May 032010

From a review of Michael Gruber’s novel The Good Son in

Details that at first seem merely quirky — Sonia’s Jungian practice, for example — prove themselves in the course of the novel to be tributaries emptying into Gruber’s theme: that enduring, atavistic longing for the meaning and passion to be found in the old ways of life. “Everyone loves feudalism in their hearts,” Theo tells himself, sounding like Greene’s Harry Lime, “which is why ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Sopranos’ were huge hits. There has yet to be a movie about legislative markup or the courageous agents of the Federal Election Commission.” Life in “Pashtunistan” may be brutal and irrational, but for what Sonia calls “us primitives,” it’s mighty hard to quit.

That applies to the pseudo-feudal terminology of D/S.

This also ties into a section of Benjamin Nugent’s non-fiction book American Nerd. Nugent sees the pseudo-medieval society of the Society of Creative Anachronism as nerds’ idea of a utopian society: hierarchical yet meritocratic, transparent (you can tell what a person’s social role is just by looking at them), orderly, earnest, yet allowing people to go off and pursue their own interests in peace. He compares that to a group home he lived in inhabited by an amorphous, ever-shifting group of hipsters, who constantly engage in a never-ending struggle for dominance. Map that comparison onto the orderly, transparent, checklists-and-safeword world of BDSM versus the ambiguity of vanilla dating. You can see the appeal of a social world in which you can always point to the person who’s in charge.

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