September 13, 2010

Why are there so many serious novels about 9/11 and so few about Katrina? — asks Chloe Schama who thinks it's just shameful.

She says:
In the aftermath of the attacks on the Word Trade Center, many of the most famous authors of our time have weighed in on the attacks, depicting the ways large and small in which they altered people’s lives. Some hypothesized possible motivations behind the terrorists’ actions: John Updike in Terrorist (2006) and Martin Amis in the short story “The Last Days of Muhammad Atta” (2006). Others used the events as narrative bookends: Don DeLillo’s Falling Man (2007) and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children (2006) are two examples. Some novels commented more indirectly: At the start of Ian McEwan’s Saturday (2005), the protagonist sees a plane flying low and fears a terrorist attack, while, in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), the main character’s quest to unravel a personal mystery is motivated by his father’s death in the World Trade Center.

Meanwhile, the literary response to Hurricane Katrina, the other great American disaster of the last decade, has been almost nonexistent. In the five years since Katrina, almost no major literary figure has similarly illustrated the effects of the hurricane.
Oh, good lord, this is so stupid I hate to have to point it out. Katrina was a hurricane. We don't have to try to figure out its motivations and come to terms with its evil. Yes, there were human failings in the aftermath of the storm, but novelists have been chewing through the routine failings of humankind since the novel was invented. They don't even need a real event that had real people screwing up to get them started. They'll make up stories and characters to show the way people do bad things. You know, fiction.
But the lack of a strong literary response to the hurricane appears to have consequences.... For centuries, novels have done the important job of making devastation more concrete for people by examining individual experience, real or fictional, with that devastation.
Ugh. Art subordinated to politics and social change. Great novelists should write about Katrina to help people. No. That's not how it works.
Novelists have done a commendable job exposing us to the dust and the rubble of September 11. It’s time for more of them to churn the mud, water, blood, and decay wrought by Katrina.
As if serious novelists take their marching orders from the political hacks of this world.

AFTERTHOUGHT: "It’s time for more of them to churn the mud, water, blood, and decay wrought by Katrina." Put mud, water, blood, and decay in in the blender and press "churn." Yummy Katrina art smoothie. 

70 comments:

Triangle Man said...

TNR and you misspelled her name. It's Chloë according to her website.

If it's so important to her, then perhaps she should have written about Katrina instead of "Wild Romance", a "Victorian story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman".

Fen said...

the other great American disaster

This is what comes from constantly calling 9-11 a "disaster" instead of an attack.

As for Katrina, I pity the researchers who would have to wade through all the media lies about Katrina. It was quite possibly the most distorted event in American history.

Alex said...

Racism of course! I'm waiting for Ritmo to chime in.

Scott M said...

I want an entire angst-laden screed written about the best way to keep Sean Penn's dingy from sinking. Sort of a new version of Hemmingway's Old Man And The Sea but this would probably be called something like Aging Wannabe Socialist Against The Direct Results Of Disaster Planning And Response By Committee. It would be in the romance section, of course, given how much Sean Penn loves himself.

PS - only half tongue in cheek, mind you. At least the guy put his time and money where his ill-considered views are.

MayBee said...

There was plenty of fiction written about Katrina in the days immediately following the storm. Unfortunately, it was being called "news" at the time.

TRO said...

Chloe should get her ass to writing about it then.It might even be a good read if it told the truth about what happened instead of the media and liberal spin we've gotten so far.

Maguro said...

The novels she wants wouldn't really be about Katrina at all, they would be all about how horrible Bush was.

Fen said...

At least the guy put his time and money where his ill-considered views are.

Not even:

"But Sean Penn can take himself, an entourage and a personal photographer – that’s three or four people in a four-person boat – and show us all how incredibly big and down-home he is by sailing off a few feet to rescue people, before the boat sinks from the incompetence of failing to put in the drainage plug. He wore a very nice white flak vest, instead of the passé orange life preserver, because getting shot at is a lot more macho looking, if a million or so times less likely, than drowning because you went out into the water with a lead vest rather than a life vest. It’s a scene in the trailer that runs incessantly in their heads: In a world run by evil corporations, a rebel who plays by his own rules starts a deadly game of cat and mouse with an all-powerful conspiracy in this searing portrait of extraordinary courage in a life under siege, starring... me!

I was actually ready to publicly commend the guy, until I heard about the personal photographer. If he wanted to help people – and that’s all – he could have paid for that boat, and a few hundred others, manned them with reasonably competent recreational boaters, and sent out a flotilla. But no. It’s not about having people saved. It’s about something else entirely. It’s about having people saved by Sean Penn. That’s when I realized that whether it’s the Murderous Regime in Iraq, or the Murderous Regime in Iran, or the Murderous Storm in Louisiana…ultimately, it’s all about Sean Penn."


http://pajamasmedia.com/ejectejecteject/2009/10/07/tribes-2/

garage mahal said...

So the big media lie was what again? I remember people stealing big screen TV's and carrying through chest high water, to somewhere, as being the real menace on TV.

Alex said...

The novels she wants wouldn't really be about Katrina at all, they would be all about how horrible Bush was.

Of course. The way lefties seem to be so utterly fixated on Bush and Fox News makes them utterly deranged.

ricpic said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for a novelistic treatment of the out to lunch behavior of New Orleans' Dem hack mayor Ray Nagin before, during and after Katrina struck the city.

Alex said...

garage muckall - so please tell us how a natural disaster is equivalent to a deliberate mass murder event?

mesquito said...

Chloe needs to get cracking and provide us an example of Katrina's interior monologue.

Churn churn churn...where to go ashore? ...churn churn churn... Iknow! Where there are Black People!

Fen said...

Libtard: So the big media lie was what again?

*snicker*

Scott M said...

I was actually ready to publicly commend the guy, until I heard about the personal photographer. If he wanted to help people – and that’s all – he could have paid for that boat, and a few hundred others, manned them with reasonably competent recreational boaters, and sent out a flotilla. But no. It’s not about having people saved. It’s about something else entirely. It’s about having people saved by Sean Penn. That’s when I realized that whether it’s the Murderous Regime in Iraq, or the Murderous Regime in Iran, or the Murderous Storm in Louisiana…ultimately, it’s all about Sean Penn.

Okay...I admit that I didn't know about the photographer. I did see the footage of him bailing out water and thought exactly what you did...why didn't he organize a bunch of celebs (their money if nothing else) and charter a bunch of boats from the non-effected areas.

Alex said...

Remember if it doesn't fit the leftist narrative, it's not worth discussing. 9/11 was all about evil Islamofascists, thus let's not talk about it.

El Pollo Real said...

garage muckall - so please tell us how a natural disaster is equivalent to a deliberate mass murder event?

While garage gathers his notes for a response, let me pre-empt him by suggesting his next suggestion that the evil forces of AGW (as personified by Americans he so loathes) were behind the cause of Katrina.

Alex said...

While garage gathers his notes for a response, let me pre-empt him by suggesting his next suggestion that the evil forces of AGW (as personified by Americans he so loathes) were behind the cause of Katrina.

Of course. In the lefty bubble I'm sure they all believe that.

AJ Lynch said...

Let's see it's been just over five years since Katrina. The govt spent about $100 Billion to fix everything which I guess means all is back to normal and everyone is satisfied with the re-construction?

If not, who do we blame now? How much more should we spend?

Scott M said...

How about a novel about all of the emotional trauma involved with being non-black, but being told that New Orleans will be a chocolate city?

Palladian said...

There's no such thing as a serious novel.

Novels were invented to give upper-class Georgian women something to do.

AJ Lynch said...

Truthfully, I wonder why moviemakers don't seem interested in the fall of the Berlin Wall, the life story of Lech Walesa, the fall of the Soviet Union nor the self-inflicted demise of the librul media.

MadisonMan said...

So why doesn't Ms. Schama write a novel and right this horrific, horrific wrong?

Alex said...

Truthfully, I wonder why moviemakers don't seem interested in the fall of the Berlin Wall, the life story of Lech Walesa, the fall of the Soviet Union nor the self-inflicted demise of the librul media.

I recommend "The Lives of Others". Tremendous film.

Paul Snively said...

Dr. Althouse: As if serious novelists take their marching orders from the political hacks of this world.

Quite right, Professor. As we all know, serious novelists are the political hacks of this world.

shoutingthomas said...

Slightly off topic.

This is more hand-wringing about blacks.

Blacks used to be called "negroes." Then they were called "blacks."

Now, they're called "African-Americans." They get an entire seven syllables! Who else gets this kind of ass kissing?

The name changes were, of course, supposed to change everything.

Future generations of liberals will want to change the name again, of course, to offset whatever negatives attached to "African-American." What will be the future handle for negroes/blacks/African-Americans? Will they get even more syllables?

Big Mike said...

Schama overlooks Tin Roof Blowdown by the great mystery writer James Lee Burke.

I heartily recommend all of Burke's Dave Robicheaux novels.

AJ Lynch said...

Alex:

Thanks I will check that movie out.

chr1 said...

Your quarrel isn't necessarily with 'blacks.' My guess is it's with the entrenchment of the State building Left and the threat this poses to economic and individual liberty. Perhaps, anyways:

1. They see Art as another tool of political ideology. Though as Althouse points out: Religion, Politics and PHilosophy all have difficult relationships with it.

2. The Big Business Government/Big Government split is generally a shift Leftward, as seen in California. Theologians will be happily ensconced in Universities engaged in "interfaith dialogue". The logic of diveristy will be followed, and moral obligation will be directed away from the individual (toward the individual with race, class, gender theories who've been entrenching themselves for decades now).

3. The use of science, but more frequently "scientism," to achieve many policy goals and State control of the problem defined (all those greens, reds, idealists wanting pure Nature had to go somewhere, and they are a thouroughly Western bunch). This is why even with many scientists think there's good evidence for global warming, there's a long tail of Leftists in their wake, seeking change but not sufficiently reasonable about the change they seek.

Food for thought. Perhaps this is why the libertarians have been gaining traction (they too aren't socially conservative, nor religious, but they are pro economic and individual liberty and they rise in oppostition during Democratic administrations)

that-xmas said...

Really, a good story about Katrina is the diaspora of poor blacks across the south, particularly the ones that moved to Houston.

The culture clash must be fantastic, as New Orleans was one of the most corrupt and insular citiess in the US. The story would become the modern day version of Everything In Its Path.

bagoh20 said...

Thanks Fen :

http://pajamasmedia.com/ejectejecteject/2009/10/07/tribes-2/

I love Bill Whittle. His stuff is like reading my own thoughts, but after being edited by god.

John Burgess said...

9/11: An human-directed action that viscerally affected millions of Americans who watched thousands dying before their eyes. Good literary material.

Katrina: A natural event that should have (but didn't) teach a lesson of physics to a city full of people who thought it wise to live below sea level in a hurricane zone. Media-inflated catastrophe, suitable for TV drama.

garage mahal said...

While garage gathers his notes for a response, let me pre-empt him by suggesting his next suggestion that the evil forces of AGW (as personified by Americans he so loathes) were behind the cause of Katrina.

I thought we went through this already. You are the one that loathes Americans, and others like you that think there are a substantial number of Americans that wished 9/11 happened on a much larger scale. That's "loathing".

ricpic said...

The name changes were, of course, supposed to change everything.

Here in Ithaca, NY, they've changed the perfectly good traditional name of our main thoroughfare, State Street, to Martin Luther King Street. Or maybe Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, since Street is kind of a comedown after Martin Luther King Jr. Anyway, it doesn't seem to have worked. I still get the same free of charge hate stares from blacks when I go downtown. Apparently they are not appeased.

BJM said...

Yummy Katrina art smoothie.

Ya see, this here is why we hillbillies read Althouse.

Big Mike said...

@garage, you and I have had our differences, that's for certain, but I simply cannot align your latest comment with any form of reality. And that bothers me.

Can you clarify why you think right-wingers wish 9/11/01 happened "on a much larger scale."

LarsPorsena said...

Off thread..Why hasn't Hollywood made one movie about US combat troops in this war? I'll give yo three guesses.

virgil xenophon said...

A good book about Katrina and its immediate aftermath is entitled "Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers; the story of a Syrian house-painter who stayed behind (Zeitour was MY house-painter--I knew him personally! He and his brother, who owns his own business--and also bid on our home--are two of the better house-painters in New Orleans) It tells of his attempts to aid fellow New Orleanians and was mistakenly arrested for his efforts--and his subsequent travails in the Louisiana prison system before being set free.

garage mahal said...

Can you clarify why you think right-wingers wish 9/11/01 happened "on a much larger scale."


It was the 9/11 thread. I re-read it, the comment I was referring to actually didn't refer to a "larger scale", only that the victims were the "wrong people".

"Not enough of a fire to really clean the place out of the wrong sort of people. They were hoping for a more effective cleansing."

No mention of physics lessons in that thread though.

SteveR said...

Staggeringly stupid.

Roux said...

There have been plenty of non-fiction Katrina books but I recommend Rising Tide

http://www.amazon.com/Rising-Tide-Mississippi-Changed-America/dp/0684840022

It's about the 1927 floods but you will get a historical perspective of how New Orleans came to be.

Beth said...

What's a serious novel? Why not take seriously the novels written by authors who have written either "about Katrina" or simply being conscious of Katrina as local writers writing post-Katrina?

It's not hard to find post- or "about" Katrina works:

City of Refuge, Tom Piazza
Zeitoun, Dave Eggers (not fiction)
A.D. After the Deluge, Josh Neufeld
Babylon Rolling, Amanda Boyden
More of This World or Maybe Another, Barb Johnson
Anything by James Lee Burke written post-K
Anything by any local novelist written post-K

There's another whole box of books written by journalists or bloggers or wanna-be writers who spent a month in New Orleans at some point in their lives and have capitalized on that to tell some post-Katrina story, usually wildly inaccurate.

Way back in the early days of the internet, my partner worked on a city tourism website. This discussion reminds me of an email she got from a visitor to the site. The emailer informed her he was planning to write a novel about New Orleans, but had never been to the city. "Please tell me all about New Orleans so I can write my novel. I'd appreciate a quick reply as I am on a deadline."

Youngblood said...

Garage Mahal wrote:

"So the big media lie was what again?"

One of the things that was being reported in the news was that survivors were feasting on the flesh of the hurricane's victims. That was a lie.

Another cluster of major lies involved atrocities and violence in the Superdome -- dead babies in freezers, bodies stacked in the basement, and young girls raped in the ladies' room.

Then there was Paula Zahn's breathless report on CNN that gangs of rapists were running rampant. Then there was Senator Landrieu's claim, which was reported as fact, that police officers were being murdered.

Michael said...

Media/Katrina/Inaccuracies

Shooting at helicopters.
Shooting looters.
Rapes in the Super dome.
Looters rampant in neighborhoods.
Katrina as a Category 5 at landfall.
Evacuation time.

Etc.

Thorley Winston said...

Katrina: A natural event that should have (but didn't) teach a lesson of physics to a city full of people who thought it wise to live below sea level in a hurricane zone. Media-inflated catastrophe, suitable for TV drama.

There’s actually been at least two television dramas focused around the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – “K-Ville” (which was cancelled after the first season in part due to the writers’ strike) and “Treme” on HBO which premiered last year and got renewed for a second season. In contrast, the only show that I know directly dealing with 9/11 is “Rescue Me” on FX, which is set to return for its seventh and final season next year.

jimspice said...

Ann, do your hangers-on, a.k.a. regular commenters, ever sicken you, just a little bit? I mean, does their insensitivity ever cause just a bit of bile to back up into your throat. I know their sentiments do not necessarily reflect your own, but you do provide the forum via which they espouse this crap. I suppose you could say they are the acid to your reflux?

Cardiac Jack said...

ricpic, did they change the name of the State Diner as well? I used to have many a greasy meal there after the bars closed.

Christy said...

I second, or third, the novels of James Lee Burke, who rode out Katrina in New Iberia and who has been writing about New Orleans for decades. He is no admirer of Bush, but he didn't think highly of media coverage.

Wouldn't it be hard to write a novel of the hurricane without getting partisan? And aren't partisan books usually awful? I stopped reading a couple of mystery novelists (Paretsky is the only one I can call to mind just now) whose BDS so disfigured their prose. Recently a favorite, Sharyn McCrumb, published a book with a searing indictment of the media and their predetermined narrative. The novel, The Devil Among the Lawyers is set in 1936, but the issues are current. I agree with her completely, but I also think this is one of her weakest novels. Perhaps it's just me; I don't like anvils used in fiction.

virgil xenophon said...

Beth also left out another non-fiction work: "The Great Deluge" by historian Douglas Brinkley. (and one who stayed behind to weather the storm, thus seeing the immediate aftermath first-hand)) A former disciple of the late Stephen Ambrose (under whom I had an American Hist. course from the newly-minted PhD in 1965 at LSU) at the Univ. of New Orleans, and having cut a deal with Tulane just prior to Katrina for his own, better, gig; his disgust with the City "fathers" and the future prospects of the city drove him away to Houston where he is now decamped at Rice.

David said...

I am a close reader of James Baldwin, have been for years.

He might have written such a novel, but it wouldn't have been what Chloe imagines it should be.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Has Ms. Chloe written a novel on it? If she has then she'd have a point being one of few who did write on the subject. If not, maybe she should STFU and get to work.

I mean seriously...

Derek Kite said...

I've already had my fill of fiction written about Katrina.

Derek

Scott M said...

If it was really good twist fiction, say, in the vein of The Twilight Zone or early M. Night Shamalamanalamananananmana, it would end with the people at the dome realizing that they were already dead werewolves who traveled back through time.

Trooper York said...

"garage mahal said...
So the big media lie was what again? I remember people stealing big screen TV's and carrying through chest high water, to somewhere, as being the real menace on TV."

I seem to recall the stories about the violence and the rapes and murders in the Super Dome. I remember some reporters shitting their pants at the time.

Fen said...

And all of these MSM lies were followed by "reporters" throwing aside their professionalism and launching into faux outrage to gin up anger at Bush.

Every one of them should have been fired.

El Pollo Real said...

Every one of them should have been fired.

Or at least lost a lot of credibility which they did. Entitlement and inertia still "keeps" some of them in place today, but they know their days are numbered.

Cedarford said...

I remember one good essay post-9/11by James B Stewart about Rick Rescorla.
There were a lot of books and movies that followed the Bush/Giuliani "Hero Narrative" of government employees and plane passengers that on reflection don't seem to be exceptional "heroes" at all.

There were a lot of books about Al Qaeda and bin Laden that seem to have failed to understand the problem was bigger than 9/11 and the "failures" seemed to drive ass-coverers to create a 800 billion dollar security apparatus that appears to be of little value to the taxpayer. Premised on the notion that America can be "perfectly safe" from Islamoids if enough money is spent on "the heroes of Homeland Security, the FBI, the hero soldiers" while respecting all Muslim sensitivities...

Katrina was just another hurricane. It was a weather event in which the President, the governor, the mayor and the hero cops, who had a near-50% desertion rate during the emergency - didn't acquit themselves well. Nor did the huge NOLA underclass which overall came across as hapless barbarians demanding handouts and endless victimhood entitlements. There were some shining lights, like Gen Russell Honore` and the Coast Guard, but few and far inbetween.

Katrina was a national embarassment. You can't write what actually happened because of PC. And most people, especially the PC forces, after seeing the negative reaction to the "victims" in light of the sympathetic "specials" the media did that were laughed at - want the hurricane that revealed America's 3rd World inner city cultural rot swept under the rug and put behind us ASAP.

Synova said...

Can I ask...

What are the names of some 9-11 novels?

Katrina had a cop show.

It was on Hulu.

Synova said...

Understanding of course that a *novel* is a work of fiction, not a tribute or book about the event or real people in it.

BJM said...

@Garage

It was the 9/11 thread. I re-read it, the comment I was referring to actually didn't refer to a "larger scale", only that the victims were the "wrong people".

Lame.

BJM said...

@jimspice

Your point is?

ddh said...

I could see someone writing a comic novel about the media's coverage of Katrina--a sort of Scoop meets A Confederacy of Dunces. Who better than a cooking columnist to write a story that an editor thinks is about an outbreak of cannibalism in New Orleans?

rcocean said...

Just an aside, bit who the hell cares what someone called "Chloe Schama" thinks about anything?

Sorry but names matter.

Fen said...

Libtard: It was the 9/11 thread. I re-read it, the comment I was referring to actually didn't refer to a "larger scale", only that the victims were the "wrong people".

I forgot the article and author who wrote about all the Red States deserving to be hit instead of NYC. He made reference to Mathew Shepard and James Byrd. Wasnt that fatty Micheal Moore was it?

Anyone have a link to the article? I cant seem to find it now...

William said...

Why are there so few depictions in literature, tv, and movies about the many thousands who have been killed eating food at McDonald's. That number is surely higher than the 9/11 and Katrina victims combined. Why do these tragic stories remain untold?

Rialby said...

I'm just waiting for Randall Robinson's non-fiction treatise on why blacks in New Orleans started eating their own dead just 48 hours after the levees broke.

Kevin said...

Prediction: no memorable work of fiction (or anything else) will ever bear the byline Chloe Schama.

Kevin said...

garage mahal: I remember people stealing big screen TV's and carrying through chest high water

Well, let's leave the NOPD out of this.

Gene said...

Triangle Man is right. Chloe Shama should have written her own book about Katrina instead of subtly suggesting racism on the part of everyone else who didn't.

Actually, I think there could be a good novel in Katrina. The villain wouldn't be the hurricane. It would be the New Orleans police department, especially those cops who killed innocent people, looted department stores and then went to Los Vegas at taxpayer expenses to cope with their stress.

Garage Mahal. One of the things the media never mentions is that a lot of the people who stayed behind didn't do so because they didn't have the means to leave. They were afraid, if they did leave, someone would steal their big screen TVs, which is what happened anyway.

John Lynch said...

I would never, ever read a novel about Katrina. I would know what it was about without opening it.

That's why no one writes one. The narrative is done to death and everyone is sick of it.