IAN BURUMA finally published a rejoinder to the controversy
It is good and entirely fascinating to see letters from those who objected to the Ghomeshi piece
which I find equally fascinating
as it is fascinating to see the letters expressing dismay at Ian Buruma’s departure
On reflecting on the uproar and its consequences, I as editor – for the achievable approximation of clarity - would have set the piece within a precis of the context of its Canadian origins, not that difficult an editorial task
The accusing voices, I would say, have merely broached that context, thus leaving it more muddied than it would have been had the NYRB at this point troubled to establish it.
“Piece within context” would have been an entirely other proposition, and for that a known American case would have been far preferable if the NYRB wanted to weigh in on the #MeToo phenomenon.
I continue to feel that the whole point of publishing a piece like Ghomeshi's is to leave it as RAW AS POSSIBLE! - certainly not to subject it to communal editing.
By publishing – what strikes me in astounding defensiveness – a bunch of letters from his accusers and those who weigh in on their behalf, the NYRB has actually managed to muddy the waters much more than if the Ghomeshi piece – as an example of a former celebrity dealing interestingly with his shunned status - had been left to stand alone.
“On March 24, 2016, the judge delivered the verdict. Ghomeshi was acquitted of all charges, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Justice William Horkins stated that the inconsistency and "outright deception" of the witness' testimony had irreparably weakened the prosecution's case. "Each complainant," he wrote, "demonstrated, to some degree, a willingness to ignore their oath to tell the truth on more than one occasion." Referring to a witness' excuse that she was merely trying to "navigate" the proceeding, Horkins replied "'Navigating' this sort of proceeding is really quite simple: tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."”
One of those letters claims that Ghomeshi avoided conviction on a technicality – which is clearly not the case. The judge’s estimate of the amount of – possibly entirely unnecessary but certainly self-defeating untruthfulness deception and collusion among his accusers, points to the Erinyes aspect of the #metoo movement which - knowingly or unknowingly - strikes me as yet another of these once a decade resurgences of American Puritanism as it has sought to re-assert itself ever since the onset of Women’s Liberation from the threat of pregnancy that used to accompany love-making.
Thus what puzzles me about cases like Ghomeshi’s and Cosby and many like them is why in an age when women can be quite forward in expressing their sexual wishes and successful men have access to no end of eager lovers these men need to assert themselves as descendants of Genghis Khan.
Best as I can tell from the objections to Ghomeshi’s piece that the NYRB published, there was no way he could ever satisfy his beraters short of hara-kiri or castration - no there is nothing that such an obsessive-compulsive self-confessed status through fucking seeking Bengal Tiger can or could do to satisfy those who detest him - and I think Buruma - not the magazine it turns out - did a real service in showing how a Hashtag tries - not all that badly or uncontritely or entirely lacking all self-understanding - to deal with being shunned, that is what made the piece interesting to for me.
But who are these aggrieved lovers, how many of them started off as his groupies? In the one instance of Ghomishi’s admission – not “assault” as the NYRB now has it – he confesses to inappropriate work place harassment – Ms. Borel was never charmed, not seduced, but Ghomeshi, so I gather, was never one to take no as no.
He’s not bad looking fellow, he had an enviable position. Unless warned you could not have guessed that you might be tangling with his like. - At least one of the letter writers who objects violently to the slightest overture would have been better off donning a nun’s habit at the onset of puberty; little awareness of the animal passions that sexuality can unloose, in Ghomeshi’s case rather instantaneously; nor of the pornographic heart of Eros. “Rape and Pillage” it was for a long time. The Red Army was given permission of that kind as its vengeful reward for its 1945 victory in Germany. Apocryphally perhaps, we kids heard of horny Russian Army women forcing German p.o.w.s at gunpoint to fuck them – what a way to find out that women’s sexual needs might be like your own masturbating adolescent kind.
Best as I can tell, Ghomeshi’s tastes run toward rough sex, he was then done in but not convicted because of the excesses of the Erinyes who will also ruin whatever good will come from the #metoo movement.
For me Ghomeshi’s case is a very mixed bag, but it brings to mind that in the early 80s in my “area” – artistic not yet gentrified” TriBeCa - where good all-around and non-violent sex had become as easy as breathing - S&M suddenly – at least from my experience – became fashionable – several women friends, not lovers - just as little as S&M is my style - with whom I discussed the phenomenon of their being tossed about like ragdolls, did not seem to mind, which seems in line with what Ghomeshi’s kind of “rough sex.” - Not a taste of mine ever: “Chacun a sa gout” was my conclusion, “different strokes for different folks” I think goes the line from the song - I myself being fairly terrified and disturbed when a girlfriend asked to be spanked – I had been brought up never to lay a hand on a woman – and I never did except once, defensively, when the woman a harridan it turned out I was living with - who had learned by threatening suicide that she could get her way – ironically in this context – sought to keep me from meeting up with Bob Silvers to attend a dissident meeting: we were about to publish https://www.amazon.com/USSR-vs-Dr-Mikhail-Stern/dp/091635461X - and the episode proved so traumatic that I cannot recall anything about that meeting.
“Strawberries” playfully administered especially by the “kids on the block” – recent prep school graduates, no reports of Kavanaugh Jesuit preppies and their “no means yes, yes means anal” or of surreptitiously administered Quaaludes or Bacardi 151 added to drinks – practices, among the variety of punks that flocked to our wide-open spaces. Anal sex in violent form of all kinds were the practice a mile or so further north at venues called Anvil I was utterly shocked to read in the Village Voice and I recall a woman gently introducing my penis into her anus – most women it turned out and wanted “anal” but gently once they were ready. However, some had been anally raped! So that was going on. Perhaps ever since Norman Mailer’s Time of her Time
However, publishing George Bataille’s Story of the Eye
a book to which one of my most educational sophisticated lovers had introduced me, introduced entirely new dimensions of playfulness into the area; the Chinese laundries flourished, and there was as Annie Sprinkle. – My American friends would try anything once, the experimental film maker who did publicity one morning in her room at the office was boiling the eggs while a young film maker was about to record and without having got the film rights as I pointed out to him and let them proceed!
The deep puzzlement about “spanking” came prior to reading Freud’s “A Child is being beaten…” and realizing that Anna Freud was punishing herself in her dream for her - as far as I was concerned - utterly comprehensible Oedipal sexual wishes considering how impressive and desirable Father Freud must have seemed to his daughter. And it appears my excessive fear then kept me regretfully from a delightful tigerish sessions with my very hot and naughty lover.
I can’t say I heard of Ghomeshi types in our area, nor of rapes – not that there wasn’t at least one emotionally cruel fellow – I am thinking of an Irish-Colombian friend who thought this was the macho way to manifest your dibs. But he stood out among that crowd yet had otherwise admirable qualities, great looks, a good pool stroke, an overgrown delinquent. Later I withdrew from the friendship with a writer whose work I was translating because he became a serial emotional abuser – and was old enough to know what he was doing thinking that that was the way to prove that women could love him – a Viennese and on the West Coast!
I mentioned that sex had become like breathing, easy - think of it as accompanied by Toots and the Maytals, its anthems “Long Tall Sally”, “What’s love got to do with it, Secondary Notion?” and, at closing time, Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” - so it was at least for a while: excepting for frequent romantic breakups all that tempting promiscuity made for a fine forever roundabout and a fair amount of heart ache. Thus, “There will be a heartache tonite” is perhaps the most memorable anthem of them all. It was also a pretty egalitarian scene, women were often more forward than men, I regret that I was not always in the position to respond to propositions that fall in the category of groping. Astonishing in entirely professional settings where, say, I was discussing a piece of work of mine with an editor – who had sex on her mind whereas, hard as it may be for the reader of these words to believe, it was entirely absent from mine. Women seemed to find me attractive, and I am not Richard Gere, but you may not have witnessed the reaction of the lassies when Richard Gere appeared in the Odeon in the early 80s. However, one reason I left New York in the mid-80s was because my flesh is weak and, after all, there is no greater pleasure than to make love to a beautiful woman – “a beautiful woman is a gate to heaven” Peter Handke writes in his 2017 epic “Alexia the Fruit Thief" – but I also loved my work and had huge projects, among other complications.
As of, say, 1970, in a certain Manhattan milieu, if – prior to going to bed- you even bothered to go out on a date, going-out meant that you did so also or perhaps only to sleep with each other, which brings to mind the now infamous Asiz who resides on the once very urban-pioneering
Franklin Street, but one of the earliest to gentrify, Asiz who seems to have been in an inordinate rush to get laid, a matter that during the 70s until about 1985 was such a matter of course that it would have been incredibly uncool to rush - unless of course the happy smiles both could not wait – that is, unless mutual desire took its instant “From Here to Eternity” course.
Though I can’t recall a single Tiger, I do a few man-eaters, women who discarded you the way you might have a one-night-stand, whereas you yourself might be interested to continue to meet up… who wanted to pass you on to their room mate or sister… Women and their “Secret Garden” struck me as a lot less repressed or affected by repression than men, including myself.
Surprisingly, with women expressing their desire or lack and so very liberated it seems that the males Genghis Khans impulse has not been thwarted, with no end of women available
men like Bill Cosby appear to need to have them all or whoever they wish at the moment. How foolish! Poor Harvey Weinstein too ugly ever to get laid as a young man of course is beyond the pale – though I would love to read whatever he might have to say about his behavior if able to articulate.
That is not to say that the #metoo movement is not problematic, I tend to agree with the opinion that Ian Buruma expressed in his Frije Nederland interview that a good thing can have its excesses.
Among women friends who had hundreds of lovers and never a bad experience yet I know of two utter hypocrites, stunningly beautiful hussies who were sexually exceedingly forward and promiscuous who now complain that some men became presumptuous. Hypocrisy will prevail
As to the matter of the NYRB editing in a communal manner - one alleged reason for Buruma’s dismissal being his neglect of this practice – I must say “oh if only it had been instituted earlier in the publication’s existence! In particular I have in mind Marcus Handke piece that led to the end of Bob Silver’s and our palship
because he refused to publish a rejoinder; or for that matter Kirsch’s post Silver travesty on Handke’s Moravian Night
In the area that interested me as book editor
who of course was keen on a fair reception, the NYRB in instances such of the early Handke and Sam Shepard and of Norbert Elias was nicely responsive, but it took nearly 50 years of the NYRB to take notice of the Frankfurt School and of that brilliant chameleon Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Michael Brodsky and much else wonderful stuff that I managed to get into print during those now long ago days.
I happened to know most of the founders of the review and welcomed its appearance, however, I was never under the impression that the NYRB was more than the efflorescence of a particular clique many of those interests and likes I shared for class and educational reasons; and though certainly an improvement on the New York Times Book Review, the NYRB is scarcely a truly cosmopolitan intellectual journal.
Michael Roloff, October 2018, Seattle
THERE IS THAT HUBBUB ABOUT THE Ghomeshi essay THAT IAN BURUMA PUBLISHED & accusations that it did not enjoy the NYRB usual rigorous editorial processes, the whole point of publishing such a self-berating piece is to leave it as RAW AS POSSIBLE! That Buruma is out as an editor for such a honest act speaks badly of the current publisher of the NYRB Rea S. Hederman whose name is all over the masthead.https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/10/11/reflections-hashtag/https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/10/11/reflections-hashtag/
also see my post on bob silvers https://artscritic.blogspot.com/2017/03/a-comment-on-nyrb-robert-silvers.html
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