Tuesday, October 28

Fish, Milton, Lennon

I never imagined I would discuss the literary critic and sometimes New York Times editorial writer Stanley Fish favorably, but his recent opinion piece is a stinger, especially if you read it with the religious Right in mind. Fish has a penchant for casting tame arguments in scandalous terms or, at other times, for making truly scandalous claims in an off-hand manner. The upshot of his most recent piece is that, in one important respect, Obama is like Jesus while McCain is like Satan. Forget for the moment whatever Fish might mean by that, because the comparison is bound to create a storm. This may well be the objective for Fish, a veritable storm chaser of essay writing.

Fish's piece reminds me of the famously twisted words of John Lennon, who at the height of Beatlemania in the United States quipped that the Beatles seemed to be more famous than God. The religious Right went bazookey, running wild with the assumption that Lennon meant something like, "I think that I should be more famous than God" or some such blasphemy, and destroying Beatles paraphernalia, getting the group banned from radio, etc. Could a similarly mindless little storm be kicked up in the wake of this oddly couched argument from a literary critic? Fish's piece is really nothing more than an appreciation of the Obama campaign articulated on the basis of Fish's reading of Milton's "Paradise Regained." It is reasonable enough and somewhat colorful, but I can just imagine its getting twisted into something truly execrable -- for instance, final proof that Obama IS the anti-Christ. Let's see. I'll give it 48 hours. Check back.