The ending is one of the most spectacularly satisfying fantasies I”€™ve read: a cataclysm of idiots, snakes, and thugs destroying each other. It’s like a juicy romance novel, if your idea of romance is self-righteous misanthropy”€”and then Fleming skillfully deflates the self-righteousness. And that’s all the spoilers for today.

Superego is the second novel-length release from the book publishing wing of Liberty Island, a righty-libertarian-contrarian literary website that began last year (Fleming’s protagonist leans toward the contrarian end of the spectrum). When they first started up, I heard arguments that fiction should be apolitical, and those are great arguments”€”the last thing I want to read is a morality play. Instinct says that writing which is done with the explicit aim of improving society will likely have the opposite effect. (Science appears to agree with me: it seems that piously memorializing the Holocaust, for example, makes the world slightly more anti-Semitic.)

Ironically, the fact that the rest of the publishing industry has apparently forgotten this idea is why a house like Liberty Island”€”which is not so much right-wing as it is open to non-leftists”€”needs to exist. The only literary route to “€œimproving society”€ is oblique: you improve people’s minds. Which means not filling them with utopian fuzzies. But earnest modern publishers seem more concerned with the social mission of a book than with its quality”€”that is, with the ability of its intellectual vigor to enrich the reader’s life for the duration of the time his eyes are glued to the pages. Conservatives are pessimists, which is why it’s often the parlor pinks who win the Nobel and like trinkets”€”and make the world a little worse while they”€™re at it.


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