When I read my straight colleagues telling everyone else to give Finnis the ‘respect’ of engaging with his opinions, to ‘make arguments’ in response, I wonder how many times they have had to ‘make the argument’ for their happiness, for their home and their partner, for the life they’ve built with the people they love. At times, I’m not even sure what I am meant to be making the argument for… I can engage, certainly, I can make arguments in response, but there is also a sense, at a deeper level, in which there is nothing I can say.
The Mekong Review aims to be for Southeast Asia what he said The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books had been since 9/11: ‘brave, trenchant critics of their respective governments.’ It’s a long shot on many levels, not least because it covers a region where English literacy is patchy, postal systems are unreliable and newspapers that are not controlled by governments tend to struggle against censorship and chronic financial constraints. Editor in chief Minh Bui Jones moonlights as a deliveryman when he visits the region.
I need Squirrel Hill to return to its right size. It feels weirdly out of scale at the moment, like an enormous parade balloon version of itself. Every cable news crawl has the words ‘Squirrel Hill’ in it. I am trying to shrink the neighbourhood back down, in my mind, to the place where I have picked my son up from preschool, from circus camp, from swimming lessons, leading him out of the tiled Jewish Community Center hallway to the tiny parking garage where I always narrowly miss denting another exhausted parent’s car.
Now that he has died, the preparation feels insufficient: the uneasiness remains. I suspect you feel it as well: how to speak about a writer whose work has been meaningful—–in my case, profoundly so; I could not imagine my life without it—–as well as a source of frustration or real pain. I have admired Naipaul as much as I have found him difficult to admire, a murky admixture that I find difficult to explain or clarify, and which I find with no other writer, to anything like the same degree.