Girl: Do you like Kipling?
Boy: I don't know. I've never kippled.
But, seriously, thanks to faustin for alerting me to the fact that David Friedman was making some interesting posts about Kipling, right around the same time as I was posting about Kim, his most famous novel.
On the train ride home from book club I was thinking about the peculiar, evasive way that Kipling is usually attacked by critics. And then I saw what Friedman posted earlier today:
Kipling had a very high reputation, especially as a short story writer, early in his career, but fell out of critical favor later, I think mostly for bad reasons. Certainly he had politically unpopular views--but they weren't the views generally attributed to him.I think that's 100% correct.
Kipling was a live-wire writer, charmingly readable, sharply observant, ready with ridicule for false pieties, equally ready with profound respect for what really works in this world. He wasn't so much an analytical type, but he was tremendously interested in clashes of culture, wherever they occurred. With all his love for other cultures, he repeatedly makes it vivid that Western culture is vastly superior at some things - things like technology and law. And that remains a strangely dangerous idea.
He remains a third rail to the Left,
With a kind of bug-zapper appeal,
For his ridicule leaves you bereft
Of your last multi-culti ideal.