Pete Buttigieg at McKinsey, Ralph Ellison’s Slow Burning Art, and Bernie Bros Revisited: GAYNRD WEEKEND DIGEST

PETE BUTTIGIEG is far and away the fastest rising star in the Democratic primaries which go into full swing in January beginning with the Iowa Caucuses.

The New York Times has a juicy feature story out called “When Pete Buttigieg Was One of McKinsey’s ‘Whiz Kids’”. The headline glibly suggests the “Whiz Kids’ Secretary of State James McNamara consulted to clean up the mess of the Vietnam War. And in fact brings to light the most elusive and potentially hugely damaging part of his narrative, Buttigieg in his capacity as an analyst at McKinsey certainly would have given the aspiring politician a look behind the veil of how the government really works.

Buttigieg’s been quite adamant that he has no qualms with any if the work he did while at McKinsey, but whose ironclad NDA precludes him from saying anything. And he’s asked numerous times that they lift his clearance.

“Mr. Buttigieg’s time at the world’s most prestigious management-consulting company is one piece of his meticulously programmed biography that he mentions barely, if at all, on the campaign trail.”

As Mr. Buttigieg explains it, that is not a matter of choice. For all of his efforts to run an open, accessible campaign — marked by frequent on-the-record conversations with reporters on his blue-and-yellow barnstorming bus — McKinsey is a famously secretiveemployer, and Mr. Buttigieg says he signed a nondisclosure agreement that keeps him from going into detail about his work there.

But as he gains ground in polls, his reticence about McKinsey is being tested, including by his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Senator Warren, responding last month to needling by Mr. Buttigieg that she release more than the 11 years of tax returns she already had to account for her private-sector work, retorted, “There are some candidates who want to distract from the fact that they have not released the names of their clients and have not released the names of their bundlers.”

RALPH ELLISON’s writings continue to endure because of the nuanced layer of the prose and its organic reinvention making it continually relevant. The New Yorker says, “Folk origins were something he was arguing about as early as 1948 with his “friend and intellectual sparring partner” Stanley Hyman: “I believe that myth and ritual are always with us—if only we get the rational wool out of our eyes and see the pre-rational fleece. . . . Besides, too great a concern with origindegenerates too easily into a concern with purity, and folklore is most impure.” The same letter offers praise for “The Lottery,” by Hyman’s wife, Shirley Jackson, tying its violent rites to his own efforts: “We’re beginning to work the same vein.” Later, when asked about influences, Ellison would regularly invoke some (T. S. Eliot, Lord Raglan, Dostoyevsky, the blues) while remaining silent about others—such as his experience with the Federal Writers’ Project working on a guide to New York. The day-to-day writing of the guide (which was never published) and his man-on-the-street reporting for it not only influenced his use of language but often provided exact exchanges repurposed for his novel.”

Above: Ralph Ellison. Photograph by Chester Higgins.

“Going from iconoclastic to iconic, Ellison’s stature gains a burdensome gravity. If his rise is an American story—one of self-made success, and, in the familiar turn, of the toll such success can bring—his second act is more complicated. Where the letters from the nineteen-forties are preparations for a strike and those from the fifties reverberate with his novelistic achievement, the later letters can start to feel like a way of avoiding the wider world, a world that this writer required in order to create. One feels, in these letters, an art that circles loss.”

“Ellison’s hard-won independence may also have contributed to his irritation with the changes that Black Power and the Black Arts Movement wrought. The movement in general thought him less than generous with other writers, even retrograde—black students on campus during the nineteen-sixties would sometimes literally call him out—in contrast to, say, Hughes, who helped younger writers to the end, or Gwendolyn Brooks, who embraced the younger generation and the Afro. Ellison would dismiss Hughes, who had dedicated his 1951 masterpiece, “Montage of a Dream Deferred,” to Ralph and Fanny, and later denied Michel Fabre, a white Frenchman who published an important study of African-American literature, the chance to reprint his early stories, saying that he was finishing new ones. (None were completed.) Ellison could still offer frank and fascinating appraisals, writing a foreword to Leon Forrest’s first novel, “There Is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden,” or writing what serves as a letter of recommendation for Albert Murray. But he’s silent on many other writers during the black boom of the seventies, especially women. (Toni Morrison told Rampersad, “He never mentioned any of my books to me, or complimented me as a writer, as I did him.”)”

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

 

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