Ayn Rand, please keep typing!

(July 7, 2014)
(July 7, 2014 issue)

Conservative novelists — battle stations! Adam Bellow calls you to keep typing until you’ve stormed the citadel of popular culture.

In “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” a cover story for National Review (July 7 issue), Bellow claims that the time is ripe for silenced right-wing fiction writers to fight back against “the contemporary Left, including its reactionary humorlessness, its bullying tone, and its impulse to dictate what people may and may not say.” (Even as I write this, socialist poets are hacking the National Review Web site and covering Bellow’s mouth with a copy of Ploughshares soaked in chloroform.)

You may have thought that speaking through the country’s largest newspaper (the Wall Street Journal) provided conservatives with a certain degree of influence, but you would be wrong, and probably humorless and bullying, too. Here’s the key: “Conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books,” Bellow says to our book-obsessed nation. “Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality.”

So true. Everybody knows that Brooklyn novelists pull the strings in America. Jonathan Safran Foer pretty much single-handedly pushed Obamacare through the Senate. And if it weren’t for Jhumpa Lahiri, we’d have lowered the capital gains tax years ago.

“We may have reached the limit of what facts and reasoned arguments can do.” Clearly. “Fair and balanced” just isn’t enough anymore in the face of the Left’s hegemony. Fortunately, there are patriots out there, “exercising their birthright as Americans to think and write with fearless independence . . . pseudonymously.”

Bellow, the publisher of Liberty Island Media, declines to name these authors, but he’s read their masterpieces. “We are not talking about what is something called ‘cause fiction,’ or more bluntly, literary propaganda,” he says. “Instead the authors craft dramatic situations that pick heroes and villains that serve more subtly to advance their point of view.”

Like you, what I loved most about “Gone Girl” was its subtle endorsement of the Keystone pipeline. But not all authors are that brave. Ask yourself, honestly: Why did Donna Tartt cut every mention of charter school vouchers from “The Goldfinch”?

Forget “The Brothers Karamazov” — give us “The Brothers Koch”!

Bellow’s fire was apparently lit early — at a science fiction workshop for undergraduates at Michigan State. His instructor, Joanna Russ, “an angry ideological bore,” rebuked him for saying that a female student “had ‘balls’ for tackling a particularly difficult subject.”

As Henry Adams once observed, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” So it was in this case:

“I eventually went into publishing to fight back against people like these,” Bellow says. But it’s not easy to counter liberals and their “Stalinist playbook.” (Attention, Lorrie Moore: He knows about the Stalinist playbook!) So Bellow recommends that conservative fiction writers “self-publish, making use of the new digital-distribution technologies.” And guess what: You can find such digital-distribution technologies right on Bellow’s Liberty Island. “De plane! De plane!”

“The new conservative counterculture is a rebellion from below and from without,” Bellow says from above and within. (He’s also an editor at HarperCollins.) “Fueled by the rise of digital self-publishing technologies, it is a simultaneous revolt against the hierarchical control of mass media and the ideological narrowing of acceptable discourse. . . . Out at sea a wave is building. This cresting wave of right-wing creativity is raw and untamed.”

Comparing these raw, untamed novelists to Soviet dissidents of old, Bellow calls on his fellow conservatives to help build right-wing writing programs, fellowships and prizes — “a feeder system so that the cream can rise to the top, and also to make an end run around the gatekeepers of the liberal establishment.”

Just imagine it, brave scribblers: He runs. Ah: runs. Runs — let your cream rise on a cresting wave!

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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