Foto by tgw, "Moon Over Manhattan," New York City 2011
Say Goodbye to: Christa Wolf...a wolf person...a writer I have never read but investigated after a friend told me about her being one of her favorite writers and that she had just died in Berlin December 1st. In checking Christa's Wikipedia bio, I find her interesting enough to now read--she was from a German family living in Poland when after WWII her family was forced to move back to Germany, back into the Democratic Republic of Germany--East Germany, where she became a good Socialist though critical of the DRG leadership. It sounds like a fascinating life--and her book that sounds interesting to me is what's referred to simply as Christa "I". After German reunification, she continued as a Socialist until the 1990s, and she was highly criticized by (West) German critics for some of the roles she played while an East German. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christa_Wolf
Losing Myself in My Books
Those who write books also read books. God, I hope so. Can you imagine a writer who's never read a book? The one "writer" who comes directly to mind is George W. Bush, our two-term faux never-honestly-elected president. This same faux president who followed the script of the Neo-Con Manifesto to a mindless tee, the mandate that not only called for a downgrading of the US dollar and a drive-to-the-bottom of the U.S. economy but also for a series of invasions and occupations that has led us into this "endless" War on Terror. George W. Bush wrote a book but I'll bet you a pile of organic horse manure he never even read his own book [Mr. Ed.: The Wolf Man forgot about Georgie Porgie reading My Pet Goat].
I am keeping an eye out on politics though I hate politics now and am doing my damnedest to ignore it (or them), though such ignorance could spell my future demise due to the latest anti-American action from Congress, a 600-billion-dollar Department of Defense spending bill that includes a tacked-on addendum that gives our president and future presidents the power to decide whether even U.S.A. citizens can be deemed enemy combatant terrorists--those especially who support al-Queda, a group I thought had been pretty much assassinated and drone-flight murdered out of existence, though our Congress is still quivering in its boots over this little bunch of spoiled-brat Islamic fanatics who if they ever did exist as a terrorist organization they did so under the constant eye of our CIA (G.W.H. "Pappy"Bush was once head of the CIA) and the Israeli Mossad and certainly whose organization and power and whereabouts were known among the Bush Family Circle since Osama's step-brother Prince Bandar bin Ladin (you don't hear much about Bandar anymore) was so close to this family circle they dubbed him Prince Bandar Bush. This new executive-order privilege given our presidents means that the CIA or the FBI or now the U.S. Army (for the first time in US history a "national" unit of the US Army is assigned combat duty in the USA) can go to the president and get a secret back-room meeting with him where they can give him a list of "untrustworthy" U.S. citizens who these spying institutions believe are heading internal "terrorist" organizations or believe they are aiding and abetting other-world terrorist organizations--especially the evilest of them all, our own made-up (by the CIA) al-Queda. Our president can then personally decide which of these so-called U.S.-citizen terrorists are enemy combatants (loyal to al-Queda (the overall catch-all terrorist group)) and by executive order can then order these U.S. citizens busted, shackled, taken into custody, and shipped immediately to Guantanamo prison (didn't Obama say he was going to close Guantanamo?) where they'll be held without charges, without documented evidence, without any hope at a trial, to certainly be waterboarded a couple'a hundred times, and then locked away for good, the key thrown away and the USA saved from an eventual terrorist attack (didn't Obama say upon closing Guantanamo all those poor bastards would get U.S. civilian trials in this country?). Tonto was right, "Paleface speak with forked tongue."
I mean the more I write about politics, the more ridiculous and vehement I get--these overrich White male and Michelle "I Went to Oral Roberts Holy Law School" Bachmann scumbags whose agendas are out to ruin our lives and, by golly, they're doing a damn good job of it, while they live and play the billionaire way, traveling at their leisure around the world, attending all kinds of secret conferences and meetings and forming foundations, like Slick Willie Clinton, that worthless piece of crap (I stole that defining phrase from Grandpa Al Lewis), now the wealthiest ever ex-President, said to now be worth over 200 million dollars. Slick Willie who along with G.W.H. "Pappy" Bush (Bill once announced that Pappy was his new best friend) got their greedy little backwards-thinking hands on several billions of dollars to aid the tsunami victims (remember that tsunami that wiped 200,000 human beings off the face of the planet?), aid that never really got to those people--aid that ended up in both of these ex-President's foundations or libraries or World Affairs Councils. And then Slick Willie teamed up under Obama's orders with G.W. "Spoiled Brat" Bush as U.S. overseers at rebuilding Haiti, this little pair of crooks given billions in aid money for Haiti, aid money that so far hasn't reached the Haitians, 300,000 of whom were wiped off the planet by that earthquake we no longer read or hear a damn thing about and another 100,000 or so killed by a cholera epidemic brought about by foreign soldiers (UN troops) patrolling their streets and byways and raping their young girls, etc. Hey, so these ex-President assholes rake off the tops of these "rescue" funds a few million bucks, justifying it as personal expenses, you know, for air travel, for office expenses, for assistants and cohorts and secretaries and mail-room boys. What a racket!
I look about my cluttered apartment. I'm looking at a large pile of books stacked under the table on which I keep my LAN-line phone (oh how the big communications companies want to dump LAN lines in favor of wireless and cell phones). I am suddenly (I know, I'm breaking one of Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing) thinking of W. Somerset Maugham. Just like that I'm recalling a book of his. What the hell one was it? I'm querying myself--The Writer's Notebook? No. And I am mentally drawn to this stack of books, which I start sorting through, blowing the surface dust and grime off them--and there SUDDENLY near the bottom of that stack is the book I was imagining was in that stack, Maugham's The Summing Up. (You see, subconsciously I knew I had that book and I knew it had in it what I was needing to read at this moment in my ever-changing life.)
I pulled the book out of the stack and cleaned it off as best I could. It's a 1956 seventh printing of the Mentor Book paperback edition. It was falling apart. Completely unbound but still intact though wobbly and delicately so. I got out my U.S. Postal Service-approved mailing tape and taped the book back together as best I could and immediately (SUDDENLY), even as I was finishing taping it together, began reading it. Aha! I cried after only one paragraph! This is exactly the book I was imagining--a book in which I can avoid politics... BUT NO! Suddenly in those early pages I read:
"The English are a political nation and I was often asked to houses where politics were the ruling interests. I could not discover in the eminent statesmen I met there any marked capacity. I concluded, perhaps rashly, that no great degree of intelligence was needed to rule a nation. Since then I have known in various countries a good many politicians who have gained high office. I have continued to be puzzled by what seemed to me the mediocrity of their minds. I have found them ill-informed upon the ordinary affairs of life and I have not often discovered in them either subtlety of intellect or liveliness of imagination. At one time I was inclined to think that they owed their illustrious position only to their gift of speech, for it must be next door to impossible to rise to power in a democratic community unless you can catch the ears of the public; and the gift of speech, as we know, is not often accompanied by the power of thought" [pp. 6-7, The Summing Up, Mentor Books, 7th printing, 1956].
The pen (or in my case, the computer keyboard) is mightier than the sword. Maugham was quite a writer. He's quite a story in himself. His father was a lawyer assigned to the British Embassy in Paris, where Somerset was born and raised and went to school and learned to read and write and do math and stuff in French and yet English was his natural language, the one he learned not in school but just in everyday communications among his English-speaking parents, their friends, and his siblings. Both his parents died when Somerset was very young, his mother dying in childbirth when he was ten and his father dying when he was 14.
Maugham was a natural-born writer. He was compelled to write even though he knew nothing about Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing or Robert Graves's Reader Over My Shoulder. He set about teaching himself how to write.
"When I began to write I did so as though it were the most natural thing in the world. I took to it as a duck takes to water. I have never quite got over my astonishment at being a writer: there seems no reason for my having become one except an irresistible inclination, and I do not see why such an inclination should have arisen in me" [p. 12, ibid].
I, too, began to write as though it were the most natural thing in the world. I, too, took to it as a duck takes to water [breaking another of Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing]. I, however, was luckier than Maugham in that I did have a grandmother who not only was a librarian but a published writer, too, one novel and two books of poetry. Though I came to writing on my own--my first inclination was to be a musician--I did have the inclination for writing passed on to me by my grandmother who I grew up with as she spent her final years with my family, and as such, I heard her typing every morning on her latest attempts at poetry or novels.
Maugham's best book in my opinion? The Razor's Edge.
In the avoidance of politics and politicians...though how can you? I mean the idiocy of Herman "The House Boy Stud" Cain; the inane babblings of a dipstick like Newtie Gingrich; the inane babblings of Michelle "the Fucked Virgin" Bachmann; the lying-dog spoutings of derivatives-trading billionaire Mitt "The Mormon" Romney--I mean, what a Ship of Fools--though, listen to this bit of cynicism, that Ship may be sailing right into that Potomac yacht club's docks in November of next year. Remember, We the People of the USA haven't been too bright when it comes to picking which of the rich White men we elect as our presidents. From Truman through Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Gerald "Who Can't Chew Gum and Walk at the Same Time" Ford (unelected President), Jimmy "Peanut Farmer-Rocket Scientist" Carter, Ronald "Star Wars" Reagan, G.W.H. "Pappy" Bush, Slick Willie "I Did Not Have Sex With That Woman" Clinton, G.W. "Duh" Bush, and now Barack Obama (he turned out to favor his White side more than his Black--and don't forget, he's half White).
Even with another chance to step up and take control of the world and switch it off the path to Chaos and put it on a track toward world unity, Obama will still wilt when he gets around tough White rich assholes, like the men he hires to be his consultants--like the CEO of General Electric--and that wasteful truly uncreative and stupid Supercommittee. As Somerset Maugham so distinctly put it: "Since then I have known in various countries a good many politicians who have gained high office. I have continued to be puzzled by what seemed to me the mediocrity of their minds. I have found them ill-informed upon the ordinary affairs of life and I have not often discovered in them either subtlety of intellect or liveliness of imagination."
Nothing changes...history repeats itself...Americans keep proving over and over how god-damn dumbass and stupid and riddled by fables and fairy tales we truly are.
for The Sunday Edition of The Daily Growler