Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Another update here, this one also briefer that I would like. (should like? would like? neither seem right, though they are in common usage... 'briefer than I like' feels as if it would be gramatically correct--- it is not as long as I currently like--- 'should like' suggests that I am being remiss somehow and that I actually like it. 'Would like' suggests that under different conditions than currently exist, I might not like it. But in the case where under these current conditions I simply do not like the length, I am left to find a different construct altogether. Common usage here is apparently incorrect. If Wm. Saffire didn't spend all his time turning his On Language column into partisan attacks perhaps I would ask him.

In the meantime, here is an update, to be followed by a few more, until I am up-to-date!

The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow

This is another of the novels I read while in Mexico what seems like a lifetime ago. The Professor loaned it to me before the trip. I read through it quickly despite it’s length. It’s a fascinating, frusturating fictional retelling of the life and trial of the Rosenburgs told through the eyes of their adult son during the late sixties. For those of you who don’t remember (like I didn’t), the Rosenburgs were a young couple, New York jews, who fell afoul of the McCarthy Red Witch Hunts in the mid nineteen fourties. The US government tried and executed them on trumped up evidence. It was a pig circus trial, as Bob Dylan would say. Their story, and this novel should represent a VERY TOPICAL reminder to us all that giving up rights and allowing your government to instill fear in the populace by creating a witch hunt atmosphere is very dangerous enterprise. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for you.

Doctorow, who wrotethis novel in 1971 could not have possibly predicted the anti-terrorist Witch Hunts that have been ongoing here since (“the tragic events of “) 9/11. But his novel certainly speaks to them. Daniel, the sometime narrator of this schizophrenic novel is a disturbed, deeply unsettled young man existing on the fringe of the late sixties radical movement. He recounts through memory, flashback, and a few other more unusual devices the saga of his (admittedly leftist) parents downfall.

The writing is cerebral, the language precise. While the construction of the novel is mildly challenging, Doctorow keeps his linguistic high-jinx fairly subdued and lets his upsetting tale more or less tell itself. I wish people like my fascist friend Wes could read this book and understand the message here. Alas. This one will likely fade into complete obscurity over the next hundred years.

Post Note to Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Since reading the aforementioned book I’ve spent a little time researching the history of India, curious as to the veracity of Rushdie’s timetable and the events he portrays. While Saleem himself admits that the tale is a chronicle ofevents the way HE remembers them, they still seem to be fairly accurate. In those cases in which magic or the supernatural play a role, the events themselves DO seem to have unfolded in wuch a way, and it looks as if Rushdie simply used the Indian culture’s superstitions as a alternate basis of explanation for cause and effect. In any case, this book should be required reading for any courses on the modern history of India. Rarely has the history of one’s homeland been the receptacle of such passion from so skilled a writer.

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