Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #421 (November 6th, 2007)


Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.


Here's my latest letter to Matthew J. Bruccoli, the world's foremost F. Scott Fitzgerald expert:

Dear Professor Bruccoli:

Thank you for the copy of your book Classes on F. Scott Fitzgerald which I finished reading last night. It was quite a pleasure revisiting the whole subject of FSF for the first time since I completed Fall and the River all those years ago. I particularly enjoyed your thesis on the "clumping" of Fitzgerald's short stories around his novels – as a kind of practice run on various subjects being attempted on The Saturday Evening Post's nickel. Very astute, I think, and I'm a convert to your way of thinking.

In that regard, concerning your perplexity about the origin and thematic placement of Fitzgerald's famous short story "A Diamond As Big As The Ritz": I only read the story once and remembered being terrifically unimpressed with it at the time but had retained nothing of its content so I went back and re-read it after reading your classroom meditations on it. I suspect that it's an instance of the "clumping" you describe, a parallel train of thought to Fitzgerald's use of Beauty and The Voice in The Beautiful and Damned.

That is, I think the latter was part of his romantic and, presumably, short-lived notion that Zelda must have been sent to him from Paradise, that thought itself being an extension of the thinking that had led him to call his first novel This Side of Paradise. Being a member in good standing (and, in fact, one of the early definers) of the first really secularized generation in history, I think he still tended to cling to simplified Christian symbolism while stripping it of moral imperatives (an "innovation" which has really led to the theological gutting of most North American churches over the last century). He believed there was a "Next World" but it was Paradise, rather than Heaven; there were larger intelligences in that context, but they were The Voice, rather than God or the Holy Spirit. As I say, symbolism without moral imperative.

I suspect that "Diamond as Big as the Ritz" was another parallel track in his thinking answering the question: "If Zelda came from Paradise, where did I come from?" The answer (I think he decided) was Hell but, again, not a theological Hell, but a secularized Hell, a geographical place called Hades which served as Fitzgerald's personal idea of Hell which amounted to "poverty" or more precisely, "non-wealth": his childhood stature (in his own eyes, anyway) which weighed so heavily on him in being born on the Summit Avenue borderland of wealth in St. Paul (THIS side of Paradise).

The Donahoe family's Montana ranch was the model for the ranch in "Diamond" and if I'm not mistaken, that was his first real exposure to material wealth from "inside" the context. For Fitzgerald it was, literally, Heaven. Although the story starts as "Diamond in the Sky" he ends up bringing Heaven (a really big diamond you could live within your entire life) down to earth (a mountain that is one big diamond that you could live off, materially, for the rest of your life).

As a monotheist, I believe that God responds to these kinds of conceits — if that's the best you can do in the way of theology, that's what God will work with — and attempts to answer the underlying theses to the best of His abilities. While Fitzgerald was never granted the indescribable wealth he imagined in "Diamond" he was paid exorbitant amounts of money for his short stories and was led to post-war France in the 1920s where, as you pointed out, you could buy a multi-course meal with wine included for roughly 18 cents. The lesson was half-learned. In a context where you are indescribably wealthy relative to the native population, there are always going to be others whose wealth dwarfs your own (Gerald and Sara Murphy) and wealth doesn't implicitly bring with it the maturity to use it either wisely or sparingly. Wealth and the use of it is a kind of magnification of more important attributes, not the means of solving all your problems.

Again, the Murphys were the exception rather than the rule to the expatriate American enclave where most, like Fitzgerald, were wrecked on the shoals of their "relative to" indescribable wealth.

Anyway, thanks again for your book (I REALLY wish you would have signed it!) and I hope this provides some food for thought in exchange.


Extra special thanks to Roy and Dann Thomas for even broaching the subject with Prof. Bruccoli having no idea what sort of a response they might get. I'll keep you posted on the story as it develops.

Mike F. Somewhere in Ohio writes:

"Good morning!"

I don't know how he KNEW I was going to be reading his letter in the morning. That was amazing, Mike!

"I will react to comments you have been making on the Blog & Mail:

"There is that bit in HIGH SOCIETY where the map says Fort Palin and Fort Cleese, but I always read the guy rambling on and on as Eric Idle from the Travel Agent sketch. Am I wrong?"

Afraid so. It's supposed to be John Cleese in the Dead Parrot sketch, but then they all had a "go" at being long-winded in one sketch or another, didn't they?

"See I was reading your comments about Secret Project II, and the move from realism and how close you think it will have to be to Marvel and DC Superheroes to thrive in that environment, and I was thinking…"

"Well, Dave…

"Is there any reason Secret Project II COULDN'T have Eric Idle?

"I mean to say, when our assignment was reading through all that little teeny tiny text that was Cerebus' Genesis commentaries, which turn out to be very funny if you actually read them, even then you gave us Woody Allen.

"Is including Woody Allen what you mean by less realistic? We had R. Crumb Woody Allen and photorealistic Woody Allen, in the same book, and it worked."

Tomorrow: MORE Woody Allen? NOW you tell me?


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

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P.O. Box 1674
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