It is commonly believed that creativity can be an outlet for one’s inner-most feelings and desires. This is a the basis of many discussions around artists and their work, from Jackson Pollock to Janine Antoni to Bob Flanagan, as well as a basic tenet of art therapy. Turning loose one’s instincts, dreams, desires and fantasies on canvas or paper releases the bottled energy that threatens to drive us mad, which is why the study of artwork often resembles psychology, and that Freud and Jung and Kant are often cited by students of creative practice.
In the past few weeks, as so much of the national attention has been turned on I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, some interesting tidbits have emerged regarding his use of creative expression to release his inner life. While many have studied his ‘aspens’ note to Judith Miller with cryptanalytic fervor, others have found his novel “The Apprentice” from 1996 a more interesting study of the former right-hand man to VP Cheney.
“The Apprentice” is an erotic novel, set in Japan in the winter of 1903. Promotional text at Amazon.com (from Publishers Weekly) states:
Spare and muted, Libby's debut has distilled his diplomatic experiences in Japan with the U.S. State and Defense Departments into a subtle, if sometimes attenuated, story of innocence and temptation halfway across the world and a century ago.
Probably more telling, though, is this excerpt published by the New Yorker:
At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.
The article continues:
Like his predecessors, Libby does not shy from the scatological. The narrative makes generous mention of lice, snot, drunkenness, bad breath, torture, urine, “turds,” armpits, arm hair, neck hair, pubic hair, pus, boils, and blood (regular and menstrual). One passage goes, “At length he walked around to the deer’s head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis. He began to piss in the snow just in front of the deer’s nostrils.”
Across the blogosphere, much fun has been had at Libby’s expense over his shoddy attempt at erotic fiction, gladly kicking a man while he’s down. But, the New Yorker article does not fail to remind us of a slightly more disturbing fact surrounding Libby’s novel: he is not alone. In fact, many a famous conservative has penned an erotic line or two, including Bill O’Reilly, G. Gordon LIddy, and even Lynne Cheney.
Not everyone sees humor in Libby’s book, or the other erotica coming from the right. Shakespeare’s Sister begins with:
With all the bloviating we hear about moral values from conservatives on a regular basis, you’d think that maybe they’d make some vague attempt to actually live up to their rhetoric…
before moving on to this astute observation:
They like to say that the sexual liberation of women and gays has some alleged detrimental affect on society, but I don’t see it. What I do see is a collection of perverts whose own sickness pours out of them given the slightest opportunity, and whose fervent belief yet that they are the moral ones encourages them to create a whole other generation of screwed-up people, as they legislate the promotion of abstinence, repression, in sex ed classes.
What ultimately may be the most disturbing aspect of this book and the discussions surrounding it, though, is how closely tied conservative philosophy is to the very acts they publicly decry. In an article posted recently at In These Times titled “Babes In BushWorld”, Lakshmi Chaudhry writes about the “raunch culture” that has flourished under conservative reign. One example, a series of widely-believed rumors circulating prior to the Republican National Convention in NYC, told of hundreds of prostitutes gearing up for the influx of horny Reps.
The reports quickly gained currency, for no one had problems imagining randy GOP types forking over $100 dollar bills in the dark of the night to be serviced by acquiescent, uber-sexualized women—the same women likely to be condemned as moral degenerates on the convention floor the next morning.
Ultimately, Chaudhry arrives at this chilling vision of a world ruled by money and conservative ideals:
In effect, the logic of the raunch culture is eerily similar to that Christian ideal of femininity, the Surrendered Wife. Both preach empowerment through acquiescence, promising greater happiness through the fulfillment of archetypal female roles. Bush World offers women only two choices: repression or commodification.
Scooter Libby’s book may offer some surprising insights into his fantasy life, but when considered against his peers, and when one considers conservative repression of sexuality and excessive will to power, maybe there is really nothing surprising here at all.