Meanwhile, in Jasper City…

by Maria on May 13, 2013

In The Rise of Ransom City, Felix Gilman attempts a couple of tricks one really shouldn’t try at home. First, he shows rather than tells how history is made by economics, politics and changes in popular belief, not the bravery of heroes. Second, he keeps much of the plot-driving action off-stage. The narrator Harry Ransom is a charismatic storyteller with a knack for coming close to the action but never quite bending it to his will. He says at the outset that he’s changed history four times. But when he explains how, you realize Ransom’s usually a part of someone else’s plan or that it’s something he failed to do that changes how things turn out. It’s all quite subtly done and my first read-through was spent in a fog of mild frustration. It wasn’t until I realized that Ransom is more Forrest Gump than secret agent that I started to get along with this book.
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by John Holbo on May 13, 2013

This is, in a silly way, a footnote to my previous Kevin Williamson post, but, more seriously, to my contribution to our Erik Olin Wright event. In my post on Wright I remarked that, in a sense, he’s pushing against an open door: he wants Americans, who think ‘socialism’ is a dirty word, to be more open to utopian thinking. The problem, I pointed out, is that thinking ‘socialism’ is a dirty word is positively, not negatively, correlated with utopianism, because conservatives are, typically, very utopian, especially in their rhetoric – more so than socialists these days; certainly more so than liberals. Wright responded that his project “is not mainly directed at ideologically committed Conservatives whose core values support the power and privilege of dominant classes. The core audience is people who are loosely sympathetic to some mix of liberal egalitarian, radical democratic and communitarian ideals.” [click to continue…]