Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Our Meretricious Society" by Paul Campos, Rocky Mountain News, June 20, 2006

[I have excerpted the first half of Paul Campos's column, since it relates to the Coulter flap.]

'Writing," observed the French playwright Moliere, "is like prostitution. First you do it for love, then for a few close friends, and then for money."

This aphorism is brought forcefully to mind by the cover of Ann Coulter's latest book, leering at customers from the windows of America's biggest bookstores. As always, the cover features a portrait of the artist as a young tart, blond locks flowing, her size zero little black dress catering to a combination of ideological and erotic perversion that's disturbing to contemplate.

In The New York Times, David Carr doesn't hesitate to label Coulter a literary crack whore, although naturally the editors of that august publication won't allow such an indelicate phrase to appear in its pages. Coulter, Carr suggests, "knows precisely what she is saying" when she says of certain 9/11 widows that she's "never seen people enjoying their husband's death so much."

For Carr, Coulter's habit of making outrageous statements is part of a simple and cynical swindle: say vile things, get lots of publicity for doing so, then sell hundreds of thousands of books as one's reward for performing unnatural intellectual acts on TV.

Prostitution, however, is a tricky business. I can attest that when she was an unknown law student Coulter said outrageous things all the time, in class, in conversation and in print. Was she merely laying the groundwork for selling her honor dear? It seems doubtful.

For what it's worth, Coulter's views have always seemed to me to be sincerely held, to the extent that narcissistic borderline personalities can be sincere. Not all writers are prostitutes, but all writers are narcissists, and Coulter appears to represent an especially acute case of someone who writes in order to be at the center of attention (hence the glossy locks and little black dress).

Nevertheless prostitution is everywhere in our society, and indeed the willingness to sell what shouldn't be sold often helps explain what's happening when one tries to interpret otherwise puzzling events. . . .

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