Michael Dirda discovers that the lumpen-intelligentsia today has not read Kipling, but has so thoroughly imbibed all the stereotypes and prejudices of the radical left’s ideology that even mere mention of The Jungle Books provokes outrage and animosity toward their author.
Earlier this summer I was on a panel at a literary conference where I happened to say that Rudyard Kipling was a wonderful writer. Immediately, a number of people in the audience began to boo and hiss. Two of my fellow panelists nearly shrieked that KipÂling was utterly beyond the pale, being at once racist, misogynist and imperialist. Not entirely surprised by this reaction, but nonetheless flabbergasted by its vehemence, I made a flustered attempt to champion the author of â€œPlain Tales From the Hills,â€ â€œThe Jungle Books â€ and â€œKim.â€ I declared what many believe, that he is the greatest short-story writer in English. This only made things worse. Finally, with some desperation I blurted out: â€œHow much Kipling have you actually read?â€
A short silence followed, and, without any answer to my question, the discussion moved on to other, less heated topics.
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