Sunday, October 24, 2021

Ignoring The Elephant In The Room (Theme and Variations)

I listened to that interview. Blunt was working as hard as he could to say absolutely nothing. Of course his interlocutor was Andrea Mitchell, so he succeeded admirably. "Mostly used by non-white people, donchaknow." As much of a fan of Dune as I am (I've lost count of how many times I've read it.  When I realized I'd lost my original paperback copy, I mourned for days.), it struck me this morning that it was, shall we say, rather dated?  In some ways it was absolutely prescient.  Herbert taught me the word "Jihad" decades before it was used in a news report.  He was writing about a desert people and a religious fervor not unlike that of Islam as we would come to see it, but he was doing it in the early '60's when "religion" meant a yogi from India (well, "cutting edge" religion, ya know).  But the male-female relationships are decidedly....1950's middle-class, in many ways.  I'm not saying it's as problematic as this: And I haven't seen the screen version. But Lady Jessica is "directed" by the Bene Gesserit to have a daughter, instead of Paul, her son. It's a major plot point for the first half of the novel, and turns into plot point again when she is pregnant with the late Duke's daughter, only to expose her daughter in utero to the spice. Do they leave that out? Revise it? Ignore it?

It doesn't kill the story, but suddenly one realizes how "old" some things are.


  1. I saw a list of things that current comedians regretted doing in their act and was astonished how many of the idiots some a couple of decades younger than me listed the time they appeared in blackface or told racist jokes or gay bashing ones. Tina Fey was one of them, for the love of Mike. I have come to the conclusion that by and large professional comedians aren't the brightest nor the best.

    I never read Dune but it doesn't surprise me that it dates, most science fiction does, well most things do. I've been wondering if maybe I should give George Elliot another look.

  2. 100 years or so seems to be enough time to forgive most cultural "sins" (although is "Huckleberry Finn" still suspect?). Anything less than that, you are subject to the strictest scrutiny of the winds as they blow.

    Not so bad, really. I remember books I read in high school that were then 30 years old (but still "safe" because they weren't, say, Vonnegut) that were terribly out of date to me (sadly, many of those are still being taught in high school, because they are still "safe." As an "anodyne and unchallenging in the extreme").

    It's weird to be so old you've "outlived" your favorite books.