Monday, May 30, 2005

open letter to Anne Applebaum

During this past season I have become aware of Ms. Applebaum by virtue of her book Gulag and a pair of newspaper pieces which I have read subsequently. The first of these pieces was syndicated frpm the Washington Post and it centered upon historical memory in the context of the President's trip to the Baltic states and Russia in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the VE-Day. The latter piece is actually from 2002 and its focus is a review of a review by Christopher Hitchens of a book by Martin Amis: Koba the Dread. All references to simulacra aside, it is indicative of the cultural caliber of these two men, that such a consequent observation by an "outsider" would warrant such prominent position in Slate.

Given her own agenda, which can be loosely translated as curator of the Gulag program throughout the existence of the Soviet Union, Applebaum recoils from the premise of Amis' text. It isn?t a question of scholarship or authority, as a browsing of ANY chapter in Applebaum's Gulag will confirm that it balances statistical charts beyond palpable immediacy and anecdotal references from essentially the same shelves of survivor literature that provides the foundations of Amis's text. A text, by the way, that doesn't pretend to be history. What characterizes the differences at this point? One, a measure of immediacy as Amis notes that his father, Kingsley, was close friends with Robert Conquest, whose Great Terror is still the benchmark in analysis of Stalin's purges. This particular sparrow over the homestead merits closer concern, as does Amis' friendship with Mr. Hitchens. Koba the Dread doesn't aspire to being Gulag or the Great Terror but it is a memoir, one with a cachet of issues that Applebaum can't refute and it also surpasses Applebaum in a striking manner: its called writing, my dear (to paraphrase Sir Laurence Olivier.)

?The conclusion of Applebaum?s article concerns that Hitchens? review of Koba The Dread in Atalantic Monthly easily succeeds in skewering Amis but, he is let off? too easily. I am curious as to what Applebaum thought of Hitchen?s next book, Why Orwell Matters, released the following year in 2003. While I remain in awe of Hitchen?s writing, his arguments at times (rather often as of late) strikes me as that of a fakir, but one that believes in the act and is trying to convince intimates that, indeed, it is now real.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

But How Foolish Was I?

It is the comfort gut of the hioliday weekend and I am fearing what downward spiral my body is loose upon visiting. it is a quiet day and I remain hopeful. I finished 1984 last night by Orwell. It was my first reading of it. I do agree with Hitchens that it is a valid English contribution to the survivor literature that the last century blungeoned into being.

As for now, I will continue with the Stegner and i have picked up the latest Umberto Eco from the library; it has all the makings of a real treat.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

To Cheat a Template

As expected the past weekend saw industry on my part with the completion of A Member of The Wedding. Ms. McCullers is simply numinous in affording us purchase of the Elect. The thoughts and sufferings of Frankie spiral in not only a critique of the cloistered expectations for the adolescent female but rather of the fecund spirit itself, amplified perhaps by the demarcated society of the 1940s South. The roles of the peripheral charcters are much more verbose than expected (or believed) but that only allows the vamps of angst more chords to invert and redefine.

Christopher Hitchens continues to peck away at my soul like some Promethean Conservative and his text Why Orwell Matters was not exactly divine retribution (my liver remains. . .well internal) but a measure of illumination. The text was purchased with curisoity on Friday at Randy's and I must admit that plowed through 100 pages on Saturday, only stopping to pour more coffee or relight my cigar. There is a grace in Hitchens prose, a breeze of cadence and thought. His role as intellecutaional moralist for this belicose administration often forsakes this beauty. It is usually in tribute pieces in Slate and Vanity Fair where he shines. This book is no different though he does appear shaken in his attempts to circumnavigate the moral trainwreck when Orwell penned a list of communist sympathizers in 1941. as Hitchens assures us, this was at a tenuous time before the Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact was ripped asunder by Barbarosa. During that bleak season of doubt such allegiences meant to Orwell a palpable threat to humanity. That said, Hitchens picks for nits and looks foolish.

Friday, May 20, 2005

With a Buzz

There is a vibration of change underfoot, nothing miraculous, but rather the terminal velocity that signifies that several fo th works I have begun reading in recent days will be completed quite soon and the impending effect defies easy characterization. member of the Wedding has been enjoyed but i see its fruition as a stageplay. McCullers is a titan. Her sense of shadow and scent is enormous and marvelous in its reflection of the tangled frustration of human experience.

Resurrection by Tolstoy lacks the critical distance so often by achieved by Tolstoy. There appears to be a loosening of my grip on russian letters these days though, that as well, is likely temporary.

I need to give Ed his proper due for the sticky filiments of association and endorsement. It wa shis solo venture into the works of Wallace Stegner and his timely loan of Angle of Respose which led me to slither into its pages. I must admit that for years I thought it was ANGEL of Repose. I find this admixture of Edith Wharton and the Wild West to be intoxicating. Let us hope that the clear days ahead signal a simmering of sources in my brainsac.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Father and Son

Just finished the above from Larry Brown and wasn't overwhelmed. Very terse narrative, punctuated by strange meditations on driving and drinking: both seperate and conjoined.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Moving On, Encumbered With Dog Biscuits

It has been a good week, much improved since the doldrums of last weekend. Tuesday was a trip to Indianapolis and the Immigration Big Tent. Tolstoy melted away, his normally taut prose appeared billowing by maudlin misgivings, Frank Norris came to mind. I haven't completed it yet, having swept forward to 230 or so: it must be admitted that if N wasn't reading it in tandem, I would've dropped it. Continued progress in both Collapse and Pol Pot, both engaging but just so impractical for portability. This rainy a.m. I picked up Father and Son by Larry Brown and have read near 150 pages. It is a terse novel, similar to Carver, as noted by Gary Hawkins. Speaking of Brown, I bought Big Bad Love on DVD at Blockbuster, though I have yet to watch it. I have tried to keep up with Roger's blog and amstill reading last weekend's NYT.

Ed has given me anopther valued heads up and I have Suttree on order. I suppose that samizdat will dispense with Jared Diamond by month's end.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Out of Sorts

It has been a strange week reading-wise as i have veered outside of the norm becasue of not feeling great and other inoridinate circumstances. Aftering finishing the Cormac MCarthy I was browsing about on amzon and saw that someone had listed their favorite southern literature and it included a novelsit named William Gay. I have never heard of mr Gay but i happened to be at Half Price on Tuesday and i purchased one of his novels Province of night for three bucks. It started slow and i likely would've ditched it, had i not spent money on it. The effort payed off and it was delicate tal of compunction and time spent. I still have not made the necessary efforts in Collapse and my wife is reading Tolstoy behind me. Meanwhile, note as I chuckle with a sinister air, I have checked out Sutree from the library.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Blood Meridian

It has been a time of immense fortune, having read The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter and then Cormac Mccarthy's magnum opus, a literagy of sun-baked gore. It is a meditation of expansion and justice, broaching themes both disparate and and organic. It is a grisly read, caked with dust and weary of arid flight. It was again Mr. Powell who was first interested in McCarthy, particularly his earlier Southern gothic. It is odd, but a sound testament that Steve Powell has not read than many books but so many appear seminal.

I will be reading Diamond and engaging in a group interrogation of such. N and I will be starting Tolystoy's Resurrection in tandem. I read the first pages just now and found it didactic. Alas, the book is young.