GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘What is the Morally Appropriate Language in Which to Think and Write?’ By Arundhati Roy

“Has any writer ever written a masterpiece in an alien language? In a language other than his mother tongue?” I hadn’t claimed to have written a masterpiece (nor to be a “he”), but nevertheless I understood his anger toward a me, a writer who lived in India, wrote in English, and who had attracted an absurd amount of attention. My answer to his question made him even angrier.

“Nabokov,” I said. And he stormed out of the hall.

The correct answer to that question today would of course be “algorithms.” Artificial Intelligence, we are told, can write masterpieces in any language and translate them into masterpieces in other languages. As the era that we know, and think we vaguely understand, comes to a close, perhaps we, even the most privileged among us, are just a group of redundant humans gathered here with an arcane interest in language generated by fellow redundants.

Only a few weeks after the mother tongue/masterpiece incident, I was on a live radio show in London. The other guest was an English historian who, in reply to a question from the interviewer, composed a paean to British imperialism. “Even you,” he said, turning to me imperiously, “the very fact that you write in English is a tribute to the British Empire.” Not being used to radio shows at the time, I stayed quiet for a while, as a well-behaved, recently civilized savage should. But then I sort of lost it, and said some extremely hurtful things. The historian was upset, and after the show told me that he had meant what he said as a compliment, because he loved my book. I asked him if he also felt that jazz, the blues, and all African-American writing and poetry were actually a tribute to slavery. And if all of Latin American literature was a tribute to Spanish and Portuguese colonialism.

Notwithstanding my anger, on both occasions my responses were defensive reactions, not adequate answers. Because those incidents touched on a range of incendiary questions—colonialism, nationalism, authenticity, elitism, nativism, caste, and cultural identity—all jarring pressure points on the nervous system of any writer worth her salt. However, to reify language in the way both men had renders language speechless. When that happens, as it usually does in debates like these, what has actually been written ceases to matter. That was what I found so hard to countenance. And yet I know—I knew—that language is that most private and yet most public of things. The challenges thrown at me were fair and square. And obviously, since I’m still talking about them, I’m still thinking about them.

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Beasts of Burden by Sunaura Taylor

“Dependency has been used to justify slavery, patriarchy, imperialism, colonization, and disability oppression. The language of dependency is a brilliant rhetorical tool, allowing those who use it to sound compassionate and caring while continuing to exploit those they are supposedly concerned about.

In many ways the thinking behind the humane meat movement is a philosophy built on the idea of independence. Domesticated animals and human being shave evolved together to be interdependent—animals help human beings, and we in turn help the animals—or so the argument goes… Instead a disability perspective on interdependence recognizes that we are all vulnerable and receive care (more often than not doing both at once) over meat conversation is a much-needed analysis of what it means to be accountable to beings who are vulnerable.

People also justify it through ableist conceptions of the natural and of dependency, which suggest that there is a depoliticized thing called ‘nature’ that determines what kinds of bodies and minds are exploitable and killable, and that excuses uses those who are weaker and dependent for our own benefit. When animal commodification and slaughter is justified through ableist positions, veganism becomes a radical anti-ableist position that corporeality—socially, politically, environmentally, and in what we consume. In other words, veganism is not just about food-it is an embodied practice of challenging ableism through what we eat, wear, and use and a political position that takes justice for animals as integral to justice for disabled people… Veganism is an embodied act of resistance to objectification and exploitation across difference—a corporeal way of enacting one’s political and ethical beliefs daily.” – Sunaura Taylor, Beasts of Burden. 

 

BookTuber Tuesday – Reading Zoos

 

Recommend a BookTuber video in the comments and it could make our Tuesday post!

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

On Mermaids:

“Perhaps as women [we] don’t feel like we really belong here. This world of men, isn’t ours. How much easier it is to believe we are transformed creatures, walking an earth that is unknown to us. We are cursed with our legs. On land, we have no voice. But down in the water, we are suddenly free. There is a place yet uncolonized, where the danger belongs to, is perpetuated, by us.”

[Via]

Why I’m already concerned about the Starz TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods

 

Hi. BLA here. Coming to remind you of what Neil Gaiman said back in 2010 about not setting one of his books in “America”:

“The great thing about having an English cemetery is I could go back a very, very, very long way. And in America, you go back 250 years (in a cemetery), and then suddenly you’ve got a few dead Indians, and then you don’t have anybody at all, unless you decide to set it up in Maine or somewhere and sneak in some Vikings.” [Via]

A “few dead Indians” is what you’re supposed to pay attention to here. Now, surpassing debates on what he meant or didn’t intend to do in that interview, we can look at his colonial mentality in his work itself. Take this statement about American Gods:

And perhaps most offensive, we’ll get the book’s Big Statement About America, which is bizarrely insulting to Native Americans. Near the end of the novel, a Native American with magical powers named Whiskey Jack tells Shadow he’s not a god, but rather a “culture hero,” because the land we call America “is not a good country for gods.” [Via]

Neil Gaiman consistently glazes over Native Americans/Indigenous peoples and their cultures. Something I’m sure he has learned to correct by this point, but it was something I had hoped the creators of the new TV show adaptation would rethink in the story. However, it doesn’t seem likely. Sure, sure, they can update Technology Boy to not be so technologically illiterate, but this recent EW article doesn’t give me hope for the story’s cultural literacy:

“Neil created this wonderfully stuffed toy box filled with all sorts of cultural points of view on how American operates as a system, and that was so fascinating and mythological in and of itself,” says Fuller. “It’s really much more of an immigration story than it is a god story.” Green adds, “One of the biggest challenges was stripping the idea of gods as X-Men or giant empowered creatures who stomp on cities and throw the oceans. We wanted them to be people with problems. It’s not about lightning bolts – it’s about the question of day-to-day survival.”

So, we’re still talking about immigrants? Colonizer problems? Nothing has changed. Dear Hollywood and Neil Gaiman, just because your story doesn’t whitewash doesn’t mean it’s not racist.

See also, The Gods Don’t Need Your Worship. 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.