...are down again. My apologies. Don’t blame me, blame TypePad. Hoping to get it fixed soon.
At NPR, Rachel Martin interviews the great Ben Kingsley about portraying Adolf Eichmann in the new film Operation Finale.
Martin: You are remarkably able to...humanize him feels so trite and it's not the right word, but portray him in a multi-dimensional way. He is so very ordinary at this point in his life. He's living outside Buenos Aires with his wife, he takes the bus to work every day. How did you strike that balance between the man who was and the man who is, when we meet him?
Kingsley: Well, Rachel, you used the word humanize, and it's interesting that in fact I did not humanize him. The tragedy is that these men and women were part of a national movement that mobilized their military, their ideology, their culture, their language, their engineering, to annihilate as many of Europe's Jews as they could. But these people — however difficult it might be for us to swallow — were human beings, and to play them as a two-dimensional comic strip villain or a run-of-the-mill-"baddie" would be to do a terrible disservice to history and the memory of those that they murdered. For the years of extermination between 1933 and 1945, it was men and women who did this. It was not my duty to humanize anything because tragically, it's already human.
The greatest, most tragic error we could now make is to dismiss Nazis as two-dimensional villains, or to consign the Holocaust to an increasingly distant corner of history. Because the Nazis were human, just as human as we are today — quick to blame others for our own shortcomings, especially those who lack the power to defend themselves against the majority. Until we take full responsibility for our own lives, and fully respect the lives of others, the Holocaust will probably happen again. In fact, on a lesser scale it already has - in Bosnia, Rwanda, Myanmar and too many other places.
”...she felt the world tremble...”
In "The Wanderers", the final story in Eudora Welty's The Golden Apples, the elderly Miss Katie Rainey is in her dying days.
Bleaching down by the roadside was a chair, an old chair she sold things from once, under the borrowed shade of the chinaberry across the road; but she didn't seem to want to sit down any more, or to be quite that near the trafficking. Clear up where she was, she felt the world tremble; day and night the loggers went by, to and from Morgan's Woods. That wore her out too. While she lived, she was going to wait - and she did wait, standing up - until Virgie her daughter, past forty now and too dressed up, came home to milk Bossy and Juliette the way she should. Virgie worked for the very people that were out depleting the woods, Mr. Nesbitt's company.
Plenty of interesting touches here: the woods, no longer an affordable luxury to the gentry of town, are being logged for timber; Katie, despite being a widow and mother of two, is always referred to as Miss Katie, not Mrs. Rainey; her daughter Virgie, immediately after coming home every night from her office job, has to milk (“too dressed up” and, as is mentioned later, still in her high heels) the two cows that remain from the herd that was once the Raineys' livelihood. Virgie, already "past forty" herself, is being courted by an even older man, yet can't make any commitment to him while Miss Katie is still alive, with Virgie's familial obligation to her mother still overriding any other considerations. Social propriety and tradition is still important to the people of Morgana, even as the world trembles and changes around them.
My Summer of Welty is winding down. After The Golden Apples, I'll read the handful of stories in Thirteen Stories that weren't in the earlier collections that I've read this summer. Her story collections aren't fully discrete, separate entities: there's a fair amount of overlap, with some stories appearing in more than one book.
“Some weeks a writer’s brainwork yields about as much profit as a one-row strawberry patch in robin country.” - Pearl Swiggum
I’m very happy to see the recent return of Calumet 412 (“A pictorial love letter to the city and people of Chicago”) after its year-plus hiatus. This wonderful 1967 image of Marina City (by Yale Joel) is quite timely - Julie and I are buying a lakefront condo in Chicago as a weekend getaway, so soon we’ll become occasional high-rise people, too. Though maybe not as stylish as these folks.
“Comedy is the highest order of art, because it has to encompass tragedy or it’s not funny. You’re uplifted, but not in a saccharine way. You see all these truths of life, big and small, in their routines. In allowing us that, clowning is like the greatest sacrifice.” - Geoff Sobelle
“A boy becomes a man when he discovers there are ways to make a mark in life other than burning his tire tread into the highway.” - Pearl Swiggum
At HILOBROW, John Hilgart reflects on how the music of the obscure 1990s band Acetone got him through a difficult period in his life. The band’s history took a tragic turn (which I was unaware of until just now), making his narrative even more compelling. I know a few Acetone songs from old CMJ sampler discs, and they’re quite good. Years ago I even went on a record store quest for one of their earlier albums. But I didn’t find it that day, and the band faded from my consciousness.
The big day is here. My new story collection, Where The Marshland Came To Flower, has hatched and is now taking its first tentative steps into the big outside world. It's available in paperback for $6 (a steal) on Amazon, and in e-book for free (REALLY a steal) on Smashwords. If you'd like to have a signed paperback but don't expect to see me in person anytime soon, just hold off on buying it and I'll arrange to get you a signed copy soon. The book was eleven years (off and on) in the making, and I'm very glad to finally see it in print. A few of the stories are among the best stuff I've written so far, I think.
“You may burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas those books contain have passed through millions of channels and will go on.” - Helen Keller