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Thursday, September 13, 2007

SOS in Iraq

G. W. Bush invaded Iraq with the goal of bringing democracy to its unfortunate citizens. The effort has been an abysmal failure as the breakdown in the oil field now demonstrates. It appears as if there are some countries where, for a variety of reasons , some chronic and others temporary, the only suitable form of government is either a very loose form of Federalism with "separate but equal" regional governments or a rigid dictatorship where order is maintained through brute force and dissidents are dealt with harshly. The area that was previously known as Yugoslavia is an example - another is Iraq. Obviously, the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds are not going to "get along together" any time in the near future - too much blood has been shed on all sides. Like Spain in the 1930's, two opposing foreign coalitions, are using the country as a venue for their ideological conflicts.
We never should have gotten involved in Iraq in the first place and the prospect of ten more years of occupation is obscene. We no longer have any chance of "saving face" in Iraq but let's at least not lose any more American young people there.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"Divisadero" Best to Date from Michael Ondaatje

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri was awarded the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, as well as the PEN/Hemingway Award for her mesmerizing debut collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies. Her poignant and powerful debut novel, The Namesake was adapted by screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala, and released in theaters in 2007.

My life always stops for a new book by Michael Ondaatje. I began Divisadero as soon as it came into my possession and over the course of a few evenings was captivated by Ondaatje's finest novel to date. The story is simple, almost mythical, stemming from a family on a California farm that is ruptured just as it is about to begin. Two daughters, Anna and Claire, are raised not just as siblings but with the intense bond of twins, interchangeable, inseparable. Coop, a boy from a neighboring farm, is folded into the girls' lives as a hired hand and quasi-brother. Anna, Claire, and Coop form a triangle that is intimate and interdependent, a triangle that brutally explodes less than thirty pages into the book. We are left with a handful of glass, both narratively and thematically. But Divisadero is a deeply ordered, full-bodied work, and the fragmented characters, severed from their shared past, persevere in relation to one another, illuminating both what it means to belong to a family and what it means to be alone in the world. The notion of twins, of one becoming two, pervades the novel, and so the farm in California is mirrored by a farm in France, the setting for another plot line in the second half of the book and giving us, in a sense, two novels in one. But the stories are not only connected but calibrated by Ondaatje to reveal a haunting pattern of parallels, echoes, and reflections across time and place. Like Nabokov, another master of twinning, Ondaatje's method is deliberate but discreet, and it was only in rereading this beautiful book--which I wanted to do as soon as I finished it--that the intricate play of doubles was revealed. Every sign of the author's genius is here: the searing imagery, the incandescent writing, the calm probing of life's most turbulent and devastating experiences. No one writes as affectingly about passion, about time and memory, about violence--subjects that have shaped Ondaatje's previous novels. But there is a greater muscularity to Divisadero, an intensity born from its restraint. Episodes are boiled down to their essential elements, distilled but dramatic, resulting in a mosaic of profound dignity, with an elegiac quietude that only the greatest of writers can achieve. --Jhumpa Lahiri

The Power of Oprah

It's the big test and Oprah's laying it on the line. She's going to see how much power she's got. She's endorsing Barack Obama and if he gets the nomination she's our 21st century kingmaker and Barack has some heavy debts. If he doesn't make it. She hasn't lost much except a little face and "the system" wins.
So the question is "Can you beat the System or not?"