Monday, August 22, 2016

ELEANOR LERMAN AT THE ANNAPURNA MUSEUM

This past February, we were informed by the prestigious Chautauqua Prize, that out of 165 nominations, thirty-five titles were still in play, Eleanor Lerman’s Radiomen being among them. From this list, five would be chosen as finalists. While her novel was not among the shortlisted final five, this in itself was a remarkable achievement. But on August 18, at Mid-Americon II, part of the international science fiction convention, Worldcon held at the Kansas City Convention Center, Radiomen hit paydirt when she received the coveted 2016 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year. However, she was not able to attend the ceremony since two months earlier she was stricken with a mysterious infection that placed her at death’s door, as both lungs were completely infected.

But Eleanor did manage to get through this and sent an acceptance speech taped while still at the hospital and read at the award ceremony. It’s a remarkable journey and a remarkable speech for this sixty-four-year-old writer, which is also the stuff of science fiction, except that it is real. I’m happy to report that she will be discharged on Friday. She told me today she was so detached from her life in the earlier stages that she thought of the person in the bed as “Juanita.” and I joked that Juanita might be the start of her next book. Great science fiction is like that, blurring the lines between reality and fiction and leaving the reader to ponder some of the mysteries of the universe. And Eleanor is surely one of the great ones writing in this genre,

With that, I say welcome back to the living, Eleanor. And here is her speech.

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Dear Friends:

Let me begin by apologizing for not being with you in order to accept this extraordinary, unexpected, and deeply appreciated award. As some of you must know, I am unable to attend because I am recovering (at least, I hope that’s the path I’m on) from a long illness—almost two months now. I would be more specific about this “illness” except that no one seems to know what it was. I have had dozens of doctors peering down at my bedside saying “Well, dear, we know you got hit with a massive infection and have tested you for everything we know but we can’t figure out what it is.” I suggested that they test for alien spores, and you can imagine the reaction: the doctors’ faces sort of move around, trying to settle into some appropriate expression, then they snort a fake laugh and say, “Of course, you’re a sci-fi writer, what a lovely idea!” And then they go away. But we know better, don’t we? That’s the first thing they should have looked for.

Aliens. Not only have they been on my mind during this mystery illness, but of course they were the focus of Radiomen—specifically, the idea that I hope infused the story, which was, and is, that if God exists, the aliens are probably as confused about Him, Her, or It as we are. I know that as I moved through the strange and struggling stages of this illness—which included a stay in the Intensive Care Unit that I don’t remember, though I am told I bit my brother’s finger and my wife’s, and threatened to have everyone arrested—I was sending out my own radio signals to God, in whatever universe such a force or kind, loving consciousness exists, asking for help. I believe I have been helped. I have indeed been blessed by a devoted companion, my wife, Robin, and devoted care. I hope I deserve all this attention, just as I hope to be able to go back to work someday soon and continue to prove myself worthy of the honor you have given me with the John W. Campbell Award.

I want to tell you something else about my idea of radio waves, in all their forms—spiritual, emotional, or real broadcasts from universes up and down the great unknown dimensions of time and space. One night, in the middle of a terrible fever, I had the kind of dream that people have in movies, except this wasn’t a movie, it was my 3 a.m. confrontation with life and death. In my dream, someone, some being from somewhere else, took me to the Annapurna Museum. If you Google the word Annapurna you’ll find it’s part of the Himalayan range, but in the dream, I know it had something to do with my teenage obsession with Herman Hesse and Siddhartha and the concept of eternity. In any case, the Annapurna Museum was a room full of smallish but human-sized statues covered in gold. The statues were of people who were dying: I remember a boy on fire and a woman who had deep gashes on her body. I was told by my alien guide, who was just a voice, that I could become an exhibit in the Annapurna Museum if I wanted. “They,” whoever they were, would pour gold on me and I would be out of pain, I would be no longer ill. Of course, I would be dead, but I would be free from my mystery disease. I actually thought about it for a moment—it seemed like maybe a way to escape all the terrible things that were happening to me—but I finally said no. I said I would keep trying to find my way back to some kind of life again. I would keep trying to send out my radio signals. With this award, you have helped me to understand that was the only decision to make, so if I haven’t said thank you enough, let me say thank you over and over again, now.

Let me add one more thing. In Radiomen, a special dog is an important character. A few months before I got sick, my beloved dog, who had been with me for many years, passed away. I remember looking for her in the Annapurna Museum and was glad she wasn’t there because it meant that she was somewhere else, somewhere kinder and better, and that I would see her again. I do believe that, just as I deeply believe that somewhere in the distant, savage past, some kind of proto-dog walked out of the darkness, sat down next to our ancestors by their fire, and decided to stay. They have stayed with us since. I am sure they will stay with us as the millennia roll by. I have always been touched by a story I read about how some of the oldest fossil footprints ever found were a child’s footsteps and walking right beside that child were the footprints of a dog-like animal. That is where we see the roots of love, of devotion, of our shared longing, human and animal, to be together, to help each other, to walk through the great darkness together and find whatever light there is, for there must be some. There must be. That, I guess, is really what the radio waves are aiming for: the light that will illuminate our lives. The light that is not in the Annapurna Museum but outside in the great beyond, in the stars and the spinning planets and the eternal hope we all have for peace and love and the light in our beloved companions’ eyes.

So thank you again for the Campbell Award, and thank you for understanding why I can’t be there to accept it. I hope these few brief words have conveyed my deep appreciation for your recognition, which could not have come at a more important time to help me feel that I am coming back to myself. So once more, thank you for sending your loving radio waves my way. I hear them. I appreciate them. I will never forget them. They have reached deep into my heart.
 
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PLEASE POST YOU COMMENTS below, and also feel free to contact Eleanor directly at elerman1@optonline.net

Tune in next time

Marty

Monday, August 8, 2016

OBITUARY FOR THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS

Looking forward to my 82nd birthday in September, I confess to being a newspaper junkie since I was a teenager growing up in Queens, New York. Later, I worked at the New York Times as a night “intern” after I graduated from medical school. Thirty-six years ago my wife and I started The Permanent Press and we’ve published a fair share of award-winning mysteries, and I’m continually absorbed by thrillers by artful writers that deal not only with the dying newspaper industry, but with protagonists who dare to do battle with editors and publishers who want to avoid controversy. Bruce DeSilva is such a writer, and though we’ve not had the privilege of publishing his Liam Mulligan series, we have published Howard Owen’s Willie Black series that features the same types of issues, while the similarity between Bruce and Howard is uncanny. Both have been newspapermen for over forty years. Bruce won the Edgar Award, Howard won the Hammett Prize. In Bruce’s books, Providence, Rhode Island became a “character”; in Howard’s case it’s been Richmond.
But enough of this rhapsodizing and my affinity for both these very artful writers, and with that I turn this blog over to Bruce, his background and his blog:


Bruce DeSilva grew up in a tiny Massachusetts mill town where the mill closed when he was ten. He had an austere childhood bereft of iPods, X-Boxes, and all the other cool stuff that hadn’t been invented yet. In this parochial little town, metaphors and alliteration were also in short supply. Nevertheless, his crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in Akashic Press's award-winning noir anthologies, and his book reviews for The Associated Press appear in hundreds of publications. Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for the AP, editing stories that won nearly every major journalism prize including the Pulitzer.



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Six years ago, when I took early retirement from my journalism career to write hard-boiled crime novels, I decided to make my protagonist a newspaper reporter instead of a cop or a private investigator. I had four good reasons.

1) They say you should write what you know, and I’d spent 40 years working as a journalist for The Providence Journal, The Hartford Courant, and the Associated Press, much of it reporting and editing local, national, and international investigative reporting.

2) I love reading private detective novels, but after all those years writing about real life, I couldn’t suspend my own disbelief enough to write one. Real private eyes are nothing like fictional ones. The real ones spend most of their time hunting down child-support delinquents, investigating pilfering from warehouses, checking the validity of insurance claims, delivering summonses in civil cases, and doing background checks on job applicants. Most go their entire careers without ever investigating a major crime. 

3) Unlike cops, investigative reporters can’t subpoena records or drag someone into the station house for questioning, so in some respects, that makes their work more challenging. But they also have an advantage. A lot of people who talk to reporters would never spill anything to a cop. 

4) While I wanted to write suspenseful novels that would be fun to read, I also wanted them to address a serious social issue in an entertaining way. American newspapers are circling the drain. In recent years, some have shut down, and economic changes brought on by the internet have forced virtually all of them to slash the size of their news staffs. Soon, many more will be gone. This is a slow-motion disaster for American democracy because there is nothing on the horizon to replace newspapers as honest brokers of news and information.

The old broadcast TV Networks, undercut by competition from cable, have cut way back on their reporting staffs too—and they never were all that great begin with. Cable TV news has degenerated into a swamp of celebrity news, shrieking talking heads, and, in the cases of FOX and MSNBC, warring propaganda machines for the right and left.

And the handful of online news organizations that actually strive to do an honest job draw much of their news from TV reports and dying newspapers and do not report anywhere near enough original material to make up for what is being lost.

Sure, a few traditional news organizations like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press continue to do a solid job of covering national and international news, although even they aren’t as comprehensive as they were 20 years ago. But the decline has taken a big toll on both the quantity and quality of investigative reporting. All reporting is expensive, and great investigative reporting, which can tie up a news organization’s best reporters for months—or even a year—is much more so. So far, no one outside of the AP and the fast-disappearing newspapers has demonstrated the willingness or the resources to pay for much of it.

And that’s not all. As local and state-wide newspapers shrivel and die, who is reporting the news from our town halls, police stations and state houses? When I started my career at The Providence Journal in 1968, that then-great metropolitan newspaper had local news bureaus scattered all over the state to cover the political, police, business, and community news in every one of its 39 cities and towns. Today, those local bureaus are long gone, and the only community the paper covers regularly now is Providence. Who is covering the school committee in Warren or the zoning board in Coventry now? Nobody.

For my fictional investigative reporter, Liam Mulligan, being stuck in a dead-end job at the dying Providence Dispatch, offered a wealth of dramatic possibilities. Every day, he had to fight with his editors to carve out time from the daily routine of getting a newspaper out in order to pursue the investigative stories that he lived for. And in each of the first four novels, as layoffs continued to shrink the size of the fictional Dispatch, he felt compelled to do more and more investigative work on his own time.

For the most part, journalists are portrayed as vultures in the popular culture. Why? Because too many writers—especially those who write for the big and small screens—are quick to grab hold of the nearest cliché. The truth is that the vast majority of journalists are hard-working, low-paid professionals dedicated to the difficult task of reporting the truth in a world full of powerful people who lie like you and I breathe.

So it was my hope that as my readers watched the skill and dedication with which Mulligan worked, they would gain a greater appreciation of what is being lost as newspapers fade into history. I strove to make the first four novels in this series both compelling crime stories and a lyrical epitaph for the business that Mulligan and I love. 

But as I was completing A Scourge of Vipers, the fourth novel in the series, it became evident that Mulligan’s newspaper career was coming to an end. The Dispatch had been sold off to a predatory conglomerate that had no interest in investigative stories and saw news as nothing more than something to fill the spaces between the ads. And Mulligan’s squabbles with his editors were making life untenable for both of them.
  
By the time that novel ended, Mulligan had been fired in spectacular fashion, accused of a journalism ethics violation that he had not committed. 

So the beginning of The Dread Line, the new novel in the series, finds Mulligan (like so many newspaper journalists who have been fired or laid off in recent years) piecing together a new life for himself. In Mulligan’s case, it’s a life that straddles both sides of the law. He’s getting a little part-time work from his friend McCracken’s private detective agency. He’s picking up beer and cigar money by freelancing for a local news website. And he’s earning some illegal cash looking after his semi-retired mobster friend’s bookmaking business. 

And, as usual, he still manages to find trouble. He’s feuding with a feral cat that keeps dropping its kills on his porch. He’s obsessed with a baffling jewelry heist. And he’s enraged that someone in town is torturing animals. All this keeps distracting him from a big case that needs his full attention. The New England Patriots, still shaken by a series of murder charges against one of their star players (true story), hire McCracken and Mulligan (not a true story) to check the background of a college star they are considering drafting. By all accounts, the player is a choir boy, so at first the job seems routine. But as soon as they start asking questions, they get payback. The player, it seems, has something to hide—and someone is willing to kill to make sure it stays secret.

It is worth noting, however, that Mulligan doesn’t think the death of newspapers was inevitable. “Newspapers see themselves as victims of the digital age. They are so full of shit,” he said in an earlier book in the series. “The internet isn’t killing newspapers; they are committing suicide.”

“When the internet first got rolling, newspapers were the experts on reporting the news and selling classified advertising,” he continued. “They were ideally positioned to dominate the new medium. Instead, they sat around with their thumbs up their asses while upstarts like Google, the Drudge Report, and ESPN.com lured away their audience and newcomers like Craigslist, eBay, and AutoTrader.com stole their advertising business. By the time newspapers finally figured out what was going on and tried to make a go of it online, it was too late. This all happened because newspapers didn’t understand what business they were in,” Mulligan said. “They thought they were in the newspaper business, but they were really in the news and advertising business. It’s a classic mistake—the same one the railroads made in the 1950s when the interstate highway system was being built. If Penn Central had understood it was in the freight business instead of the railroad business, it would be the biggest trucking company in the country today.”

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I see things the same way.


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I originally emailed Brue suggesting he call this blog DOWN THE CRAPPER, but he wisely turned down this suggestion for something more specific.

May you feel free to post comments here, and/or email Bruce directly concerning his blog about the dying newspaper business at brucedesilva@optimum.net. As always, you can reach me at shepard@thepermanentpress.com

Stay tuned for another blog before two weeks expire.

Marty


Monday, July 18, 2016

GRACE

Joan Baum, who lives in East Hampton New York,  has worked as an  Arts Critic for over four decades, posting reviews covering art, music, and books for countless diverse publications, among them The Christian Science Monitor,  Dan’s Papers (distributed in the Hamptons and New York City), Hadassah Magazine, and on various blogs.  Her widest audience, however, comes from her National Public Radio book reviews that originate on WSHU-FM, Fairfield, Connecticut. And here is her latest review, for the cockeyed pessimist website, for a novel that will be published by us in October, and which will likely appear elsewhere at the time of publication.


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“With Grace, veteran Richmond, VA newspaper editor, reporter and feature writer Howard Owen, still sticking with investigative journalist Willie Black who continues to bite the hand that feeds him, has arguably created the best book so far in the Willie Black murder mystery series. Where the earlier four books garnered well-deserved critical acclaim and awards, Grace exhibits a tighter, more confident craftsmanship, as Owen shows that he knows how to work exposition into an engaging plot while training a jaundiced eye on his protagonist, keeping Willie the same but not quite the same. Willie, now 54, whose black father disappeared at birth and who still delights in being the good bad boy of print journalism at his paper (his nasty, venal publisher has pushed him into the late-night crime beat), has evolved into an even more sardonic chaser of the justice and truth. Hilarious at times and always cynical and selectively foul mouthed, he seems aware of time’s winged chariot—the press of time and his history of being a fuck-up. But he’s not afraid to use the L word for his lady love, whom he just might make number four, if he can rout or, more realistically, diminish his demons.  He loves to drink, fight, stand pat when the dam breaks and, go where angels fear to tread. A half bro, he can mix and mix it up with whites and blacks, people of all classes, professions and vocations and relationships to the law, earning the admiration of the innocent and the criminal.

“Like some others in the hard-boiled detective genre, Willie attracts because he is flawed and heroic, but he has limits about what he will do and not do to get the story, the bad guy, the girl. His honesty, integrity and ethics endear him to the various oddball men and women he interacted with in the earlier books who are back again.  These include Peggy, his reefer smoking mom, Awesome Dude a former homeless derelict, his ex-wife Kate, a lawyer who is his landlord, an Indian he has befriended, his admiring colleagues both at the paper and in the police department, and his slightly estranged but beloved daughter, Andi, now an unmarried mom herself.  Not to mention all those bartenders who know him well. Willie also knows himself. Of his ability to judge others, which he thinks he usually does well, he adds, “I’m my biggest fan, so maybe I’m a tad biased.” Unlike many modern day protagonists, Willie believes in “social justice, the Golden Rule, cold Millers, and forgiving women, in no particular order.” In other words, Owen is not in the downer camp of contemporary noir. But he does know how to read literary tea leaves. These say that the hot topics today that inform best sellers include racial tension, class divisions, pederasty in the church, failed marriage and alcohol and drug abuse.

“As with all the Willie Black books, Owen lets Willie speak for his creator’s values, which are admirable, especially at a time when good old-fashioned print journalism is dying, if not already dead, and when so-called reporting, especially in social media and on certain channels makes no pretense at accuracy, fairness or intelligence.  As Willie says, “First-person stories by reporters give me the heebie-jeebies. They smack too much of the kind of `look-at-me’ journalism that some of my compatriots seem to prefer to actually digging and sticking to the facts.” As for the state of the world, it’s easy to take a nihilist line, but Willie is more nuanced than that. He sees that the world is divided “into two equally reprehensible groups, both earnestly involved in their life’s work:  judging and affixing blame while assiduously eschewing spell check.” If there is a God, he finds himself thinking, he wonders “ why the hell are we still here? Isn’t it about time for another flood?” But he knows why he is here, and that is to make things right. He has for all his agnosticism a good smattering of  . .  . grace.”  


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IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING that while people continue to read books in the summertime, and pre-publication reviews still appear, incredible numbers of  editors in the publishing industry (both here and abroad,) are unavailable. Given that Howard Owen is a Hammett Award-winner for his Willie Black mystery series, and that this is his 14th novel, and that both Howard and Chris Knopf  (a Nero Award winner whose 14th mystery Back Lash was recently release), are the most widely applauded  mystery writers I know of, HERE IS A FREE OFFER for the rest of this month and the first week of August: an electronic "Preview Edition" of Grace. All you need do is contact Brian Skulnik at brian@thepermanentpress.com and ask for your copy.


Marty

Monday, June 27, 2016

WHY DO SO MANY LAWYERS WRITE FICTION?


Ray Merritt has enjoyed a successful writing career for over thirty years. His A Thousand Hounds (Taschen) was selected Best Book of the Year, 2000, by New York Magazine. The New York Times called it a “goody pack.” Entertainment Today awarded it “most creative book of the season” and Animal Fair dubbed it “a masterpiece.” Full of Grace (Damiani) was named PDN Magazine’s Best Book of the Year in 2007. Oprah Magazine called it “dazzlingly elegant, elegiac and exhilarating.” Kirkus dubbed it “gripping” and Publishers Weekly “captivating.”

Clamour of Crows, represents Ray’s entry into the world of fiction and similar accolades followed. Kirkus calling it “A tightly plotted debut mystery that mixes foul play, wordplay, and humor that will appeal to mystery buffs who don't require sex and gore—and to those harboring fond memories of reading J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, and Lewis Carroll.” Library Journal hailed it, reporting that “Merritt's fiction debut is a sparkling blend of wit, puzzles, and suspense.” A National Public Radio broadcast said that “As revelations about money laundering, contested wills and all manner of financial crimes and misdemeanors continue to make the news, Clamour of Crows could not be a more timely tale.” And Blackstone Audio produced an unabridged audiobook version.

Ray, his wife, Carol, and their shelter dogs, live in Sag Harbor and New York City. With that, I introduce Ray’s blog
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“The question has been posed:  Why do so many lawyers write fiction?  For some the answer is simple:  Because they can.  Eric Gardner gave us Perry Mason, John Grisham created Jake Brigance, while Scott Turow, Meg Gardiner, Richard North Patterson and Louis Auchincloss all have created riveting stories told with engaging narratives.  Most of these writers were litigators who honed their writing skill by authoring briefs and arguing cases and in doing so they often had to use their imagination to craft the defense of clients or forge the prosecution of defendants.
I envied their opportunity and experience, for corporate lawyers rarely create scintillating prose.  They write contracts, not briefs.  They have no eloquence, no flourish . . . just the facts, so to speak.  No one has ever been enthralled by a merger agreement, an indenture or an acquisition contract.

“So why after many decades of numbing my imagination with turgid dry text would I—a lifelong corporate lawyer—attempt to cross over and write fiction?  The answer lies in the challenge and also in the opportunity to educate, elucidate and entertain.  Fiction writing involves creativity and as such is an art form, permitting one to set the facts and circumstances in such an order that they create a new, albeit imagined, reality.  It is the written embodiment of one’s own imagination.  Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge.  Goethe called it the process of 'becoming.'  For a writer moving from the frozen prose of the law, it is indeed that.  Writing fiction releases your inner Cliffy as you go beyond the simple recitation of facts and reposition them into an alternate reality that informs, educates and entertains—and hopefully enlightens.

“I find writing fiction a challenge.  It tests your mettle as a dreamer.  Perhaps the difference between composing fiction and writing facts is the same as the difference between the photojournalist and the art photographer.  The first is fact-limited and fact-driven; the second has no limits other than the size of the paper.  In a sense, that is what I find in fiction writing—the page is blank.  There are no restrictions.  You are not limited to reality.  You can test your mettle as an artist... and a dreamer.  Chesterton said that fairytales are more than truth, 'not because they tell us dragons exists; but they tell us dragons can be beaten.'  Clamour of Crows is in large part a modern-day fairytale.

“I must confess I’m not adept at public speaking.  I would have made a terrible preacher.  Perhaps that is why I never wanted to be a litigator.  For me, fiction writing is an outlet for creativity—a seductive pulpit.  I find it therapeutic and pleasurable.  The act of creating a story is a special kind of high.  As a storyteller, fiction permits me to tell stories without breaking professional confidences.  It allows me to explore new challenges instead of dwelling on old ones and in the process to raise questions without giving answers.  Put under oath, I would have to confess that I do it because I like it.  Telling a good story puts me in a better place.  For me, fiction is not an escape from reality but a way to revisit it.  I like life’s ambiguities.  I respect man’s imperfection.  In the preamble to Clamour of Crows, I wrote:  'Most men die forgotten.  Heroes and villains live on.  The best and the worst and a few who were both.'  Humanity’s best trait is its imperfection and that is what I like to write about.”

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WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS below. If you wish to get in touch with Ray directly you can reach him at rmerritt@willkie.com. Clamour of Crows is readily available from Amazon and other online retailers as a hardcover or ebook, through your local bookstore, or directly from us at a 50% discount if you mention reading about it on this blog by emailing brian@thepermanentpress.com and placing your order, or by phone, Monday through Friday, between 11AM and 5 PM (EST) at 631-725-1101. 

Anyone else out there who is interested in writing a blog for The Cockeyed Pessimist can also contact me at that same phone number or by sending me an email (shepard@thepermanentpress.com). 

Marty


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

THE GLUTTON RULE

Now that that the Democratic Party’s Super-delegates, not democratically chosen by voters at all, but consisting of office holders, the majority of  whom have been part of the problem that has failed to produce the real economic and social changes this county needs, I dedicate this final, and very short, follow-up to last week’s blog.

Firstly, Donald Trump is a megalomaniac who should not be elected president and, surely will not be. He is the reason Hillary will surely win the coming presidential election despite being part of the problem herself.

Secondly, it is heartening to know that a woman can be elected president—though I would have picked a more trustworthy woman.

Jill Stein
And lastly, there are four parties that are likely to be on the ballots in every state of the Union. The Libertarian Party might have been a good protest vote, but Jill Stein, running for president on the Green Party line is a candidate I can wholeheartedly vote for as their concerns mirror my own. I shall pull their lever this November down the line; for all those seeking seats in Congress and in local elections as well.  

One responder to last week’s blog talked about what we can do to bring about a future of peace here at home or in the rest of the world. Not likely to happen, I replied. Why? Because conflict and differences of opinion and the accumulation of wealth at the expense of others seems to be the  opposite of the "Golden Rule," which is a fairy tale, but the "The Glutton Rule,” throughout  the world is, by and large, a more accurate description of how the vast majority of societies work.

Friday, June 3, 2016

RESOLVING MY POLITICAL DILEMMA

As someone who has supported concepts that are standard in Canada, Cuba, England and most all the democracies in Western Europe, this year’s presidential politics is mind-boggling. 

Free health care is available in all these countries. Their life expectancy is higher than ours. Higher education is available for free to all if they qualify academically, and the gap between income levels, for the richest and the poorest are far less significant than it is in America, and these are issues that are important to me.

At the same time the leading presidential contenders in both parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, do not propose any of these changes at all. Theirs is a race between two candidates whose trustworthiness levels, according to all polls, is far less than 50% among all eligible voters. 

Both candidates can fire away at each other, making it seem as if this is the most important election in the history of our nation. If you are fed up with conventional politics and like to listen to an egotist with no governmental experience, who won’t release his tax returns, Trump, is surely your man, even if he changes his opinions constantly so one doesn’t know what he really stands for, other than being an “outsider.”

On the other hand if you want to vote for an “insider,” a canny politician, who also does not support these issues that I value, who is a hawk, and refuses to share what she said when giving a speech to Goldman Sachs that netted her a quarter of a million dollars as a speaking fee from this Wall Street investment firm, who supports fracking, has continuously supported U.S. military intervention throughout the world, and who plays racial politics, courting Latinos and African-American voters (usually older) instead of economic issues, then Hillary is your woman.

Each, of course, contends that the other would radically change the course of America. Somehow I find I have difficulty believing this. Do any of you share this feeling? 

While Bernie Sanders articulates these programs, I vote not for the man, but for his ideas that mirror mine. Yet the vast majority of the democratic Super-delegates, establishment politicians all, who have not been elected by voters but have, by and large, allowed our country to deteriorate, will cast the deciding votes that will put Hillary (and Bill, her husband)  over the top at the Democratic Convention. All the more surprising because all polls show that Sanders has a much bigger lead over Trump than does Mrs. Clinton.

Being born in 1934, I do know that in this election I don’t want to support the lesser of two evils. As I’ve said before, if one had to choose between Hitler and Mussolini, who would you take before the Second World War began? (I asked this in an earlier blog and most people preferred Mussolini for whatever that’s worth). But I’m not playing that game again.

This past weekend I saw an old friend, Karl Grossman, a Polk Award winning investigative reporter at a large gathering here in Sag Harbor at the home of David Alpern and his wife Sylvia. We published two of Karl’s books that had a major impact: Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to know About Nuclear Power in 1981 and The Poison Conspiracy in 1982, which were both acclaimed, and led to his becoming a widely booked lecturer around this country and abroad. Both of us, as political junkies, discussed  these very same issues while nourishing ourselves with good food and drink, and it turned out that Karl and I have decided to vote, as a protest, for the Libertarian party candidate, because of the absence of trust we had for the two major party choices.

I welcome your responses.


Marty

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

ENOUGH ALREADY, LET JANE AUSTEN BE JANE AUSTEN: A PLEA ON THE 200th ANNIVERSARY OF HER DEATH

Joan Baum is an extraordinary person who has led an extraordinary life. She sings in a chorus, has worked as a columnist, reporter, critic, and is a voracious reader. She lectures regularly, has a great sense of humor, and also lives in the village of East Hampton on Long Island’s South Shore. She is also a National Public Radio reviewer.

After meeting Joan many decades ago, we both realized that we attended The High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, in the early 50’s, as art majors. Though she was likely a freshman when I was a junior, we never met back then, but all these shared experiences added to the bonds that formed between us. Enough of an introduction, other than saying she is someone I greatly admire who I’m fortunate to have as a very good friend. Her blog, concerning Jane Austin, offers another display of her considerable erudition.

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“A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away—Queens—I taught classes on the English Romantic poets, sneaking in a novelist and essayist and enjoying a relatively rare opportunity in an open admissions college to engage once again with the subjects of my doctoral dissertation and with the major events of an important historical period. That memorable time, full of revolution and cultural shifts, was said to begin with Wordsworth’s birth in 1770 and run to 1832, with the passage of the first Reform Act, when William IV was on the throne but which the Western world, pretty much jumping the gun by five years, began to refer to as the Victorian era. Although dominated by the big five—all men (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, with an occasional nod to Blake)—the English Romantic period did allow for the inclusion of Jane Austen on the syllabus, though she was not really considered part of The Canon, until she was. But recognition came late and owed much to cultural critics like Lionel Trilling who, as he did with Robert Frost, called attention to dark themes and biting ironies. But the times, they were a ‘changin’.

“The 60s, which took off in the 70s, helped awaken a renewed awareness of Austen in the academic world where she was inevitably hailed as an avatar of feminism in Regency England and a proto-Marxist in acknowledging class conflict and socioeconomic pressures on women in the late 18th – early 19th century. She was also, thank goodness, celebrated as a stylist of wit and irony,  furnishing the world with what has become one of English literature’s most famous opening lines (from Pride and Prejudice): 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”  From there, it was on to reevaluations of her work in the scholarly journals (five more novels, plus a fragment ).  But who would have guessed, even back in the late 19th century days when 'Janeitism' made its idolatrous, cult-like appearance among admirers,  that Austen would  spawn  a fan base and entertainment industry that includes a Jane Austen Society of North America, blogs, costume conferences, pilgrimages to Steventon and Bath, and a still continuing plethora of movies and made for TV series, chick-lit adaptations,  prequels, sequels, parodies,  updates, camp and serious—not to mention biographies straining still to discover undisclosed facts and re-argue relationships.

“Why? 

“Is it that, at a time when memoirs and murder mysteries, often with harsh, nasty content and convoluted plots or self-consciously styled streams of consciousness, readers cherished what is a salient feature of fine fiction:  a good plot?  Is it that in an age that has vulgarized sex or made it boring by way of over-exposure, an intelligent romance that ends well engages because it says more about affairs of the heart by saying less about zones of pornography? Is it that Jane Austen’s novels present admirable heroines who are not necessarily the most beautiful and certainly not well-off, but who educate themselves by eventually acknowledging their own flaws and seeing faults in others (characters who would confess or tell all should be suspect)? Is it that her protagonists appreciate complexities in a world they cannot affect (including in Mansfield Park awareness of the evils of slavery), but not yield to cynicism or despair, or that they identify and exemplify qualities that inform ethical and moral character, regardless of gender or class?

“Whatever the reasons for Austen mania—and please offer your own reasons and remedies—the downside is that unless the fun and games result in turning or returning to the novels themselves,  injury is done to this remarkable artist whose sharp eye and ear reflect her time while achieving a universality that makes her observations timeless."


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FEEL FREE to add your comments in regard to Joan’s blog, or contact her directly at joanbaum29@gmail.com.

Also, if any readers of this blog wish to submit one to me, you can do that by contacting me at shepard@thepermanentpress.com


Marty