I’ve been a fan of Camille Paglia for many years. Her writing is always interesting, always clear and always thought-provoking. You can go back and read her essays and they’re still as fresh as the first time you read them.
She does tend to get carried away with the meaning of symbolism: For instance, while skyscrapers might be phallic, the very obvious reason men (and women) architecs design them is not because they are phallic, but because so far they’re the most practical way to maximize the use of space in highly populated areas.
Be that as it may, while you might not agree with her views, it’s worth reading her books. (I make an exception: I haven’t read the one on Madonna because if it was up to me Madonna would still be working at the IHOP. ‘Nuf said on Madge.)
I first started reading her work in the early 1990s when I came across her book Sexual Personae at a used book store in Manhattan. I bought it because of her essay on Pre-Raphaelite art, about which I have an interest, and after that I kept going back for more of Paglia’s writing. This kind of writing is not light reading, however. It demands commitment and attention.
Her very successful book of commentary on poetry classics is much easier to read, and it lends itself to reading in brief intervals, as you want to read the poem, think about what it says to you and then read what she has to say. Reading is two minds communicating; in Break Blow Burn it’s three minds.
Now she has a new book about visual images coming up, and Salon has an interview. Here’s a sampler:
On Foley and the Democrats
And with the Democrats’ record of sex scandals, what the hell were they thinking of? For heaven’s sake, after we just got through the whole Clinton maelstrom! What Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky was far worse than any evidence I’ve seen thus far about what Foley did with these pages. Clinton, whom I voted for twice, used his superior power as an employer to lure Monica Lewinsky, who was perfectly willing, into these squalid sexual assignations on the grounds of the White House. There was a time when feminists were arguing, in regard to sexual harassment in the workplace, that any gross disparity in power cannot possibly produce informed consent. All of a sudden, all of that was abandoned for partisan reasons in the Clinton case. I take the European view that any government official has the right to conduct as many sexual affairs as he wishes — off government property. But Clinton, with all his power, somehow couldn’t figure out a way to discreetly meet his chosen women at the mansions of his many friends. I can understand why hotels and motels might have been difficult to manage, with the telltale Secret Service presence. But to use the hallway off the Oval Office for those encounters — to be serviced by a young woman to whom he gave no other dignity and whom he used like a washrag — he turned that hallway into a sleazy mosh pit! The Democrats are being extremely imprudent to arouse all those sleeping tigers again — particularly if their next presidential nomination is Hillary Clinton. They’ve reignited the endless series of charges about Clinton’s allegedly abusive physical encounters with women, beginning when he was governor of Arkansas. The Foley case shrinks in comparison to Clinton’s rumored history of hitting on women in subordinate positions.
On Condoleezza Rice:
Every feminist who wants to smash the glass ceiling should realize she has a stake in Condi Rice’s success.
On a woman president:
If we want a woman president, we need to start training ambitious young women not in women’s studies, with its myths of universal male oppression and female victimage, but rather in military history and national security issues.
On Bob Woodward:
Oh, Woodward, what a big yawn! Who the hell cares about Woodward? I mean, at this point, he’s just an inside-the-Beltway figure. I certainly don’t need him to clarify my view of the Iraq debacle.
Chomsky certainly doesn’t fare any better, and neither does robo-Hillary.
Read the interview, buy the books.