. . .mostly news and commentary, mostly online, although the other night I did finish the latest Grisham legal thriller in real book form, with a hard cover and paper pages. It reminded me of a true story of my own and of the book, Bonfire of the Vanities — all about the power of conflicting stories full of both truthful fiction and factual fakes, stories that compete to confound us into real rage and real riots in our streets, but to no real (much less happy) end either as individual persons or as The People.
I am both aflame and unable to stop shivering.
“For all its apparent realism, Mr. Wolfe’s novel is not realistic. A 650-page narrative in which it is almost impossible to find a character who experiences a generous impulse or acts out of a generous motive may be said, in fact, to defy realism.”
As our new century’s political storms rage on and the light is dying, we can rage, rage back against it, and against each other. We certainly have the right to live our mutual lives as satire in the streets.
But if this reviewer was right, Tolstoy offers us the more enlightened lesson of problem-solving in a storm . . .
So what I’m reading is always a story with power but which story are we in, these days? And which story has the power? The more I read, the harder it is to know. Seems that as our stories and their power implode, power of story increasingly is all about power of story itself:
In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is actually doing. In a pseudo-democracy, a bunch of fairy tales from high places will do the trick.
And here’s a perversely self-referential example, in which a book review takes a book about books to task for being a book in the first place (I think?)
. . .All of which is true enough, but that’s precisely the problem.
. . .There are too many books . . .
Richard Dreyfuss might disagree, unless the books at issue are the cynically corporate school textbooks he despises for confusing and confounding the “ideas of America” that bind us together in one civic identity. He advocates public education built on “exercises of the intellect” like reason, clarity of thought, logic, civility, etc. As a curious post-partisan I’ve read and written about his initiative before, and he’s on cable news right now too. (Oh, he just cited my favorite confounding education author, Howard Gardner!)
Dreyfuss is saying we’ll get chaos and eventually blood, or else we’ll get his power of story and read an inspirational book called America the Beautiful by Sri Chinmoy. Or more accurately, listen to it as downloadable audio released yesterday.
I had my own critic for my own true story, years after I told it at Culture Kitchen. A stranger commenting as “Judge Mental” indicted me as partly culpable in my own street riot (this was both true and false, both right and wrong, both fact and fiction) and observed that my “story was missing some pieces.” Aren’t they all!
So I’ll keep reading, but damned if I know anymore how to read power of story or what to write about it.
And no basement makes a good environment for books, too damp and dark, much less for booklovers . . . surviving a hurricane with windows boarded up and no power so not even enough light to read, actually is a LOT like hunkering down in the basement for the storm’s duration, just waiting for it to pass.
Better to see and know the storm is coming, prepare well, help your neighbors, or move to safety if you decide that’s best for your family, etc. Just running to the basement (even if we had one) isn’t much of a storm survival plan . . .