Where is our Alternative Donald Trump?

Nineteen+Eighty-Four+

Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell Many readers consider this to be one of the most important novels of the 20th century. It sold more than thirty million copies since publication in 1949. Look on GoodReads and you will see it has been given 1,972,594 ratings and 43,570 reviews by readers who rated it 4.13 out of 5. When Donald Trump started talking about “alternative facts” alarm bells began ringing for all those people who had read Nineteen eighty-four. Sales pushed it to the number one spot on Amazon. The novel is fairly simple in plot. It focuses on Winston Smith, in the year 1984 (which was in the future at the time the novel was written.) The world was divided into three super-nations that were continually at war with each other — at least in theory. The story suggests that sometimes, countries bombed their own population while pretending the bombs were coming from an enemy. Thus they could control their population’s emotions; creating a furious hatred of the enemy, loving their own Party who protected them from invasion and death. The Party ruled Great Britain (Airstrip One) by four government ministries. The Ministry of Peace, which dealt with war. The… Continue reading

What I lived for

Joyce carol oates

Fiction by Joyce Carol Oates photo: Larry D. Moore This is a long book, 600 pages of smallish type. Too long, I would say. There are perhaps too many asides, too much remembering, that deter me from a second reading. But make no mistake, this book is great. While I was reading it I kept thinking what other books were in this style: John Dos Passos,  came to mind.   It is a tough book, a man’s book, it out Herod’s Herod: it is written from a male perspective, better than almost any other male writer. This is just staggering; I often wondered if it were not some trick, is Joyce a man, writing as a woman. No woman has ever written a novel like this before, gotten into a man’s skin. Never. Not too many men can.   For me, this book had a number of similarities with John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest . The way it covers so much of American life, society, business, sex, life in general. But Updike’s excellent book is superior, more direct, better fitted together, sweeter, covering more ground. But What I Lived For is up there with the best of the novels. It… Continue reading

Women who fly, men who anchor

torah-bright

Watching the women athletes at Sochi, I was amazed at the physical and mental courage of the competitors, male and female. And then it occurred to me: what must the Taliban be thinking in Afghanistan, what must they think in Saudi Arabia, seeing women do death defying ski jumps? When I see the aerial skiing jumps, the bobsleigh rides, the ice hockey, the figure skating, I understand women can do almost anything physically that a man can do, and sometimes better. The thought that women should be locked away because of some ancient tribal law, or interpretation of a religious edict, is offensive. And yet, in Saudi women are not allowed to drive cars — for their own protection, of course! They are faced with all kinds of restrictions, such as not being allowed out of the house without a male relative to supervise them. Traveling on public transport is banned, but not enforced. In Afghanistan, the Taliban say girls must not go to school. Reading is okay for boys, but evil for girls. I don’t understand where these beliefs came from, but they sound suspiciously familiar: the same laws that were applied to slaves in America, Jews under the… Continue reading

Best American books, part 2

PART 1     PART 3 LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN James Agee and photographer Walker Evans The book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men grew out of an assignment the two men accepted in 1936 to produce a magazine article on the conditions among white sharecropper families in the U.S. South during the “Dust Bowl”. It was the time of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs designed to help the poorest segments of the society. Agee and Evans spent eight weeks that summer researching their assignment, mainly among three white share-cropping families mired in desperate poverty. They returned with Evans’ portfolio of stark images—of families with gaunt faces, adults and children huddled in bare shacks before dusty yards in the Depression-era nowhere of the deep south—and Agee’s detailed notes. As he remarks in the book’s preface, the original assignment was to produce a “photographic and verbal record of the daily living and environment of an average white family of tenant farmers”. However, as the Literary Encyclopedia points out, “Agee ultimately conceived of the project as a work of several volumes to be entitled Three Tenant Families, though only the first volume, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, was… Continue reading