Friday, October 27, 2006

A few more people who apparently aren't morally fit to walk among the fine citizens of Virginia, given the fact that they, like John McCain, have praised the novels of James Webb:

"Webb [is] one of our finest war novelists since Stephen Crane... Lost Soldiers is taut with skillfully narrated realism.... No one else has ever conveyed better the dangers, risks, and horrors of our war in Vietnam."

--Caspar Weinberger in Forbes

"This compelling, fascinating exercise of historical fiction proves, again, that James Webb is as fine a novelist as he was a Marine. Enough said."

--George F. Will, on The Emperor's General

"In my opinion, the finest of the Vietnam novels."

--Tom Wolfe on Fields of Fire

"We know what happened to my dad and his buddies in the famous Iwo Jima flag-raising photo. But we don't know what happened after another unforgettable photo, of the last helicopter lifting off from the U.S. embassy in Vietnam. Lost Soldiers is about what might have happened in Vietnam after the photographers left."

--James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers

(Quotes found via Amazon Reader in a search of Webb's novels.)

I don't know how the Allen campaign's release of decontextualized sexual passages from Webb's novels, gleefully posted by Drudge, will play in this race. But I'd like it if a reporter would seek out a reaction to the Drudge page from some of the people above -- all of whom have at times been embraced by the Right.

This Kos diarist has it more or less right:

...[Webb's] defense lies NOT in the idea that these are works of FICTION, but rather that they are works of FACT.

... if the public believes that Webb wrote these things straight from his own head and fertile imagination, Virginia voters will believe that he is one sick puppy with a sick imagination and a degrading view of women and children.

If, on the other hand, Webb comes out and says that these passages were based on actual experiences from the hellhole of Vietnam, the public will not only NOT view him as a pervert, but see him as a hero....

Well, they're not going to think he's a hero. But the strategy is right: tell voters he was writing about the real lives of people who were in Vietnam -- and that those lives weren't church socials.

I posted a Webb story back in January. It's from Robert Timberg's book The Nightingale's Song, which is about the Annapolis generation that included Webb, McCain, and Ollie North, among others. Webb had returned from Vietnam and was in law school at the height of the antiwar movement. An antiwar professor who was in the habit of working his students' surnames into the hypothetical scenarios in his test questions created a scenario about someone named Webb -- but this "Webb" was, in Timberg's words, "a Marine sergeant ... who attempts to ship home pieces of jade in the dead bodies of two Marines from his platoon." After the examine, Webb went to Wales's office.

"I just want you to know it wasn't funny," he told the professor. "I went over to Vietnam with sixty-seven lieutenants, twenty-two died, and it wasn't funny."

Webb was a target back then because he'd fought in a war at a time when some war opponents regarded the troops as evil. The current situation is, in a way, a right-wing version of the same problem -- Webb has written novels with sexual detail at a time when "traditional values" right-wingers, drunk on their own sanctimony and self-righteousness, regard anyone whose work steps over the rated-G line as evil. The Allen campaign is trying to get to the people who don't even want four-letter words to be heard in broadcasts of Saving Private Ryan or the CBS documentary filmed at the Twin Towers on 9/11. Webb was the enemy for fighting a war his government wanted him to fight; now he's an enemy for writing books people want to read.


UPDATE: Allahpundit -- who's right-wing but thinks the attacks on James Webb's novels are over the top -- has a pretty good post that includes audio of a Washington Post online interview in which Webb does precisely what the Kos blooger suggested, i.e., he defends the scenes in his novels as representations of real life. Go listen -- I think he does a fine job of defending himself. Webb says that the scene that's drawn the most attention, involving a father who puts his sons penis in his mouth, is something Webb actually saw -- and this does happen:

Thira Srey, office manager for the Southern California-based Cambodian Association of America, said it is acceptable for a mother or caretaker in Cambodia, especially those from rural areas, to kiss the penis of an infant or put it in her mouth as a sign of respect or love.

The child is usually 1 year old or younger, "but no more than 2 years old," he said.

The act has nothing to do with sexual feelings, he said, noting that it can be viewed as a sign of high respect by a caretaker for a future "master."

I assumed that had to be the explanation.

UPDATE: Why, hours after Webb explained otherwise, is the Post talking about Webb "depicting acts of incest"?

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