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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  97 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: “Hillbilly Elegy” Is the Last Thing America Needs in 2020

    I read the book and enjoyed the "look how fucked up these people are" elements, while at the same time being confused by the authors perspective of praising said fucked up actions of his poor upbringing, from the heady heights of the Yale law academy.

JD Vance is a liar; his own family says so. To his credit, he admits this in his book in a roundabout way (saying something oblique like Meemaw and his sister "remember things differently" and that the gasoline thing "never happened") but to his detriment, pretty much every engagement in his book is an obvious I-watched-too-many-ABC-Afterschool-Specials fabrication. Fundamentally his tale was one of a lower-middle-class white guy from rural Ohio who was given every leg up by the liberal elite, who were excruciatingly polite and took great pains to include him. Just a guess, but I'll bet as soon as he took a job with Peter Thiel the narrative about terrible liberals and the spiteful, pugnacious pride of "hillbillies" became a selling point. So the tale was rewritten as "success despite" rather than "success because" and then Trump won and every surface-level liberal fishing around for a simple answer lit upon "oh - it's because Appalachia is stupid and mean" so they could move on. I've had that discussion at least three times.

Hillbilly Elegy is a terrible fucking book. It's A Million Little Pieces for the investment class. White Trash, on the other hand, is the book Hillbilly Elegy should have been.

Kaius  ·  96 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Hillbilly Elegy is a terrible fucking book. It's A Million Little Pieces for the investment class. White Trash, on the other hand, is the book Hillbilly Elegy should have been.

It should be told, or at least interpreted, as a straightforward ascension story, rags to riches, where progressive values support people achieving their dreams. I don't remember him suggesting that there was significant pushback from the liberal elite beyond a few awkward situations like the networking dinner (and when would that not be awkward). He was welcomed, assisted financially, promoted, adopted as a full blood member, his upbringing was not a concern for anyone else. I'm trying to recall if he encountered any significant bigotry along the way but nothing springs to mind.

Not to draw parallels where none exist, but surely everyone experiences SOME distinction between their childhood experiences and their adult life. Not everyone (including the author it seems) had the Human Torch for a grandmother, but to some degree these two phases of our lives are very different. Again the message SHOULD be that (if taken at face value) he grew up in a violent area, with no objectively good role models, with no obvious route to success; yet he emerged from it to a much better place and isn't that positive and inspiring. I did it and so can you (hill)Billy.

But that's not the story the author tells, and because he doesn't tell it "straight", it all smells like a grift. To what end I don't know, it obviously made a ton of money. The article hints at a political run also.

kleinbl00  ·  96 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The book is basically Atlas Shrugged Running with Scissors. Everyone around The Maker is a Taker whose frayed social safety net does not properly instill a sense of personal responsibility and all the disinterested liberal drones around The Maker are more focused on his adherence to their byzantine social mores than his intrinsic value as an individual. The Maker exists between two worlds because as a bootstrapped thought leader neither the entitleist welfare morlocks nor the misdirected benificence of the liberal eloi offer the goldilocks zone of free thought and free enterprise I'd like to thank Peter Thiel for believing in me.

"Hillbilly made good" is Sergeant York or The Quiet Man. "Capitalist Rags to Riches" is 8 Mile or Straight Outta Compton. The grift is archetypal Cato Institute bullshit where success is available to anyone white who happens to befriend billionaires born of privilege.

Kaius  ·  95 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Ok, so you think he is a member of a third group and uses his supposed membership of the first and second to play both against each other for profit. I'll buy that.

    "Hillbilly made good" is Sergeant York or The Quiet Man.

Minor quibble but The Quiet Man is less rags to riches, more of a descendent-done-well returns to the old-country.

kleinbl00  ·  95 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think that his entire story illustrates the plasticity of "group" as well as the context sensitivity of identity but that since libertarian thought leaders won't get a hard-on about that, and since neoliberals can't clutch their pearls about the genetic underclass about that, he bent over backwards to make his intended audience happy at the cost of his actual experience.

I'll take your quibble on Quiet Man. It remains a comedy of manners in which the arc towards acceptance requires accepting and adapting to the coarse behavior of one's chosen group. "Rags to riches" was not my argument; after all, Alvin York doesn't get rich, he displays heroism.