The Right-Wing Canon

Nov 13 2012 @ 6:26pm

James McGirk imagines what books, besides Atlas Shrugged, might be included:

Flannery O’Connor’s short story "The Lame Shall Enter First" uses the idea of an omniscient, judging God to justify intricate shifts of perspective and steep the atmosphere in religious dread. An atheist father invites a troubled teenager into his home to spite his grieving son, and he is punished for it. O’Connor doesn’t waggle Catholicism in her readers’ faces, but she does seem to say, "Believe what you want, but don’t say I never warned you."

The belief in an immortal soul is important for both fictional suspense and conservative fear, as it is a hell of a thing to lose. James Ellroy, professed friend of policemen, Lutheran churchgoer, and serial supporter of the Republican Party, writes fiction that relies on a stark contrast between good and evil. His books are maniacally fast and innovative. He takes for granted that bad men die bleeding, and isolates a sliver of American history—Los Angeles after World War II—and fills it with sinners as lust-mad and doomed as Captain Ahab in Moby Dick.

There's just one problem, says McGirk: "With the exception of Ellroy, whose fiction is confined to a narrow moment in American history, the authors mentioned are all dead":

The Republican Party is in a moment of crisis, and there is a difference between being conservative and being a member of today’s right wing. The right has been radicalized by a ridiculous ideology that would be outrageous if expressed in literature. By comparison the liberal left is in an elegiac mode and mourning for an America that used to at least try to include everyone. The Democrats are perhaps the true conservatives, the nostalgic ones. In the year 2012, Republican writers are not publishing much literary fiction of note, as the right has traded in sentimentality for fantasy, spirituality for fanaticism.