22 March 2006

Shallow lit

I recently heard someone praise Robert Heinlein's novels, specifically The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, as IIRC really deep during a tangent in a Libertarian rant in which he--get this--praised the President. You know the type. I loved reading Heinlein growing up; partly for the sexual content so desparately needed by the junior high school sci-fi reader, and partly for an expansive palette--considering the genre--that includes political and social commentary along with neat-o technical stuff. At the same time or earlier I was reading Frank Herbert and knew well who had the more incisive eye. Where Heinlein had one simple axe to grind, Herbert wrote as a student of history who could see tendencies and cycles without dogma.

This memory, and the Heinlein comment, dovetailed for me into the recent clarification presented by Mark Liberman on Language Log about the casual liguistic dogma that that ur-dogmatist, Ayn Rand, had put forth in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand, loved by all Libertarians, stated (albeit through one of her characters) that the phrase "to make money," as if it were create-able as opposed to transfer-able, only exists in American english. In a later Language Log post, Paul Kay continues illuminating the absurdity of Rand's linguistic offense.

I'd read both authors with enjoyment and some passion, yet it pains me now to hear that people actually still cling to those narrow ideas. Grown people. I'm overstating the limits of both authors from these simple examples and art is always a simplification (from V for Vendetta: Politicians lie to hide the truth, artists tell lies to reveal it.), yet flaws in those simplifications can still flaw the art. Too often, big ideas are more cunning than insightful.

[ posted by sstrader on 22 March 2006 at 5:31:20 PM in Language & Literature ]