“Charlie Hebdo’s work is not important,” Francine Prose said

Katha Pollitt stands up for Charlie Hebdo.

When PEN decided to award the first PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, they surely thought they were honoring bravery in defense of free speech. This was a magazine that kept publishing after its offices were firebombed by Islamists in 2011, and kept publishing after nine staffers were horribly murdered by Islamists in January. Compare that to, say, Yale University Press, which dropped the illustrations for Jytte Clausen’s book about the Danish Mohammed cartoons after the book’s first printing, or Random House, which canceled publication of Sherry Jones’s The Jewel of Medina, a historical novel about Mohammed’s wife Aisha. Both publishing houses cited fears of violence by Muslim extremists. Those fears were not irrational. The head of the British publishing house that picked up Jones’s novel had his house firebombed—and the book was dropped. Violence works.

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The head of SOS-Racisme calls Charlie Hebdo the greatest anti racist weekly

Salman Rushdie tweets:

Salman Rushdie @SalmanRushdie 12 hours ago
Salman Rushdie retweeted Philip Gourevitch
The head of SOS-Racisme calls CH the greatest anti racist weekly. PEN protesters, please note. Salman Rushdie added,

Philip Gourevitch @PGourevitch
“Charlie Hebdo, le plus grand hebdomadaire anti-raciste”: more French context from Dominique Sopo, Pres of SOS-Racism http://www.europe1.fr/mediacenter/emissions/europe-midi-votre-journal-wendy-bouchard/videos/charlie-hebdo-est-le-plus-grand-hebdomadaire-anti-raciste-2341899 …


Salman Rushdie @SalmanRushdie 11 hours ago
Now that the leading anti-racist group SOS-Racisme has called CH “the greatest anti-racist weekly”, will PEN protesters admit their error?

Le plus grand hebdomadaire anti-raciste:

EXTRAIT – Le président de SOS racisme prend la défense du journal qui a été la cible d’un attentat.

The president of SOS Racism defends the magazine that was the target of an attack.

D’accord? Francine Prose, Peter Carey, the rest of the 150? Anything?

Their work was not for those who like subtlety and suavity in their satire

How not to start a piece about PEN and Charlie Hebdo and The Protest.

The annual PEN Literary Gala, in which writers, the male half badly dressed in once-a-year tuxedos, assemble under the big whale at the American Museum of Natural History to mutter about their advances and applaud their imprisoned confreres, has always had its comic aspects. Glamour and guys (or gals) who write are not two subjects that are often congruent.

Sigh. We are not a parenthesis. We are not an afterthought. We are not the other. We are not the exception. We are not second. We are not an eccentric forgotten deviation from the rule that writers (and all other important people) are men. We are not the diameter to men’s circumference. We are not et cetera. We are not a catch-up. We are not an edit. We are not a corrected typo. We are not also.

Moving on, hoping Adam Gopnik doesn’t distract with any more gaffes – [Read more…]


NPR reports that Francine Prose tells NPR that 150 writers have joined the anti-Charlie Hebdo protest.

The protest over a free speech award to Charlie Hebdo continues to grow.

Earlier this week, six authors withdrew from the PEN American Center’s annual gala in response to the organization’s decision to give the French satirical magazine its Freedom of Expression Courage Award.

Former PEN American President Francine Prose was one of the original six. She tells NPR that as of Thursday afternoon, she’s been joined by nearly 150 other writers — such as Junot Díaz, Lorrie Moore and Rick Moody — who’ve signed on to an open letter critical of the decision.


What the act says is that you judge CH as being at fault

Prose v Rushdie on social media, as told by The Guardian. Drama, deep rifts, clickbait, etc etc etc.

Rushdie, who has been vehement in his support of PEN’s choice and who tweeted earlier this week that “the award will be given. PEN is holding firm. Just 6 pussies. Six Authors in Search of a bit of Character”, responded to Prose’s post, pointing to his already-stated regret in using the word “pussies”.

But he made it clear he wasn’t backing down on another allegation, made in a letter to PEN earlier this week, in which he described Prose and the five other authors to have withdrawn as “the fellow travellers” of “fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence”.

[Read more…]

Guest post: On dealing with street harassment

Guest post by Alicia LeeLee Thompson, originally a comment on a public Facebook post by Lawrence Mahmood.

I gotta say, I cannot stop laughing at some of these comments! I find it odd that the majority of people defending the act of the Merrett are men… Duh.

I’ve had this kind of bullshit behaviour, from building sites and the like, for as long as I can remember. Up until recently, I never responded or did anything about it, I simply put my head down, grumbled an insult under my breath and kept walking in the hopes that the irritating pricks would just go away.

It’s intimidating enough as it is for a lone woman to walk past a group of ‘men’ without them all gaggling together to shout stupid stuff at you. That’s no different to Eg: a young boy walking past a group of older boys, he keeps his head down and tries to pass quickly without incident but alas, the lads start shouting things at him.

It’s intimidation and bullying no matter how you look at it. [Read more…]

Fine distinctions

Francine Prose on Facebook on Monday:

Why is it so difficult for people to make fine distinctions? The writers opposing the PEN award support free speech, free expression, and stand fully behind Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish whatever they want without being censored, and of course without the use of violence to enforce their silence. But the giving of an award suggests that one admires and respects the value of the work being honored, responses quite difficult to summon for the work of Charlie Hebdo. Provocation is simply not the same as heroism. I do hope that the audience at the PEN gala will be shown some of the cruder and more racist cartoons that CH publishes, so they will know what they are applauding and honoring. I’m disheartened by the usually sensible intelligent Salman Rushie’s readiness to call us “fellow travelers” who are encouraging Islamist jihadism, and also to label us, on Twitter, as “six pussies.” I can only assume he meant our feline dignity and was not implying that we are behaving like people who have vaginas. It would be sad to think that a writers organization cannot discuss free speech without resorting to political accusations and sexual insult.

Well, speaking of fine distinctions, what about the fine distinction between actual racism and satirical meta-racism? What about using racist tropes as a way of mocking racism?

That seems to be a fine distinction that Prose is ignoring or unaware of.

You can argue that that’s a bad idea; you can argue that that kind of satire doesn’t travel well, because customs differ from place to place; you can argue that it’s risky; you can argue a lot of things. But it’s just silly to pretend there actually is no distinction between racism and satirical meta-racism.


More and more Soft-heads

Boris Kachka at The Vulture has that letter to PEN.

This afternoon, a letter went out to members of the PEN American Center — not an official communique but a letter of dissent, boasting 35 signatories and soliciting many more. It concluded, “We the undersigned, as writers, thinkers, and members of PEN, therefore respectfully wish to disassociate ourselves from PEN America’s decision to give the 2015 Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo.”

So they think the Kouachi brothers were right, then – not right to murder, but right in their reasons to murder. [Read more…]

Now it’s 35 shits

This is absolutely disgusting.

More than two dozen writers including Junot Díaz, Joyce Carol Oates and Lorrie Moore have joined a protest against a freedom of expression award for Charlie Hebdo, signing a letter taking issue with what they see as a “reward” for the magazine’s controversial cartoons.

A protest. A fucking protest against giving an award to a strongly anti-racist and left wing magazine because they think in their ignorance that it’s racist.

In their letter the writers protest against the award from PEN America, the prominent literary organization of which most of the signatories are members, accusing the French satirical magazine of mocking a “section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized”.

That’s an ignorant uninformed mistaken accusation. [Read more…]