Wednesday, November 11, 2015

JOSEPH HELLER CITES ENDLESS SLAUGHTER & INJUSTICE & DON’T EVEN ASK ABOUT MY AMAZON RANK


Ivan Goldman is both a novelist as well as an accomplished blogger for the past 10 years with Digging Deeper (www.ivangoldman.blogspot.com). He’s also a very inventive novelist and we’ve been privileged to publish three of his novels: The Barfighter (2009), Isaac: A Modern Fable (2012), and The Debtor Class (2016). His blogging often reflects political concerns he has about the state of the world and America in particular.

In this blog he manages to combine the two. With that I introduce you to Ivan G. Goldman.

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“Although it’s not what this column is about exactly, allow me to point out that the state of our nation is not so hot. The economy deals cards from a stacked deck, we’ve got more folks rotting behind bars than reside in Houston, the infrastructure crumbles, the ecology’s screwed, and we remain entangled in crazy wars. In Washington a hideous array of corrupt, deranged, ignorant manipulators seems to call the shots.    As Leonard Cohen lamented in a song,

There’s torture and there’s killing
And there’s all my bad reviews

“But enough about my problems. The point is, all this crap hitting the fan makes it an excellent time to look back at Picture This, a novel by Joseph Heller that came out in 1988. By virtue of being a Heller title, it received salutary attention at the time but then faded into the netherworld of barely remembered art. Its Amazon sales rank has fallen to 903,130, almost as embarrassing as my last novel, give or take a few hundred thousand. But who’s counting? Me, that’s who’s counting.

“Anyway, Picture This is a brilliant, meditative, enchanting work teeming with ideas that very much relate to the world right now. The story bounces around even more than Heller’s masterwork Catch 22, stopping at times and places that include Socrates’s jail cell in Athens, Rembrandt’s studio in Amsterdam, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. What ties it together are the stories, thoughts, and humor the novelist weaves out of one Rembrandt masterpiece: Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer.

"When we think of ancient Greece we tend to see it as the birthplace of democracy, but Heller, taking a hard look at its principal city-state of Athens, can’t help noticing that its society was based on two pillars: war and slavery. The place was run by phonies who espoused generosity and other high ideals as they put the fix in to pile up more wealth for themselves and screwed everyone else. That included the exploited youngsters they periodically sent off to fight in grim, wacky wars. Sound familiar?

“Heller juxtaposes this abysmal stream of hypocrisy, greed, and violence against the saving power of art, and as he does it he reminds us of the value of humor in our everyday lives. While Big Media chase after Kardashians and such, Picture This, like this passage in Ecclesiastes, reminds us none of this is new:

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
                                                                       
“It’s simultaneously depressing and comforting to know that if it’s not getting much better, maybe it’s not getting much worse either. Except neither Heller nor the author of Ecclesiastes had to dwell among a vast population of zombies staring into little hand-held gadgets. If that last sentence describes you, please take it personally.

“In any case, folks who keep fighting the good fight to save us from the worst of the worst within our maimed political structure deserve our respect. Meanwhile, it doesn’t hurt to follow Heller’s lead and enjoy the art that’s all around us.

“If that fails to appeal to you though, here’s what’s trending now on the Sites that Really Count: ‘Reddit Users Share Photos of Babies Who Look like Old People’.”

To which Ivan adds this: “His 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping ... triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. But who cares?”

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COMING NEXT WEEK: A blog posting from Larry Duberstein, a highly regarded novelist who decided to try publishing, on his own, his 10th novel. The title? Confessions of a (Self-Published) Fool.


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