By LIONEL ROLFE
As bombs were blowing up in Boston, I was sitting in my doctor’s office in Los Angeles’ Chinatown and he was telling me that he had no medicines to deal with my painful swollen legs, knees and feet.
Now I know that human misery is a constant, but when you’re experiencing it personally, so is the world. Bombers in Boston, sinkholes, tsunamis, wars, nuclear accidents, meteors hurling toward cities, earthquakes, mad cops running amok, ships crashing into shore as they navigate into port, all somehow equate with my increasingly wobbly legs.
Now I’ll grant there is no apparent connection between a major American city being under siege by a couple of mad bombers and the pain in my body. But it feels as if the world and the lives of all of us in it, are going bonkers in droves. The news is becoming madder by the day. Nothing is left to shock. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
The two tall handsome gray-haired gentlemen stood staring each other down across the bookstore counter as if they were about to break out in a classic Burr and Hamilton duel.
Former Texas Governor John B. Connally and local Houston bookseller, Ted Brown, were trading sardonic barbs in their ongoing colossal battle of giant egos. They were both elegantly attired in expensive pin-striped suits and each represented that era of the male-dominated, testosterone-driven business world of the 1970s. Governor Connally was a regular customer at Brown’s Bookshop, the best-known bookstore in Houston at that time, and seemed to truly relish his encounters with the feisty Brown. Read more
Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers (Time-eaten towers that tremble not) Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot, Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.”
(Edgar Allan Poe, “The City in the Sea,” 1845 but an earlier version was published as “The Doomed City” in 1831)
By Phyl Van Ammers
Scary literature is not new. Even the Old Testament is pretty creepy. The Book of Job could be the first noir story except that it ends too well, and Job was probably the oldest-written book of the Bible — written about events that took place before the flood, around 1270 BC. Read more
By Lynn Bronstein
In the 1930s, America was trying to pull its way out of a depression that had devastated the lives of millions. From the slums of eastern cities to the Dust Bowl, people looked to the West, to California, and especially to that place, originally a highly religious little village near Los Angeles, that had become synonymous with the American concept of glamour and magic: Hollywood.
Not all of the people who relocated to this special land found the gold at the end of the rainbow. Those who did not make money right away, and those who never would make money or be discovered for their talent and beauty, would live out their lives in tiny bungalows or seedy apartment houses, working as extras, waiting on tables, selling dubious products door to door or surviving through shadowy activities. These were the people whose lives interested 1930s writer Nathanael West and it was these souls, “the cheated,” who were the subject of his bittersweet 1939 short novel The Day of the Locust. Read more
The Dictator’ Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy. William J. Dobson. New York: Doubleday, 2012. 341 pp.
Former Foreign Affairs editor William J. Dobson has been making the rounds of dictatorial states for the last half decade, interviewing the autocrats’ top functionaries as well as leaders of their democratic opposition. From Putin’s Russia to Mubarak’s Egypt, Mahathir Mohamad’s Malaysia, Chavez’s Venezuela, and, of course, the very model of the modern authoritarian state, China. He concludes that dictators have smartened up since the heavy handed days of yore, when they had to give themselves 99 percent in every election and sealed their borders, preventing people from leaving and trying to prevent information about the outside world from getting in.
The totalitarian regimes of the far right – National Socialism and fascism – were destroyed in World War II. Those of the left – the Soviet Union and its East European client states, Maoist China – collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, or in the case of China, underwent major reforms. This has left North Korea as the sole indisputable exemplar of the totalitarian model. Cuba stands somewhere between there and the states labeled authoritarian. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
From my perch on the mezzanine level of festively decorated Santa Monica Place, I had a birds-eye view of the scene playing out below me as a forlorn-looking Santa Claus sat by himself watching scores of admiring children mob the famous children’s author at the opposite end of the mall.
With only two weeks left before Christmas, one would have assumed that Santa would have little problem commanding attention amidst the spirit of holiday revelry. However, poor Santa had met his match the day he competed with heralded children’s author, Bill Peet.
After having accompanied the former Disney artist and storybook mastermind in his many Southern California appearances, his winning the face-off with Kris Kringle was no great surprise to me. Mr. Peet’s unique storytelling skills and compelling artwork had connected powerfully with children for several generations—both on the big silver screen, as well as in his many picture books. Read more
We open this month’s Boryanabooks selection with two views of the seemingly endless clash between Israel, its Arab neighbors, and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. From Mohammad Arafat, a writer and resident of Gaza, we have an anguished account of his experiences during the Israeli invasion of 2009, of homes bulldozed and a neighbor’s daughter killed by an Israeli air strike. Leslie Evans offers a longer piece, criticizing much of the Western Left for placing all of the blame in this bitter ethnic conflict on the Israeli Jews. He traces Left animosity to Jewish national identity to the beginnings of the socialist movement in Europe and calls for support to the two-state solution to resolve the impasse.
Israel began to build its country in the Palestinian lands and began to control the Palestinian people at the beginning of 1948. It forced them to escape from their homes to other countries or cities. Many of those immigrants went to the neighboring countries like Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and the others went to Gaza and the West Bank. This occupation made many massacres in those lands, like Deir Yassin, where everyone was killed. The Israelis took about 70 percent of Palestine.
In 1994 the Israeli armies put Gaza and the West Bank under Palestinian authority. In spite of that, the occupation did not stop massacres inside Gaza and the West Bank. There were numerous invasions during the 2000 Intifada, but the most dangerous and terrible time was the 2008/2009 war on Gaza and its people. Read more
From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel. Robert S. Wistrich. University of Nebraska Press, 2012. 625 pp.
Mr Deasy to Stephen Dedalus: “Ireland, they say, has the honour of
being the only country which never persecuted the Jews.
Do you know that? No. And do you know why?”
“Why, sir?” Stephen asked, beginning to smile.
“Because she never let them in,” Mr Deasy said solemnly.
A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat
dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm.
-James Joyce, Ulysses
I first had to think much of anything about Israel, the Arab states on its borders, and the subset of Arabs who were beginning to be called Palestinians in June 1967 during the Six Day War. I was living in New York at the time, a member and staff writer for the Socialist Workers Party, the largest of the American Trotskyist groups, revolutionary Marxists who revered Lenin as well as Leon Trotsky. On June 5 war erupted between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, three of the four countries on its borders, all vastly larger. Fighting on three fronts, the Israeli Jews in a few days defeated the massive Arab armies thrown against them.
The SWP leadership declared the party firmly on the Arab side, not shrinking from unreservedly endorsing the declared Arab war aims of destroying the Jewish state altogether. There were twenty-two Arab states and a single Jewish one. Forty-six years later the population of the Arab states stands at 350 million; Israel’s is 8 million, of whom only 6 million are Jews. Read more