No Gay Times for Gay Talese

I’ve often wondered why Margaret Thatcher isn’t a major feminist icon. Actually, I don’t wonder that for a second. We all know why. Back in the 1980s leading feminists called her (and Jeane Kirkpatrick, too) “female impersonators.” Of course, that term would today be banned as insensitive to transgender self-identifiers. (Heh.) But it confirmed the obvious, which is that “feminist” is just a synonym for “leftist.”

Gay Talese copyThis meditation was brought to mind by the fuss over a recent public appearance by Gay Talese, who unwittingly transgressed the current boundaries of leftist orthodoxy. First of all, how can a writer named “Gay” get in trouble in the first place? Second, hadn’t the New York Times ought to be more careful with this headline about the matter: “Gay Talese Goes Through the Twitter Wringer”? Safety tip: don’t try to say that headline aloud three times quickly, or after you’ve had two cocktails. It could go wrong.

Talese got in trouble when he rambled a bit incoherently in response to the question of what women writers influenced him. He mentioned George Eliot and Mary McCarthy, but he obviously didn’t know that you’re supposed to say “Toni Morrison.” He got pilloried on Twitter. Here’s one part of his explanation:

“I was up there on that stage in Boston and I couldn’t think of anybody,” he continued. “So I said, ‘None.’ I was giving an honest answer. I wasn’t going to be influenced by anybody at age 56 or 70 or 84. I’m not speaking about the writers of the feminist movement or the nonfiction writers for the 1970s or ’80s. I’m talking about my formative years. I’m talking about ancient history now, but it’s the only history I come out of.

Okay, if I had been asked that question, I’d have offered this list: Dorothy Sayers, Florence King, Joan Didion, Flannery O’Connor, Anne Dillard, Virginia Postrel, Hannah Arendt a little (though not for writing style certainly), Alice Munro, and of course Jane Austin and George Eliot go without saying. But you see the problem: no Toni Morrison. Many on my list are conservative writers, and therefore not true wymyn.

It’s starting to be fun to see how easy it is to upset leftists.