Monday, January 05, 2009

On reading narrowly

Andrew Seal casts a cold eye over the Best American Fiction, 1968–1998, and observes:

[T]here are more Philip Roth books (3) on there than books by men of color (2, unless I missed one). And if you’re a woman and not Southern, you have about as good a shot getting on the list. And that doesn’t even cover the absence of women of color on the list. And I can’t say for sure (since I haven’t read all the books on the list), but it seems to me unlikely that any has a significant gay theme.I can go farther than that. There are no—repeat, no—Hispanics on the list. No Native Americans. And just one Asian-American! Worse than that, fully twelve of the forty titles* are by Jews. Seven are historical novels. You’d seem to have a really, really good shot if you are a Jew who has written a historical novel.

But wait. Seal says nothing about genre. His only concern is identity, where identity is conceived only in the immutable facts of birth (race, gender, sexual preference). Charles Johnson, for instance, the sole “man of color” on the list, is also a Buddhist. And this fact about him is of at least equal importance—to Johnson himself, to any estimation of his writing. About religious confession Seal is silent. Like many Americans of his age and experience—he identifies himself as a recent college graduate—Seal has learned the lesson well that religion is not worthy of discussion. Or worse. Thus when he says that he is “terrified of becoming one of these narrow readers,” and concludes that Kurp and I “never bother themselves with questions about what kinds of books they’re not reading” (his italics) the word kind exposes Seal as every inch the “narrow reader” he accuses us of being.

In fact, Kurp and I openly bothered ourselves with the kind of fiction we were leaving off our list. We were explicit about the kind. We called it metafiction or “experimental” writing. Because our conception of kind differs from his, Seal fails to notice this. Nor does it seem to occur to him that there is a fundamental difference between reading a book and subsequently recommending it. From the fact that we do not list, say, A Boy’s Own Story or Love Medicine or High Cotton, it does not follow that we have not “really been reading widely in the thirty-year period in question” during which there were “quite a few more books by gays, by women and by men who are not white” (again, his italics).

It does follow, however—and here Seal is right and here also I need to stop speaking for Kurp, who can defend himself—it does follow that identity by birth is a criterion of literary judgment that I thoroughly reject. Understand me correctly, though. As I held earlier on this blog, there is no writing without identity, there is no literature without prefixes. But also: “If there are no writers without identities it does not follow that writers’ only identities are their race and sex.” And even if they were it is not at all clear what it would mean for someone to write as a “white American man.” To describe, say, Vladimir Nabokov and Jeffrey Eugenides in these terms—to consign them to the same category of books that Seal resolves not to read this coming year—is to put their significant and fascinating differences under erasure. And to do this is to commit the same injustice against them that Seal is afraid is being committed against “women of color.”

Several years ago, when the English department at Texas A&M University was rewriting its course descriptions to include more women and men who are not white, a colleague bounded into my office. “Do you know any sixteenth-century woman playwrights?” he asked breathlessly. I didn’t, and he bounded off to find someone who did:ENGL 317. English Renaissance Drama. (3-0). Credit 3. Non-Shakespearean drama in England from the building of the first public theater in 1576 to the closing of the theaters in 1642, including such authors as Marlowe, Jonson, Webster, Mary Sidney, Beaumont and Fletcher and [Elizabeth] Carey. Prerequisite: 3 credits of literature at the 200-level or above.I am not a Renaissance scholar. Perhaps these six truly are the representative playwrights of the era. The old Norton anthology of The English Drama preferred Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, Beaumont and Fletcher, John Webster, Philip Massinger, John Ford, and James Shirley. And that was the point, wasn’t it? To break with the lists of the past? But including women—scrambling to come up with the names of women to include—in order to satisfy an apriori expectation that such a list should include women (forget about men of color), in utter ignorance of whether there even are any, is to abandon literature as it has actually existed for an idealized image of what it should be.

Literature just is a selection of masterpieces. There is no getting around this obstacle. The problem is what criteria of selection you are going to use. To advance identity as the overriding consideration is merely to postpone a solution, because you must still decide what titles from your privileged group to select. The minute you have to choose between books you are in a pickle that appeals to identity won’t get you out of. Practical constraints of time and energy make the selection of masterpieces for reading and casual study not only necessary but forgiving, for given such constraints this narrowness, sir, is no crime. There is an alternative, although it is not likely to be one that Seal is interested in pursuing. It is humanly possible to read everything in a thirty-year period, good, bad, and indifferent, by men and by women, by white men and by men who are not white, by gays and by straights. This is the way of the literary scholar. Within that period the scholar is the very opposite of a “narrow reader,” although outside it, given those damn constraints, he reverts to the ordinary human type—if he has time and energy left over to read anything else at all.

For literary critics there are, as I see it, only two choices. Either the course of intellectual honesty, where a man admits that there are books that are not worth reading, or the course of literary preening, where he pretends to enjoy books because he thinks he should.

Oh, by the way. I have a book to recommend to Andrew Seal. It is by Shelby Steele and it is entitled White Guilt.
____________________

* Patrick Kurp and I have been dickering in private, “like boys trading baseball cards,” as he puts it, over what books to include, what to kick off the list. He agreed to give up Fat City; I agreed to retain Peter Taylor. The quotient of “white American men” remains unchanged!

27 comments:

Amateur Reader said...

There's a little extra irony in your story. Mary Sidney's only "play", "The Tragedy of Antonie", is a translation of a French play by Robert Garnier, a man. And Elizabeth Carey is 17th century. So your colleagues never did find a 16th century female playwright.

Andrew Seal said...

Mr. Myers,

Thank you for your rigidly uncomprehending reading of my post. I actually double-majored in English *and* Religion, so I think your assumption that religious confession is a matter of indifference to me is a little off-base. I thought about noting the preponderance of Jews and Catholics on your list, but wouldn't doing so open you up even more to charges of narrowness? Where are the Episcopalians? Where are the Hindus? I'm only being a little bit facetious. (Additionally, I don't really see what Johnson's Buddhism has to do with Middle Passage. Some of his other works (Oxherding Tale) may have more to do with his religious confession, but I don't think Middle Passage is the Great Buddhist-American Novel of the 20th Century, so I'm not sure what you're trying to prove by bringing it up.)

Regarding genre, it's fairly lazy to describe all the books you reject with one tag--metafiction-- given the significant amount of diversity one finds among such authors (e.g. Kurp's ridiculous pronouncement "Scratch DeLillo – it’s definitely McCarthy" which he doesn't bother to justify or to elaborate). Might as well call it Books I Find Disagreeable, as I don't know what else to call a group that includes "Barth, Barthleme [sic], Coover, Gass, Mailer, Vonnegut, Heller, Robert Stone, David Foster Wallace or, God forbid, Toni Morrison or Joyce Carol Oates." The point is, the way you consider genre, it doesn't mean anything consistently, so I'm not sure how it really proves that you consider what "kind" of books you're not reading. It proves that you don't like some books and you can back into a unifying title for them that pleases you.

About the difference between reading a book and recommending it, well, I was giving you two the benefit of the doubt. If you truly have read all the good literature out there from '68-'98, and you *really* liked only one book by a black writer enough to recommend it, then I have to question your ability to judge literature fairly and on its merits.

I don't think you read my post carefully enough. My post is about disbelieving that any putatively objective list collecting the "masterpieces" of any thirty-year period in American literature would be this white and this male. I'm not saying this because I feel that such a list would violate some sacrosanct code of giving each race or minority their due--I'm saying this because I feel such a list is an abnegation of objective analysis of literary quality. I'm not talking about "enjoying books because [I] think [I] should." If I hate Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony when I read it, I'll say that, and I'll say why, just as I would if I hate the next Philip Roth I read. I'm talking about how ludicrous it is for you to say "the course of intellectual honesty [is] where a man admits that there are books that are not worth reading" and that distinction just happens to produce a list that's as homogeneous as yours.

The proposition you seem to think I'm making is "Because there are writers who are not white men who wrote books in this period, we need to include some of them in the list to make the canon look like an image of racial harmony and inclusion." What I'm saying is that the best literature written in this period doesn't need to be "diversified"--it *is* racially and sexually diverse, and you and Kurp are just dead set against admitting it.

Just one ancillary point: you describe your list as "the best American books of fiction from the post-Vietnam period." Now, I may be young, but they do teach history these days, and it seems like 1968 is a little premature as the year that begins the "post-Vietnam period." Just a thought, but maybe your chronology is as forced as your generic distinctions.

D. G. Myers said...

Mr Seal,

You insist that your argument is this: “[T]he best literature written in this period [1968–1998] doesn't need to be ‘diversified’—it is racially and sexually diverse, and [I am] just dead set against admitting it.”

There are two propositions here. Let me take them up in reverse order.

First, what I am dead set against admitting. Not that a period is “racially and sexually diverse,” but rather that literary diversity can be calculated by race and sex.

Second, that the American literary period 1968–1998 is racially and sexually diverse is true if and only if race and sex are calculators of literary diversity. And I deny they are.

You assume they are, and certainly you are in good company, but no one is obligated to embrace popular error simply because it is popular.

The period was enormously diverse. Just look again at the Best American Fiction, 1968–1998. It includes writing from the political left and right, historical novels and contemporary novels, unreliable and omniscient narrators, fiction by immigrants and emigrés, by ethnics and WASP’s, by plain and elaborate stylists, by realists and literary gamers, by autobiographical novelists and outside observers, by habitues of low life and by aspirants to high society. And this only begins to calculate its diversity.

Which is more “homogeneous”? Criticism that pays attention to the full range of literary diversity—to the many and overlapping identities that any writer carries around like a bad cold—or a criticism that insists doggedly on reducing all human difference to just two or maybe three categories?

Andrew Seal said...

Look, you can play the game of "what's real diversity?" all you want, but you're missing my point. The point isn't being diverser-than-thou, it's about the fact that you can't read fiction by blacks or women or gays and enjoy it except rarely. I think that demonstrates tremendous narrowness, and I desperately hope I never end up like that, just as I hope I'll never be unable to enjoy literature that's written by all the categories you mention.

But so you don't accuse me of squirming out of your argument, let me address your points on your terms. First, that you are dead set against the notion that "literary diversity can be calculated by race and sex." I'm going to be kind and assume you were inexact here and really meant to say that you are dead set against the notion that literary diversity can be calculated only by race and sex (and let's throw in sexual orientation, since it sometimes comes up in these debates).

Okay, so if your proposition is that race and sex (and sexual orientation) should not be the only metrics for our diversity-accounting, but that we must add in those things you mention--politics, religion, economic status, style--then why are only these other forms of diversity well-represented on your list? Why do you value religious diversity more than gender diversity?

Or, if you really did mean that race and gender should be no part of our diversity calculus, why do they get special treatment? How can you proudly display your list's diversity on the grounds you mention but refuse to consider its lack of diversity on other equally valid grounds? I guess your response could be that race and gender are not valid forms of diversity, which I just don't understand, since it's like saying that blackness isn't a valid form of experience, or that it is so much less valid than religious confession or political orientation that you don't need to consider it.

Or maybe you have another defence--I'd like to hear it.

Giovanni said...

I'm with Andrew on this, because surely that all this great literary diversity you boast in your list should happen to have almost entirely been produced by white males is in fact noteworthy and peculiar. We are no longer in the 16th century, women and minorities are well represented on the bookshelves of the world, as well as in bestseller lists and contemporary canons. Without in any way wanting to label them as "identity authors", as it were, they are also women writers and black writers and gay writers and so forth. If you think that their specificity doesn't matter, that white (heterosexual) males ought to be able to encompass and reproduce the full range of experiences and sensibilities out there, and do so consistently better than anybody else, then yes, I think you're liable to be called a narrow reader.

Not that there's anything terribly wrong with that.

Andrew Seal said...

Let me apologize for one thing I said--that "you can't read fiction by blacks or women or gays and enjoy it except rarely." I don't know that, and it's not an appropriate assumption. Please excuse my rashness.

Gerard said...

As I said over there, the argument from entitlement is crap.

Gerard said...

Seal's just miffed because he and his ilk contribute to the crap steam in gigantic flows and yet seem to feel they should have their flow gilded.

It could be but then it would be gold-plated crap.

D. G. Myers said...

Andrew,

I accept your apology, right readily. But if your point is that I “can’t read fiction by blacks or women or gays and enjoy it except rarely,” and if you then retract this claim, what is left of your point?

Please don’t be kind and assume that I was being inexact. Here is the point at which we are talking at cross-purposes, or in different languages. I hold that racial and sexual identity is completely and utterly irrelevant in literary criticism and scholarship.

Racial and sexual themes—yes, absolutely. One writer I prize highly, and teach regularly, is Richard Wright. Precisely because his handling of the racial theme has so much to teach my students, black and white, at Texas A&M.

I am also willing to entertain arguments that women speak “in a different voice.” (Deborah Tannen is more convincing than Carol Gillegan, though.) Anyone who has ever had a marital spat can testify that Tannen is on to something when she holds that men and women have fundamentally different ways of speaking.

The most fruitful idea from your original New Year’s Resolution was your suggestion that some women write purposely to and for female audiences. I am prepared to accept this, although it would be great to see the idea fully developed.

There are Jewish writers, after all, who write purposely to and for Jewish audiences. (Cynthia Ozick is the best example, as I told Patrick Kurp. There are others, however. Think of Agnon. Or even Sholom Aleichem.) And if this is true of Jewish writers—for Judaism is an ancient tradition with its own scheme of internal reference—and if Tannen is right about the sexual difference in human discourse then perhaps it is true of women writers too.

What is more, I think it is obvious that sexual difference is far greater and more significant than racial difference. But the mere biological fact that a writer is a woman proves nothing. All writing comes, not out of a group, but out of a tradition. And anyone can master a tradition. Non-Jews can master the internal references of the Jewish tradition, and men can learn the conventions and speech-acts, the allusions and the inherited forms, of the women’s tradition. If such a thing exists.

Giovanni said...

All writing comes, not out of a group, but out of a tradition. And anyone can master a tradition. Non-Jews can master the internal references of the Jewish tradition, and men can learn the conventions and speech-acts, the allusions and the inherited forms, of the women’s tradition.

So it's all about mimicking speech acts and allusions, mastering form? We can all be women, minorities, concentration camp survivors or products of a working class upbringing, and it will make not a iota of difference whether our gender, race, sexual orientation, present and past are lived or put on?

I just want to make absolutely sure I'm getting this straight, as they say.

This: I hold that racial and sexual identity is completely and utterly irrelevant in literary criticism and scholarship.

is of course an(other) opinion you're more than entitled to, but equally others are entitled to remark on the statistical unlikelihood of one particular aspect of your list, which on that count is objectively narrow - as it would have been if it had included only women, or science-fiction authors, given the natural of your stated constraint (the whole of American fiction from a certain period).

D. G. Myers said...

We can all be women, minorities, concentration camp survivors or products of a working class upbringing. . . .?

Er, no. But we can all write like women, minorities, concentration camp survivors or products of a working class upbringing.

What you are matters nothing in literature. It is how you write that makes all—and I do mean all—the difference.

Giovanni said...

Another way of saying that it's not what you write, but how well you write it that matters?

Don't feel that you have to endlessly indulge me by answering all of my questions, incidentally. But I do honestly think that if I have in fact understood you correctly, then the gender/ethnic homogeneity of your list is even more noteworthy, charging as it does a platoon of white males with the task of framing in literature the whole gamut of the American experience during those three decades. It seems a lot more extraordinary than what I had originally assumed (namely, that you - as most people, including myself - tend to gravitate towards the artists that describe your own experience).

D. G. Myers said...

[M]ost people . . . tend to gravitate towards the artists that describe your own experience.

That is likely, but if true, it suggests that most people are vulgar literary critics. The undergraduate error that I encounter most often, and trample with the heaviest boots, is that I like a novel because I can “identify with” its main character. The opposite is a better gauge of literary greatness. If a novel like, say, Lolita positively thwarts your efforts to identify with the main character, you may well be reading a great novel.

Why do you assume, though, that a list of writers who “happen” to belong to the same group—assuming, of course, that it is not a list of that group—is evidence of intention at all? Consider the extra irony that the Amateur Reader, in the first comment above, noticed in the hunt for a 16th-century female playwright. Say there really is none to be found. Why is that? Does the failure to find one reveal anything about the hunter? Or is the “statistic” (to use your own term) a matter of historical accidence?

And if it is, couldn’t the same hold true for American fiction from the period 1968–1998? Isn’t it possible, even if only in theory, that the best writers from this period are largely “white American men,” not because of some exclusivist intention on the part of the list-maker, but wholly the result of historical accidence?

Andrew Seal said...

Well, the point I retracted is the notion that you "can't" appreciate literature not by white straight men. That's easy to refute, for one thing, and mean to boot. But I hoped to be understood to mean that I don't see any evidence from the list that you have been able to appreciate much more than white straight men in any consequential way. I retreated to a position of skepticism on whether you could be so appreciative, but that doesn't mean that I have changed my questioning of whether I have any reason to believe you have done so.

But to your argument. To me, saying that "racial and sexual identity is completely and utterly irrelevant in literary criticism and scholarship" and that "anyone can master a tradition" is like saying Al Jolson singing in black face is no different from Paul Robeson singing as a black man. Maybe that is what you're saying.

I'm not sure how I could improve on the many arguments made against this idea, although I will say that you're far less tied to a strictly semiological understanding of the novel (i.e. that it comprises a system of signs which can be mimicked with such fidelity as to constitute no practical difference) than you pretend to be if you're willing to consider that certain writers write to certain audiences. Don't you know that admission completely blows apart the notion of a coherent and self-enclosed system of "internal references... conventions and speech-acts, the allusions and the inherited forms" which could be copied? Surely you do.

D. G. Myers said...

[L]ike saying Al Jolson singing in black face is no different from Paul Robeson singing as a black man. Maybe that is what you’re saying.

No, I am not talking about music. But let’s talk about music. Singing in black face is a straw man, and you know it. The question is, can white men play jazz? And I would bet you’d have to agree they can, and have. Some brilliantly.

Andrew Seal said...

Hold up a sec--I just want to be sure you think the absence of women from the lists of great 16th C. playwrights is "a matter of historical accidence" and not, like, a matter of deeply discriminatory policies. You mean that, like Melpomene forgot to gift women with the power of writing tragedies for a whole century, right? Because I'm not sure what kind of historical accident would result in that kind of "statistic."

But about jazz, it's interesting that you would bring that up, because this specifically addresses the power of audience that I was talking about and it actually has a whole lot to do with blackface, which isn't a straw man.

See, if in the beginning white audiences thought of jazz as a racially blank medium, blackface would not have been necessary--if they thought of it as just a set of musical conventions, as a code, why wouldn't they just have appropriated it without attribution. But it was considered a black music, and so there had to be a way of intermediating that if it was to be performed by a white man.

The association of jazz with blackface, however, allowed its racial identity to become less determining, and eventually Al Jolson didn't need the greasepaint as part of his routine.

So to answer your question, can a white man play jazz, I'd answer, sure, he can play polyrhythms and swinging sevenths, but race has long played a role in who'd hear it and, more importantly, whether what they heard was jazz.

Giovanni said...

Why do you assume, though, that a list of writers who “happen” to belong to the same group—assuming, of course, that it is not a list of that group—is evidence of intention at all?

I don't. If my assumption was that you had set out to rig the list to comprise only white males, this discussion wouldn't interest me in the slightest. I am however still interested in the outcome.

Isn’t it possible, even if only in theory, that the best writers from this period are largely “white American men,” not because of some exclusivist intention on the part of the list-maker, but wholly the result of historical accidence?

I suppose, but the very statistical unlikelihood would demand some reckoning, which without wishing to speak for him may be where Andrew is coming from. His new year resolution, and I'll be interested to see if he sticks to it, seeks precisely to see if by going outside of this group, accidental or otherwise, there will be a drop off in quality, a change in concerns, more or less interesting outcomes. And it bears repeating: we're no longer in the sixteenth century. You could in fact make the argument that one of the dominant features of the twentieth century is the breaking down of barriers to authorship. Now if in spite of all these women and ethnic minorities and gays writing the best of the best were in fact still white males, that would be tremendously noteworthy I believe. But since I don't think it is the case, my personal conclusion is that your seeing quality in such a small group reflects a narrow reading practice which is possibly tarred by the very thing you hate to see your undergraduate students make explicit - identification.

Again: not that there is anything terribly wrong with that.

D. G. Myers said...

You hold up a sec. If “the absence of women from the lists of great 16th C. playwrights is . . . a matter of deeply discriminatory policies” how is this a question for literary scholars or critics?

I have much the same challenge to your views on jazz. If it is true that Jolson’s blackface was “necessary” [sic!] because the early white audiences did not think of jazz as a “racially blank medium,” then why didn’t the Original Dixieland Jazz Band play in blackface? And even if they had, what would that have had to do with the music itself?

Whether the music of Bix Beiderbecke, Bunny Berigan, the Boswell Sisters, Bud Freeman, Bobby Hackett, Benny Goodman, Miff Mole, Red Norvo, Pee Wee Russell, Artie Shaw, and Jack Teagarden was “heard” as jazz is also finally irrelevant. As Doc Cheatham said, “[I]f musicians were good, we learned from them, and they learned from us.” Apparently, race did not play much of a role in whether Cheatham heard them.

D. G. Myers said...

[T]he very statistical unlikelihood would demand some reckoning. . . .

No idea in our time is more pernicious. Just ask Larry Summers.

The assumption that it is “statistically unlikely” for some group to be overrepresented in some walk of life is never defended. It is taken as obvious and self-evident that the overrepresentation is “statistically unlikely,” and therefore “demands some reckoning.” Everyone is in such a rush to get to the reckoning that he does not pause to consider the premise.

As I have written elsewhere on this blog, when something seems obvious and self-evident it has become part of your ideology, your set of unquestioned assumptions—your prejudices—about the way human life operates.

Is it true, though, that it is “statistically unlikely” for a group to be overrepresented in some walk of life? For African-American men to be overrepresented in the NBA? For Hasidic Jews to be overrepresented in the diamond trade? For Indians to be overrepresented in motel ownership?

Or does this kind of thing happen all the time, for reasons that I am not in the least qualified to say?

Giovanni said...

You write very elegantly on the subject of unquestioned assumptions:

If something seems self-evident to me—so obvious that it needs no further explanation—then I am living comfortably in the precincts of my ideology, and do not wish to be disturbed.

It seems to me that in the face of a statistical anomaly - because that's what it is, incontrovertibly - you could of course just choose to barely register it and move on (apparently you're not qualified to do anything else), as indeed you do, or you could pause for a moment to wonder whether your criteria for judging what best literature is may not be in fact biased towards a certain group of authors who are - like you - white males. I find your protestations that no, it's just that they happen to be the best writers, and they can mimic, assume the mantle of any other group on account of their superior craft, to be a very thin ideological disguise.

D. G. Myers said...

[A]uthors who are—like [me]—white males.

What would it mean, however, to identify myself with “white males”? No one will answer that question.

Giovanni said...

What would it mean, however, to identify myself with “white males”? No one will answer that question.

Fair enough. We don't answer it because we can't, not any more that I can separate my being Italian from being a male, or my being a male from being a person, except in some extraordinarily crude ways. But neither have you defined your criteria for judging good literature, what makes Morrison crap and Roth not crap. You have conceded however that there may be such a thing as a female voice. So right off the bat your literary group excludes fifty per cent of the possible human voices, except in the form of males assuming those voices, which is something you're totally comfortable with (and good for you, how refreshing). Then there are non-white voices, and gay voices. You haven't committed to any of these, but again nothing prevents heterosexual white males from assuming them, since it's a matter of mastering form, becoming part of a tradition. And this is possibly where the identification lies: in your comfort with having one group speaking for all other groups, through art.

D. G. Myers said...

[Y]our comfort with having one group speaking for all other groups, through art.

But groups don’t speak through art; individuals do. And individuals don’t speak for groups through art; they speak for themselves (or for the selves they pretend to be).

Giovanni said...

I suppose, although if you sum all these individualities, you have groups (and your admitting the possibility of a "female voice" is implicit recognition of this). To put it bluntly: if you had chosen the best individual book or writer from that period, and the author happened to be a white male, I don't think anybody would have even noticed. It's the homogeneity of such a relatively large group that is noteworthy.

D. G. Myers said...

It’s the homogeneity of such a relatively large group that is noteworthy.

All you white males look alike to me.

_______

No more replies. This is becoming unproductive. Let’s leave it at this. There are those for whom racial and sexual differences constitute the only meaningful “diversity” (if you are not interested in race and sex then you are interested only in homogeneity), and those for whom human diversity is infinite, and for whom the only thing meaningful about human beings is their individuality. Literature exists to celebrate the latter point of view.

Giovanni said...

And here was me thinking we were making such good progress! Verily, you could smell a breaktrhough.

All the best.

Damian said...

Everytime you mention Toni Morrison, its got to have a negative comment to it