Wokies Coming for Flashman
bless their hearts.
Supposing you are a wokie Brit academic writing about the Flashman novels, the series by George MacDonald Fraser featuring the school bully Harry Flashman who stumbles and bumbles his way through various Brit imperialist adventures in the 19th century.
What should you think? Or rather how should you feel about such racist-sexist-colonialist-imperialist goings on — on the printed page!
Well, the Cambridge academic wants to have it both ways.
[You experience] a historical novel, mixing up the real characters with the invented, and presenting the whole story as the recently-discovered memoirs of a genuine Victorian military hero, reflecting in old age on his ill-spent life — lying, shirking, philandering?
Yes, but, darling…
But a couple of chapters in, the racial slurs are flowing like water; the copious sex is entirely consensual only, at a generous estimate, 60% of the time… Aren’t these books seriously… problematic?
Guess what cupcake. The Flashman character is seriously problematic for any age.
But then whatabout the cultural slurs that flow like water in the writing of just about every modern academic to the left of Bill Clinton?
Writer Nikhil Krishnan wants to amaze us with his deep and complex and sophisticated understanding of the human condition, and the rather limited moral visions of writers like George MacDonald Fraser when compared to the sophisticated moral vision of a modern major-general “Fellow in Philosophy at Robinson College, Cambridge.”
You know what I want in a book? I want to experience the incomplete and flawed moral vision of the writer. I want to experience the incomplete and flawed moral universe he has set up for his story and his characters. I want to be able to think: what is the writer leaving out; what is he foolishly putting in; to what stupid ruling-class narrative is he bending the knee. Does he have the balls to be a naughty boy where ruling-class narrative is concerned?
And perhaps most important, does he have the courage to upset the well-born twenty-something good little girls from selective colleges that inhabit the cubicles at mainstream publisher imprints?
When I read a novel I want to be able to gauge the “taken-for-granted” things about life in the author’s world, and also in the novel’s world. And I think that is important. The ΅taken-for-granteds” in any piece of writing are a vital record that future generations need when they are rudely evaluating past times and measuring them against their own time.
You see, I am a really conceited person that thinks that I know quite a lot about quite a lot of things. And I tend to think that Fellows of Cambridge University live a cramped life in a semi-prison where wrongthink is severely punished, bless their hearts. Of course I apply the Ben Rhodes Dictum to twentysomething cubicle girls at mainline publishers: that they know literally nothing.