A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

***********************************************************************************************************************************
A FORUM FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND VIGOROUS DEBATE, CORNERSTONES OF DEMOCRACY
[For the journal (guidelines, focus, etc.), go to www.theamericandissident.org ].
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Joseph Epstein



Below is the brief correspondance I had with Epstein.  Note how predictable Epstein is.  Give him a compliment, and he is gracious.  But dare criticize him, and he enrages.  "Epstein has a cult following as a sharp-tongued literary critic and stylist," notes Michael Johnson in his hagiographical review.  Well, someone with a sharp tongue ought to have a little backbone, especially in case of a fall from the ole high horse.  People seem to gravitate to fakes and charlatans.  Look at how many have gravitated to Obama.


Date:
Sun, 22 Jun 2008 06:51:51 -0700 (PDT)
From:
"George Slone"   
Subject:
Great essay!
To:
j-epstein@northwestern.edu
Dear Joe,

That was a great essay you wrote on Honorary Degrees!  Thanks much for it.  It was bold, honest, and quite dissident. 


From:
"joseph epstein"   
Subject:
Re: Great essay!
Date:
Sun, 22 Jun 2008 09:10:07 -0500
To:
"George Slone"

Top of Fo
 
Dear Mr. Slone
Many thanks for these kind and generous words. 

Best wishes, Joseph Epsten 


Date:
Sun, 22 Jun 2008 08:55:14 -0700 (PDT)
From:
"George Slone"   
Subject:
Re: Great essay!
To:
"joseph epstein"

The fellow actually responded!  Ah, well, that's because I sent a compliment.  I'm an informal fellow, so I meant no disrespect whatsoever by calling you "Joe."  That said, I've just read yet another of your essays.  It is unusual, to say the least, for an academic to write negatively on academe.  So, kudos again.  Maya Angelou, how interesting!  She's a trustee at Bennett College where I used to teach.  BTW, I am an ardent and outspoken critic of academe.  It is academe that sparked my creating a literary journal.  Below is one of my many academic poems based on factual occurrence.  Now, you need to write an essay on the academic poem!  I liked the one you wrote on the academic novel... very much!  No need at all to comment or reply.  I want nothing whatsoever from you.  I shall be quoting you! 
Submission to the Pulitzer Prize Committee for Poetry
Thematic:  Higher Education
University Office Corridor
Ah, another minor dispute in the
corridor
—my little pleasure for the day—
the Spanish professor bitching
with the department coordinator,
wanting to know why red pens
were not purchased with the new
department budget monies

I’d just received my paltry pile:
a brand new grade book
—the Coord hates my using
the registrar’s print-out rosters—,
a pile of outdated floppies,
and some black magic markers,
the erasable kind employed
to write up a storm on the board
in a last-ditch effort to mesmerize

“I DON’T NEED THESE BLACK
DISKS EITHER!
I TOLD YOU I NEEDED RED
PENS!”

But Dr. Abella, they only cost ten

for 99 cents! 
You know the Dean would never
approve of such a small purchase!”


From:
"joseph epstein"   
Subject:
Re: Great essay!
Date:
Sun, 22 Jun 2008 11:28:24 -0500
To:
"George Slone"

Top

Briefly to set the record straight: I stopped teaching five years ago. I have no advanced degrees; I began teaching in my middle-thirties. I had some good students, and took my teaching responsibilities seriously, but always thought of myself as primarily a writer and only secondarily a teacher. I never had tenure during my thirty years at Northwestern; nor did I want it.  I have never had any great regard for academics, at least not on the humanities and social science side, and in recent decades I have come to view most of them as essentially comic characters, lunatics of one bad idea or another, puffed up by their own unearned self-esteem. 
Your poem brought on a smile of recognition. 
JE

Date:
Sun, 22 Jun 2008 09:47:02 -0700 (PDT)
From:
"George Slone"  
Subject:
Re: Great essay!
To:
"joseph epstein"

Top of Form

Well, I’ve been in and out of the game for about 20 years now (6 years at two French universities, 4 years at two southern HBCUs, 5 at a northern state college, 3 at a northern private college, 4 months on two US navy destroyers)… and must agree with you entirely.  Brilliant observations:  “The spirit of capitalism, for all that might be said on its behalf, wreaks havoc when applied to culture and education.” “Universities attract people who are good at school. Being good at school takes a real enough but very small talent.”  Thank you for stating them!  I’ve just ordered your cardboard book from the public library.  
 
BTW, I used to try to get published in the American Scholar, but have given up.  It seems the journal prefers highbrow tonality to straightforward critique.  Your writing tends to be replete with quips, while mine devoid of them.  But one must remain flexible in mind.  Hell, how can I restrict myself to those who only write like me?  

The literary milieu, which tends to be intricately entwined with the academic milieu, tends to be as tragicomical as the academic milieu.  You might get a “charge” out of a censorship incident regarding the Academy of American Poets (National Poetry Month sponsors).  See www.theamericandissident.org/AcademyAmericanPoets.htm.

You might also get a “charge” from some of the responses I’ve received over the years from academics and literati.  They form part of a long essay I published (see www.theamericandissident.org/ColdPassion.htm).  You’ll note that I’m also a cartoonist. 

These things said, please do not feel obligated to respond.  Your essays made my morning!

Date:
Mon, 30 Jun 2008 09:46:23 -0700 (PDT)
From:
"George Slone"   
Subject:
Your book
To:
j-epstein@northwestern.edu


JE:
Waded through your book (i.e., cardboard).  It would have been much more interesting if you had published an honest critique on Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation, which refuses, by the way, to list The American Dissident on its site next to other poetry journals.  (BTW, the Academy of American Poets censored me permanently from participating in its forums.)  “Heterodoxy is one of the things serious poetry is, or at least ought to be, about,” you state.  Well, shouldn’t it also be one of the things serious essay writing is? 

Writing that actually bites the hand that feeds (e.g., risks something on the part of the writer) is and will be the most powerful writing.  Compare, for example, your essay “Thank you, No” [published in Poetry] to Sinclair Lewis’ “Letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee.”  Compare Mandelstam’s “Staline” or Villon’s “Estoit-il lors temps de moy taire?” or Saro Wiwa’s “The True Prison” or Levi’s “Se questo e un uomo” with any poems written by our American poets frequently pushed in Poetry magazine.  

Essays failing to risk anything tend to become a dime a high-brow dozen in American letters, the kind Poetry and New Yorker will eagerly publish because of name recognition and high-brow tonality.  Naming names is great for quality control.  You did that RE Bloom, and I commend you for it.  You could have also done that with Poetry mag.  Rather than sit comfortably at Northwestern now that you're retired why not hammer away at that place.  Surely, it must be intrinsically corrupt.  Or are you hoping for a graduation ceremony gig?  What does emeritus tend to mean, if not didn't make waves, didn't go against the academic grain, and never rocked the Northwestern boat? 

From:
"joseph epstein"   
Subject:
Re: Your book
Date:
Mon, 30 Jun 2008 12:07:32 -0500
To:
"George Slone"

Dear Mr Slone, 
   I regret that you wrote this e-mail, based on such minimal knowledge of me and my writing. I hope some day that you will, too. 
Joseph Epstein

Date:
Tue, 1 Jul 2008 12:48:56 -0700 (PDT)
From:
"George Slone"   
Subject:
Emeritus or poet laureate, what difference, especially in the Humanities?
To:
"joseph epstein"

Dear Joseph Epstein, Emeritus Instructor, Northwestern University
Please be assured I was not trying to make you feel bad or otherwise insult you per se, but rather simply trying to point out a gross inconsistency vis-a-vis the poet laureate and emeritus designations.  When I wrote to mention I enjoyed your article, that was truth.  

“As a man who has published a single poem, my own position is that I would like to be asked to be poet laureate of the United States so that I could refuse it, for this seems to me a job that would bring much greater glory to turn down than to take up,” you rightly state.

Why, however, should the same not be equally stated regarding the emeritus designation?  Imagine if you had stood up and rejected it… like Sinclair Lewis had rejected the Pulitzer?  Now, that would have made news.  Are you aware of any professors who have ever rejected it?  I’m not. 

“I think it fair to say that one of the first qualifications of an American poet laureate is that he not in any way be dangerous,” you rightly state again. 

Well, all I did was affirm that the first qualification of an emeritus is normally that he not in any way be dangerous either… at least not to the institution employing him.  In fact, he might also be tempted to turn a blind eye or even lie for that institution.  Yes, I know several emeriti who have done that with my regard.  Of course, I’m not at all implying that you would do that. 

Over the years, I’ve observed those employed or otherwise fed by the academic/literay, established-order milieu committing similar inconsistencies and breaches in logic. Quite frankly, I think I caught you in a gross contradiction, one that your indignant response sparked me to perceive.  In other words, I hadn’t even thought about it prior to your last email.  It probably merits a cartoon. 

Finally, I have noted your full indifference regarding my comment that the Academy of American Poets censored me and banned me from participating in its online forums.  That indifference I have also commonly observed over the years by those of the academic/literay established-order milieu. 

3 comments:

Matthew Walther said...

George Sloane is obviously unwell.

G. Tod Slone said...

Thanks for the comment, Matthew. The cartoon makes a point that a thinking individual should be able to comprehend. So, if I am "unwell," you perhaps are simply not a thinking individual.

G. Tod Slone said...

Walther's labeling me as "unwell" reflects on Walther as someone unable to engage in vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy. It is intellectually cowardly and lazy to dismiss all statements made by an opponent with a simple epithet, as in "unwell," a sad and common practice in today's PC America. A well-functioning mind would have instead sought to underscore a fault in logic or error in fact.