Dinesh D'Souza Does To Poetry What He's Done To History, By A Doctor Of Rhetoric
Now that he's pretty much shredded American history and conclusively proven that Democrats are still the party of the KKK (since nothing ever changes), conservative thought leaderer Dinesh D'Souza has turned his sights on poetry, with the purpose of enlisting Robert Frost in support of Donald Trump's WALL. In a dumb talk at Dartmouth, D'Souza manages to expose a very deep truth! Sometimes poems don't mean what you think they mean at first glance, but if you look closely at them, they really mean what you really want them to mean. Especially if you say it loud enough and ignore other evidence in the text. For a guy who claims to hate postmodernism, D'Souza seems fully on board with the "death of the author." He should be more careful not to leave behind such obvious ligature marks on the corpse, though.
Analyzing poetry should come pretty handily to D'Souza, who has no real academic training as a historian, but does at least sport a 1983 BA in English from Dartmouth -- his only degree, because universities are worthless and elitist, except when D'Souza is accusing his critics, the actual historians, of teaching at "second and third rate colleges." Like Princeton.
Here, watch him come really close to almost getting Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" right -- but not, quite -- before crashing at speed into a rocky New England wall. The only carnage, we're glad to say, is verbal.
GOOD NEIGHBORS: D'Souza goes in-depth on Frost, walls, & immigration www.youtube.com
D'Souza's reading of "The Road Not Taken" -- despite his insistence that he's really sussed out a deep truth -- isn't all that unconventional, although he still manages to bollix it. While D'Souza is right enough to reject the simple assertion that the poem's narrator is to be admired for boldly choosing the less conventional road, we're not sure D'Souza's take -- both paths were the same, so shut up -- is any better. Frost himself said he was having a laugh at anyone who dwells too much on regrets, when we can never know how life might otherwise have turned out. Even so, we bet Robert Frost would have regretted seeing what D'Souza does with the 1914 poem "Mending Wall."
You see, it turns out, according to D'Souza, this is a VERY pro-WALL poem, and only a naive sillyperson would trust the narrator instead of the neighbor he gently mocks throughout the poem. Says D'Souza, that wily Robert Frost is simply fooling the naive reader yet again:
The poem on the face of it is about why walls are terrible. This is the point of view of the narrator of the poem. "Something there is that doesn't love a wall," What's the something?
Oh, we know! It's Nancy Pelosi and open-borders liberals, obviously! Nah, Frost isn't that specific. But wait! If you read all the way to the end, says D'Souza, you see the real meaning, as voiced by the neighbor, who it turns out is completely RIGHT:
And yet the poem ends on the opposite note: "Good fences make good neighbours." [...] And throughout the poem, the narrator is railing on the other guy. He's a brute! He's a savage! And all the time that he's railing, the other guy is putting up parts of the wall in between their two properties. And the other guy doesn't say a lot. And the narrator continues to bloviate: Walls are bad! You're a savage!
Clearly, there are multiple ironies here, since even the narrator is forced to confess this is a stone wall, not a rail fence, Ha-Ha! Oh, also, D'Souza is just plain wrong about the other guy doing all the work like a busy bee while the effete liberal anti-wall narrator stews in his wrongness about the utility of walls. Each man picks up and restores the rocks to the wall, "To each the boulders that have fallen to each." Both of them work until "We wear our fingers rough with handling them." This makes a bit of a difference, we think. Frost's narrator is complicit in the fiction, but only the neighbor buys it.
But, but, but the neighbor is actually right, somehow, and we just know the narrator is the fool, because as D'Souza's fellow history expert Donald Trump explained, walls have always worked, just like wheels.
D'Souza quickly tires of the poem itself and soon insists on talking about the Poem Not Written, since after all, all paths are the same if they get your fans to click on them. And that makes all the difference.
But you notice something that he never does. He never actually tries to stop the wall from being built! He does nothing to actually knock the wall down!
Yes, dipshit. We did say this mattered, didn't we? Of course he doesn't try to stop the wall because he is actually sharing the work, even as he thinks it's kind of silly. But do go on:
And there's something else he doesn't do: He never claims that he has any rights on the other side of the wall. At no point does the narrator ever say, "You know what? I have the right to come and take the fruit off of your trees! I have the right to come and eat out of your refrigerator! I wouldn't mind climbing into bed with your wife!"
The "Messicans gonna rape your wife" joke gets a couple of guffaws, but come on, Dinesh, don't be silly. Of course the narrator doesn't talk about even consensual sex with the neighbor's wife. That's the sort of behavior that could get him fired from his million dollar a year job as president of a third-rate "Christian" college, after all.
D'Souza ends the clip with this bold analytical insight:
All of this is, all of this is the -- you could almost say -- this is the unspoken script of the poem.
It's called "subtext," Dinesh. That's OK, we all have brain farts sometimes. And the reason it isn't "spoken" is that it just plain isn't there. You left the damn poem a long time ago, and that's peachy if you want to have an argument with a dead white male poet of the last century. But this guy isn't really worried about his neighbor picking his apples, even if his neighbor has only firs, and he's mostly amused, not threatened, by the hunters who carelessly knock down parts of the wall (which, again, the narrator rebuilds). Sorry, Dinesh, the narrator may not be an anti-WALL Democrat, but neither is it a guy who's overly hot on walls:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
That is a pune or play on words, you see. And yeah, the refrain "Good fences make good neighbours" does get the last line -- but only because it's preceded by the narrator's observation that his neighbor is kind of an unimaginative dick:
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."
You know, the sort of unimaginative dick who would assume this poem is really about the beauty of walls. Sure, it is the last line. But by that logic, Wilfred Owen truly believed it's sweet and fitting to die for one's country, or maybe Randall Jarrell wants us to identify with the hose.
Incidentally, because even the takes that shouldn't have been taken can prove educational, we'll note some history / literature facts that someone pointed out in the replies to D'Souza's dumb tweet of his slam on poetry:
Robert Frost once said that "Mending Wall" was a poem that was spoiled by being applied. What did he mean by "applied"? Any poem is damaged by being misunderstood, but that's the risk all poems run. What Frost objects to, I think, is a reduction and distortion of the poem through practical use. When President John F. Kennedy inspected the Berlin Wall he quoted the poem's first line: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." His audience knew what he meant and how the quotation applied. And on the other side of that particular wall, we can find another example of how the poem has been used. Returning from a visit to Russia late in his life, Frost said, "The Russians reprinted 'Mending Wall' over there, and left that first line off." He added wryly, "I don't see how they got the poem started." What the Russians needed, and so took, was the poem's other detachable statement: "Good fences make good neighbors." They applied what they wanted. "I could've done better for them, probably," Frost said, "for the generality, by saying:
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
Something there is that does.
"Why didn't I say that?" Frost asked rhetorically. "I didn't mean that. I meant to leave that until later in the poem. I left it there."
So yeah, having his poem poorly applied by hacks for political purposes was nothing new to Frost, either. As Molly Ivins said of being attacked by Rush Limbaugh, we bet it's "somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn't actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle."
Still, we're looking forward to Dinesh D'Souza's next literary adventure, like his insistence that the Hired Man was a worthless sponge who deserved to die because he wouldn't pull himself up by his bootstraps and pay for a doctor himself.
Or maybe how home is the place where, when you have to go there, they keep you locked up until daylight and then you still have parole and community service after that. Until you get a pardon.
And an OPEN THREAD.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.