress the way professors did then. Maybe.

It's not feminists and liberals, you tool. It's not how we don't want to be grown-ups -- I wish. It's Republicans and their trickle-down crap and outsourcing and rising health costs and the inability of our income to keep pace with costs.

God, these people who live in their fantasty planets torque me proper.


Diane said...

I have read almost every book Parker wrote, including the entire Spenser series, and I have never gotten a whiff of misogyny from them. The women Spenser holds in contempt are the women I hold in contempt, because they are delusional and woman-hating. Interesting. For what it's worth, however--like many readers--I think Susan Silverman is loathsome. The fact that Spenser is so smitten with Susan is part of the complexity of his character.

I do, however, agree with you that Parker's hatred of academia is over the top and misguided.

But remember, Parker is not only a detective novelist, but also a satirist, and he goes after everyone and everything.

Having said that, I should add that I thought Now and Then was the worst novel of the entire series.

Sugared Harpy said...

Can I tell you I love you? I love you. I really truly love you.

Because A-effing-men. I wear what I wear because of the cost and time restraints. I also need a wife, and a 1950s salary, and a 1950s teaching load. Puh-lease, Mr. Privileged.

zelda1 said...

I ironed a collar, yep, just a collar, didn't have time to iron the rest. And don't get me started on hair. Sometimes, I admit it, I forget to brush it. I know, but I am running around the house trying to find all my stuff and getting my research material for the day and piles of printed off JSTOR crap and worrying if I'm gonna have time to make a cup of coffee before my 7:30 class and then hoping no one is using the elevator and so when I finish my back to back classes, then I breathe and think, oh shit, I guess I didn't brush my hair, oh but my shirt is buttoned right and my shoes match and there aren't too many stains on my pants. Who is the fucking creep.

CB said...

Iron? Yes, I five in the morning because my class is at 730?

Dry clean? I've got some to do, but I keep it to a minimum because I'm cheap. I have to be.

Laundry? It gets done around midnight, on the night that I should be in bed by eleven, so I can get up at five to iron.

It's all a bit silly.

delagar said...

The Mouse irons! You know, I could have guessed that: you are indeed so tidy!

CB said...

Indeed I do. :)

But you see the trick is to hang your clothes up when they are damp. The wrinkles will fall out of them. Well, most of them.

Button-up shirts almost always have to be ironed.