Why have heterosexual women responded so strongly to this particular homosexual story? The Captive Prince books are indulgent and fun and pacy and raunchy, but also cleverly and artfully constructed. Few books are as unabashedly erotic – not only in the sex scenes but in myriad aspects of the culture depicted – yet also demonstrate a consummate skill for world-building. Pacat balances plot and titillation impeccably, demonstrating a preternatural ability to engage with the reader’s desires.
It was in the canteen car of the late-night service that the Vietnam veteran finally told me his story. We’d been friends for months, regulars at a Louisiana-themed bar off Saigon’s Bùi Viện backpacker strip, but his time in-country was, if not exactly taboo, not really a go-to topic, either. The story that unfolded was right out of Michael Herr’s Dispatches, an un-filmed sequence of Apocalypse Now conveyed orally, in equal parts surreal and evil. What surprised me was how unsurprised I was by it all.
In the real world, of course it is quite possible to have a high degree of interest in or even knowledge of a problem and yet come up with truly terrible solutions. But even this reasonable objection loses sight of the larger issue: for the inventors of Flux, politics, or policy-making, is a sum of individual decisions, as somebody in economic or game theory might see it, and not the coming together of different and sometimes opposite viewpoints and interests.
Think of how different our literary world would look if we read everything blind. You would never have to read a story, as many critics, academics, reviewers and judges do, and note that because it is written by a white heterosexual male, it must possess merit. A phenomenon Hustvedt refers to as the ‘masculine enhancement effect’. Readers may not, as many do, pick up a book by a person of colour, and look for the traumatic, moral story at its heart.
Can we really support the existence of laws that allow arbitrary immigration decisions to be made in certain situations, but decry their use in another? The law exists to be used at the minister’s discretion. Not only is section 501 the same law used to sanction both Allen and refugees the minister determines have stepped out of line, the entire immigration framework and the way it treats access to Australia as a reward and punishment mechanism cannot simply be shoved to the side and ignored.