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The time of Richard Ford is over

October 4, 2019

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

To the Editor,

The day following a 16 year-old female’s indictment of the devastation wrought by white western men at the United Nations General Assembly Climate Change Action Summit, Bowdoin hosted a conversation by two proud members of another flank of that canon—the part reserved for great important self-awarding white male writers (Richard Ford and John Banfield). Coincidence, maybe, but the speakers reified the problem a 16 year-old had the moral courage to identify. They didn’t seem to notice.

“Man is a god in ruins,” Member Banfield said, quoting Emerson. In describing his agonizing daily descent into personlessness as he picks up his pen, he acknowledged stealing the line and made reference to his Editor’s comment: “He said it was the most brilliant sentence.” or some such squat.

I heard no protest from his fellow Member interviewer. At which point, I left. I fear the oblivion of both members to the sexism that takes nice little girls like Greta Thunberg and finds a place for them where they are shamed into silence and personlessness. Donald Trump is doing his part but I have to say both Members of the Canon at Bowdoin did a pretty good job of it themselves—albeit coming out of a habitual second nature.

Shameful, as a morally courageous 16 year old might say.

Susan Cook

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One comment:

  1. Class of 2010 says:

    What on earth is the principle being expressed in this letter?

    Is it shameful for writers talk about writing, because of climate change? Should we “shame” writers who discuss writing, because someone somewhere is talking about climate change, and we cannot appreciate two conversations about different things occurring in different places? Should fiction writers talk about climate science instead, despite being profoundly unqualified?

    Or should we ignore only a certain demographic of fiction writers, namely men, and especially white men? Would she abide a Chinese male writer being invited to Bowdoin to discuss his writing, since climate devastation is apparently “wrought by white western men,” thus indicting all who have those particular qualities of skin color and sex, and absolving all other beneficiaries of industrialization?

    Ms. Cook’s letter is incoherent, despite being propped up by preening academic rhetoric. The earnestness to declare something, someone, “over,” using scattershot indignation as a substitute for reason, is a petty trend. And to attack a person based on their race, or their genitalia, is not courageous. It is corrosive.


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