Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lacunae in the body politic

Barbara Kingsolver's novel  'The Lacuna' is a story, even metaphor, for our times.  It brings vividly to attention a complex web of injustices, wrong turns taken, pettinesses and the creation of institutions in our governance that drives out compassion, the legitmacy of others. These are the lacunae of our times. Given this interpretation it seems to me that Maureen Corrigan's review misses the point.

The basic storyline can be gleaned from this excellent review.  I concur with Schillinger's observation that:

'“The Lacuna” can be enjoyed sheerly for the music of its passages on nature, archaeology, food and friendship; or for its portraits of real and invented people; or for its harmonious choir of voices. But the fuller value of Kingsolver’s novel lies in its call to conscience and connection.'

There are some wonderful lines:

p.207 " "But newspapers have a duty to truth," Van said.  Lev clicked his tongue. "They tell the truth only as the exception.  Zola wrote that the mendacity of the press could be divided into two groups: the yellow press lies every day without hesitating. But others, like the Times, speak the truth on all inconsequential occasions, so they can deceive the public with the requisite authority when it becomes necessary". 

p.321 ""But people desire fair governmant. You say that constantly."   "They want to believe in heroes, also. And villains. Especially when very frightened.  It's less taxing than the truth.""

p.429 "Politics here now resemble a pillow fight. Lacking the unifying slogan (Win the War), our opposing parties sling absurd pronouncements back and forth, which everyone pretends carry real weight. How the feathers fly.  The newsmen leap on anything, though its all on the order of "Four out of five shoppers know this is the better dill pickle", assertions that can't be proven but sway opinion. "Dance for the crowd" is the new order, with newsmen leading the politicians like bears on the leash. Real convictions would be a hindrance.  The radio is at the root of the evil, their rule is: No silence, ever.  When anything happens, the commentator has to speak without a moment's pause for gathering wisdom.  Falsehood and inanity are preferable to silence.  You can't imagine the effect of this.  The talkers rising above the thinkers."

p.633 "Universal declaration of rights of the howlers:

Article 1: All human beings are endowed with the god-given right to make firewood from the fallen tree.
Article 2: Any tree will do. If it is tall, it should be cut down.  The quality of the wood is no matter, the tree asked for it by growing tall.  A decent public will cheer to see it toppled.
Article 3: Rules of normal kindness do not extend to the celebrated person.
Article 4: All persons may hope to become celebrated.
Article 5: It is more important to speak than to think.
Article 6. A howler must choose one course or the other: lie routinely, or do so only on important occasions, to be more convincing (The Trotsky tenet)."

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