dear derrick bell, I do not like you, nor do I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

I dislike everything about this book and Derrick Bell, except that I agree with some of his points. And I dislike him all the more because of that.

Honestly, I'm not sure I can even give reasonable weight to his arguments, because the method he chose to convey them quite literally makes me twitch. For real. Right now, as I'm writing, my left eyelid is twitching, possibly as a response or accompaniment to the gritted teeth I've had since I started reading Faces at the Bottom of the Well. Two pages in, I found myself thinking, "What's this smarmy self-righteous sexist asshole gonna say that I need to hear?"

I just...ARGH. I am obviously alone in this reaction, but I'm willing to buy that I'm just personally flawed. The first time I had it to someone's choice of rhetorical and narrative style was to Plato's Symposium, and lots of people have read that over the ages and thought it was providing deep, valuable insight, and probably not all of them were buying into it for the man-boy love business. ...Probably.

The second time I found myself growling under my breath at an author, it was whatever asshat wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book that my then-best-friend forced upon me, along with Catch-22, because they were his favorite books and he wanted me to understand why. Joseph Heller, pretty awesome. Zen&...? I hated it. Hated it from page 1 and hated it more with each succeeding page. It actually made me rethink our friendship, and the debates we had over the book became debates over his job became debates over humanity became debates over morality and now we're not friends, he's still working for a super-shady internet-banner-ad marketing company believing that sometime soon he's going to stop and do good for the world, and he married some French chick he barely knew.

I'm not saying it was all due to the book. Nah. I'm saying that his fondness for the book gave me serious pause in my assessment of how well I knew him. Turned out, I didn't know him as well as I thought and he didn't know himself at all. So yeah. Probably it wasn't the book. ...Probably.

I know I'm not really talking about Bell's book. But I'm talking about his book just about as much as he talked about his ideas. The device of creating characters who spout the same thing he does so that he can agree with them but in his nonexistent conversations with them fancy up their "jus' folks" explanations with his fancy legal talk? It makes me furious. Not least because I wonder who the hell the audience is that's supposed to respond well to that. The folks? Are they supposed to be too stupid to realize the condescension? Black people with graduate education? Not this one. White people? Doesn't seem too likely.