Am I Having an Identitarian Crisis?
- The action of the novel takes place from March to August of 1998 in Chicago. The four principals are coevals, aged about 21. Three of them are students at the university: roommates Ethan and Logan, and Logan’s friend Prudence. The fourth is Mark, who works in a stonemason’s yard. Prudence is American-born of Korean ancestry, while the other three are all white gentiles.
Mark meets Prudence in a bar and they fall for each other. A love affair commences, and the novel’s main storyline follows the trajectory of that affair.
The way the book is structured, though, only the first and last thirds of it are properly narrative. The middle third is a dorm room debate between Logan and Ethan that took place a year previous to Mark’s encounter with Prudence. The title of this middle section is “Universalism vs. Nationalism.” Logan takes the universalist position, Ethan the nationalist one.
So this is didactic fiction, a novel with a lesson. That debate in the middle third of the book provides an intellectual underpinning for the Identitarian drama played out between Mark and Prudence.
Mark, the protagonist of the novel’s narrative part, is thoughtful and bookish, or at any rate not un-bookish, in spite of having no college education. He is subject to “periodic fits of intellectual agitation”; but until Prudence enters his life he has no idea how to organize those fits in any one direction.
Prudence is Korean by blood, but not otherwise. Her tastes are all Western: concert music (she plays the piano), Shakespeare, ancient Greece. She is something of an improver, and draws Mark into her interests. They read Euripides together “with fury and passion” and visit art galleries. All this has the unintended effect of awakening Mark to his racial identity.
The awakening process gets a boost from another quarter, too. Mark’s boss at the stonemasonry yard, a Lithuanian, has a daughter whom he brings in to do secretarial duties in her summer vacation. This daughter, Kristina, is an idealized North-European female, a long-boned blonde beauty. Mark is smitten by her, though not sufficiently to detach his affections from Prudence.
Kristina’s sudden departure—she is hired by a modeling agency—precipitates a psychic crisis in Mark. Although he still loves Prudence, he now sees her as “an outsider, an observer who soaks it [i.e. Western culture] up like a connoisseur, she is not of it.”
But only so far. I might share the protagonist's "love of the Greek life, admiration for the determination and might of Rome [not really], and respect for individual heroes of Western history," these do not "fill [my] heart with white pride." That's just far too abstract an idea. The "American-born of Korean ancestry" is closer to home than the Lithuanian daughter.
Better the reviewer's call to return to "Western nations of my childhood, which guarded their ethnic identity and kept immigration to a trickle, not out of Identitarian pride but from simple, commonsensical ... prudence."