racists, fascists, and other people who disagree with S. Nelson

Thu, 7 Apr 1994 16:06:07 CDT

So Dan Foss is a racist and Danny Yee (not Steve or Stevie, Shirley) is a
fascist (albeit an academic one). Is it possible that S. Nelson will ever
run out of names to call people who disagree with her? I somehow doubt it.
Danny Yee made a point that holds for a whole lot of us. Perhaps if you'd
read carefully what he had to say, Sally, instead of skimming while thinking
mostly about how you were going to reply, his experience might just have
resonated with your own. All of us are busy, and few of us have the time to
read everything we'd like to read, no less everything we need to read. With
most of us, choice is necessary. Most of us, I assume, base our choice on a
single principle--what's in it for me? Given the choice of convoluted
and multi-syllabic mazes versus clear prose, many, if not most of us will
choose clear prose for the simple reason that at least we'll know early on
whether the article or book is going to be interesting and useful. With the
mystifying puzzle, you have to invest much more time and effort just to find
out if it's what you want to or need to know. If not, then it's a lot of
time wasted. Some of us go even a step further and take the position that if
an author does not care enough about the reader to edit his/her stuff to make
a clear path through the complexity, then I (we) don't care about what he/she
has to say. Life is too short.

For a palliative to programmed obscurity, try
Richard Parmentier's _The Sacred Remains_, a beautifully written account of an
incredibly complex social order (Belau Island, Micronesia). Parmentier makes
every possible concession to his readers without ever patronizing them. When
he's finished, the reader has a good idea of how semiotic theory maps a path
through cultural complexity, relating oral history to the evolution of a social
order, its structural and symbolic ramifications, and to local interpretations
of colonial agents who shape modern Belauan history. By the time he's done,
the reader is as sophisticated as the author. We owe ourselves the delights
of clear prose with all the theoretical, methodological, and ethnographic meat,
all of it useful to boot.

Maybe S. Nelson's days would go better if she read better stuff.

Mike Llieber