The Not-So-Great Re-Read Of Someone’s History Re-Told Or How Greed Has Made Your $hitshow

a peoples history - howard zinn

A pseudo-review of this book is here. I recently felt compelled to re-read it. Reason? Something has stuck in my head for the last few years based on something I read about this book a few years back. I can’t remember who wrote it–or maybe it was something I even heard someone say–but it went something like this: A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a book of propaganda.

Whaaaaa? Propaganda?–I thought and thought and thought.

How can such a book be propaganda? All this book does is tell a certain side of a story in a certain way–regarding the history of the United States. It is a point-of-view of the history of the United States. Or? After re-reading it recently, though, especially in the aftermath of the #Trump election that is an abomination, and what’s going on in Charlottesville, VA, I finally realised what someone could mean when making the claim that Zinn’s book is propaganda. And in that vein, allow me to worst-elaborate as only worst-writer can.

My favourite parts of this book are the chapters that cover the history of the US from the Civil War to the end of WW2. I’ve always thought that this time period has determined what #americant is today. In essence, between 1865 to 1945 the United States finally cut the umbilical cord to Europe and set out on its own–as a small rodent prodigy. Luckily, that rodent prodigy, via the genetic and historical proximity of its birth, was endowed with two things that would determine THE future of the western world.

  1. It was born with a really big cock and
  2. It was born with a really little brain.

Coincidentally, such a combination, in order to grow, needed two more things.

  1. Lots of fcuking (see/hear “American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz!) and
  2. something to busy its little mind.

I know. I know, dear worst-reader. Fcuking and thinking haven’t proven to be a good combination–considering the human condition. Which also means, according to worst-writer, my beloved #americant achieved its greatness within a grand divide–a juicy oyster-like crevice, if you will–that is between two human acts that are mutually exclusive, especially when compared to other species on this earth.

Big dicks and little brains. Let the magic begin, eh ladies!

The other grand thing that happened between 1865 and 1945–according to what I got out of Howard Zinn’s book–was that the little brain of America was being programmed to think in one very particular small-brain way–which may or may not coincide with the size of genitalia. The ideology of GREED was being permanently embedded in the American psyche after the Civil War. And not just embedded. It was made part of the whole–the whole idear of America–which, IMHO, was/is the only way to get around avoiding facing the reality that is our original sin (slavery). Howard Zinn doesn’t go anywhere near the reality of GREED in his historical re-counting. He simply narrates a somewhat left of centre point-of-view regarding racism, capitalism and a love for all-things greed. And that’s where the crux of Zinn’s book runs awry. Or. Put another way. I’ve finally figure how some people can consider Howard Zinn a propagandist.

One of the motivating factors for writing this post is wanting to expand one of my recent tweets. This tweet was motivated after reading about what’s been going on in Charlottesville, VA. A place I know well, btw. In fact, I lived in various parts of VA in my youth. It is a place I was glad to leave. It is a place I never care to return to. But enough about worst-moi.  Below is the tweet I wish to worst-expand on:

Allow me the following question: what does the racism and stupidity of white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, have to do with Howard Zinn being a propagandist? The answer, I fear, is easy. It’s all just a matter of perspective, of point-of-view, of racists being tired of being discriminated against. I mean, shouldn’t everyone have their say? Shouldn’t even stupid white people and their stupid politics and their well-earned poverty (yes, they’ve earned their poverty!) have a say? That about sums up how #americant can get to where it’s at… after the fcuking Civil War. Whose turn is it to have their say? For right wingers, Howard Zinn had his say (in his book). Since he had his say, others, not unlike the white supremacists of Charlottesville, VA, deserve to have their say, too. Ain’t that how it works, dear worst-reader? One side of the political spectrum wins. Then the other side wins. In-between there is faux newz, Rush Limbaugh, David Duke. Indeed. Really, really stupid white people start gathering after having spent most of their lives living in the wake of their fail-upward belief in a system that has ultimately duped them to the hilt of both mind and cock. This is all way better than openly avoiding (our) original sin.

Greed + small brains = …

It’s all a matter of perspective.

If one reads through some of the book reviews that are quoted on the Wiki page about Zinn’s book, there is one common theme that runs through all of them. Those who praise Zinn are from the left. Those who do not praise him are NOT from the left. For those who think that the political left and right are two threads that may or may not run through what people say about Zinn, I reckon I can’t argue with you on that. That’s because I see the left and right as one these days. Especially considering where my beloved #americant is in its current political iteration. With that in mind, #Trump didn’t win the election. The other politician, the one who would have obviously been better, simply threw the whole thing to the $hitshow. But don’t misunderstand me here, dear worst-reader.  I’m not making false equivalencies either. But. But. But. If you want there to be two parties battling over what you want to believe in, that’s your problem. Seriously. It is your problem.

We are dealing with Everything and the All of #americant, dear worst-reader. Whether it’s love, family, community, church, government, etc., etc., greed is what makes the whole $hitshow function. Greed is what makes people stupid enough to allow white supremacists, in fcuking 2017, to protest their right to take their country back–and, of course, make it great again! Up till the end of the 20th century, America did a pretty good job of managing all this greed. I mean, there was enough (greed) to go around. When, for whatever reason the barrel of greed that is #americant ran out, like our original sin, just avoid it–no matter what the means as long as all that’s left are big dicks and little brains.

If Howard Zinn is a propagandist, I’m good with that. Reason? I’d rather read his version of history than that which is being written now by those with LITTLE dicks and little brains. Re-reading this book can never be the wrong thing to do.

Rant onwards, suckers.

-T

Welcome To The Pseudo Science Of Your World, Your Pocket Book, Your Mind

j is for junk economics cover.jpg

Freedom? Ok. Let’s define it. (Long pause. Think. Continue pause.)

Money?

Travel?

Beauty & Fashion (as per Melania Trump’s RNC speech)?

In my quest to misunderstand this worst-world we must all live in, I periodically read a book or three about economics. Most of these books usually carry a bit of narration with them and leave out all the academic bullshit. That’s the only way I can get through them. This newest endeavour, though, is a bit different. For one, it doesn’t have much narration in it. It’s also a bit overly academic. I mean, it has X-Y charts and graphs that depict whatever it is the author tried to say using words–which, I guess, makes the imagery redundant. Or? Nomatter. There is something in this book that has saved it from ending up stuffed in the back of one of my bookshelves with a sad-face post-it note on its cover. Two-thirds of this book is a dictionary. And a pretty interesting dictionary at that. The rest of it is made up of various articles and essays by the author–most of which lost me because they were, well, too academic.

So me let me try that again. What the hell is freedom?

Answer: I have no fucking clue what freedom is.

From the day I was born to this very moment, other than spitting on a street and telling a teacher once how stupid s/he was, I have no idear what freedom is. And keep in mind, I was born and raised in #americant–you know, that city-on-hill where dreams come true and liberty reigns for all–i.e. as long as you have the money to pay for it. By the time I got to “F” in this pseudo-dictionary-book about the debacle that is today’s Economics, I was hoping that the author would define the word freedom for me. But he didn’t. Instead, Michael Hudson defines “free trade”, “free market” and “free lunch”. He also defines things like earned and unearned income. Then there’s his definition of productive vs. unproductive labor. Etc, etc. Of course he also defines Junk Economics, hence the title.

Michael Hudson goes through the whole economic alphabet and defines lots of other words by telling you what you think they mean–because of how you’ve heard or read about them, on, say, faux news or CNN or whatever it is you use to get informed about how fucked up the world is. And then he tells you what these words actually mean. In other words, according to what I got out of this book, Economics, per the author, is a pseudo-science. Ka-ching, baby!

Which brings me to my own little conclusion after reading this book:

Astrology ——-> Astronomy
Alchemy ———> Chemistry
Economics ——-> ????

The subtitle of this book is “A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception”. Now, dear worst-reader, what could an #americant economics professor mean by that subtitle? Indeed. The thread that permeates this entire book is the simple fact that Americans are being fed pseudo-science when it comes to economics, just like mankind was fed Astrology as it tried to figure out why certain heads go bald, rain didn’t fall when it should or how come I work and don’t get nothing for it? I suppose some would call the words we hear about economics today Orwellian, which Hudson refers to at times. But others, present worst-writing company included, would call it: land of the free to be stupid. So I guess that’s what freedom means. Or?

One of the roots of all the problems of the world today is none other than the misuse of words. Hence, newspeak, doublespeak, Orwell, etc., should be at the top of anyone’s mind when s/he thinks finding answers is out there. Either that or it’s time to move on. Which brings me to one final question. As noted above, if the pseudo-science of Astrology lead to the science of Astronomy, where will/can the pseudo-science of Economics lead?

But I digress.

Rant on.

-T

Becoming What We Defeat

days of destruction days of revolt cover.jpg

The chapters of this book are titled Days Of…

  • Theft
  • Siege
  • Devastation
  • Slavery
  • Revolt

Each chapter of this book takes place in a particular city or town of my beloved #americant. Each chapter goes deeper than the previous into the negative of what makes a once great country no longer great again. And each chapter features characters that were interviewed by Chris Hedges.  But before I get into the good, first this. The only problem I have with this book is 1) other than the chapter Days of Revolt, it doesn’t really inform (me) about what is going on back home that I didn’t already know and 2) the comics–or as others might put–the graphic novel sections of this book–felt to me to be more in the way than on the way. I guess I’m not a fan of comics–sorry, graphic novels. But I am interested in reading and/or owning the graphic novel Watchmen–and I already own Maus. But I digress.

I read Hedge’s American Fascist and Empire of Illusion a few years ago. Since then I’ve been reading his articles on truthdig.com. Unfortunately, not much from his books have stuck with me. That’s not because of Hedges, though. In fact, I’m a big fan of his speeches that are numerous on youtube. It’s just that, well, I guess I’ve started to lose my intellect. Either that or I just don’t give a sh*t anymore (about certain things). I suppose, in a way, I can easily blame such a loss on the frequency that I visit my beloved #americant or the amount of stuff I read about it (her)–which has been quite a bit since my step-father past and my mother isn’t getting any younger and #eurowasteland politics bores the krapp out of me. Indeed. Each visit to my beloved homeland has been scarier and scarier and scarier. My most recent visit, just last month, set new heights regarding what can come of a nation suffering from something that is no less than pathological. America really is starting to look and feel like a land of zombies. In fact, I bought Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt to accompany the trip.

I managed to read two-thirds of the book on the flight to PHL and within the first few days of my arrival. Then I got sick as a dog as the weather in Maryland was worse than in Germany. I mean, I froze my butt off the first few days I was there. And it’s not that I’m not used to cold weather. I guess I’m not used to going from far north Germania, where it was warm, to somewhat southerly Atlantic coast Maryland and freezing my a$$ off. So. Yeah. I got sick. And then I got caught up in the all work I’m supposed to do when visiting my mom. It’s just that my sickness didn’t want to go away. Of my two week visit, I was out of it for almost ten days with the worst head-cold and flu that I’ve had in years. I ended up finishing this book when I got back to Germany. But, again, I digress.

By-the-bye, I got lost in Camden, NJ, once, which is featured in one of the chapters of this book, after I switched my Atlantic flight destination from Dulles Airport to PHL (from Frankfurt). Back then there was no GPS to guide me and I made a few wrong turns leaving PHL and the next thing I know I’m in NJ. Aghast! Other than the panic that ensued being a caucasian driving a rental car through Camden, I remember vividly the landscape of #americant that was nothing new to me. It was just another broken place. In fact, a city like Camden looked as familiar as the small coal mining town my step-father grew up in that has been decimated like any other with mine and plant closings galore. To me, these places are all part of Reganomics and neoliberal greed politics that #americants have been voting for–a world that I was able to get out of so many years ago. As I follow all the goings-on back home, it’s sometimes hard to have mercy on those who are obviously too stupid to see what they are doing to themselves. I guess, in a way, I saw it all coming–first hand! Camden, NJ, is everywhere in the US. It’s everywhere there’s an abandoned strip mall, more potholes than asphalt on highways, it’s in every dive-bar where jaundice drunks occupy the rundown churches as much as the rundown Walmarts and every–EVERYONE!–is screaming about making something great again. Yes. Everywhere.

With that in mind, this book didn’t do much for me on the learning front. Except for the last chapter. Indeed. The last chapter, Days of Revolt, saved this book because I haven’t read enough about the Occupy Movement that, to me, seemed to come and go as fast as a rational thought on #americant cable TV news.  On top of that, Hedges manages to make a connection that has been lingering in the back of my mind for years. When people ask me “why Germany” I usually just tell them it’s because of the girls and the beer. But sometimes I’ll break down and give them the real reason. It was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that brought me to my expatriation–because I was right in the middle of it. And it was not just the joy of living in the end of the Cold War. It was the fact that the idear of authoritarian rule was finally gonna end. In those days I never thought in terms of America being the centre of the universe–whether it’s great or great-again. To me, the idear of how the people in Eastern Europe were able to discard the authority of The Soviets without violence was beyond mesmerising. Never in my wildest childhood Cold War dreams did I think it could happen. And even though the whole movement didn’t start in East Germany, the fall of that Wall will forever be my beacon. And then there’s the connection I started to make–not unlike Hedges makes in the final chapter of this book.

A quarter century has passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Neoliberalism is rampant and unabated in the western world not unlike an opposite ideology was rampant in Eastern Europe thirty years ago. The result of having gotten rid of the authoritarian rule of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union hasn’t quite turned out to be what it should be. Or? In my worst-opinion, the west has become the thing we defeated. Hedges manages to see this in the last chapter of this book. And so. I’ve always wondered where are the revolutionists that would call out the West for what it has become. Is that revolutionist Chris Hedges? It might just be. Or was it the movement that came and went with the Wall Street Occupiers in Liberty Square, NY, in 2011? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that there is a heavy irony when considering what #americant has done to itself and subsequently the world since the fall of the Soviet Union. Just look deeply at our response to September 11, 2001, including the subsequent largest government expansion since… And check out those bank bailouts and the amount of consumer credit run amok. And then there’s the recent election that has given the world Trump & awe….

Why has no one been able to see the connection to a not-so-distant past with all that has happened in this still somewhat young new century? Ok. At least Chris Hedges has seen it. I think I have too. So. What the heck. Let history repeat itself.

Good luck suckers.

Rant on.

-t

Who Eats Who And What Is On Third

the devils chessboard cover.png

“We Kennedys eat Rockefellers for breakfast.”

Imagine Robert Kennedy saying that. Imagine the vehemence that could fill the air once those words were published. Imagine the Kennedy and Rockefeller families with a slight twist: they are the Hatfields and the McCoys. Or just just forget all that and go back to third grade (or maybe fifth or sixth or seventh–or, at the least, never graduate above the sophomoric). In a system that has thrived on greed and allure–both being the catalyst for the economics of trickle down–it’s a wonder that more #americants haven’t slaughtered themselves as trickle down withers to zero. But then again, with what’s going on in Oregon these days, maybe there is something out there that might cause a mass wake up. Most certainly the death (slaughter) of the Kennedy family woke no one up. Yet, worst-writer can’t help but question where all this nonsense comes from. Nonsense being best defined through the behaviour of people, the behaviour of a nation. It is said that a persons true character comes through in a time of crisis. Does the same apply to a nation? But I digress. §I came across the book The Devil’s Chessboard through an interview I watched with the author here back in October. Recent travel meant I had to fill my Kindle and this book made the list. Of course, I was skeptical about buying it but something did stand out based on the above referenced interview. The interview did give off a hint of conspiracy-theory but David Talbot was able to convince me that this piece of work had something more to it. In my quest to maintain as rational a mind as possible, it’s hard at times to sift through the nonsense that is #americant without falling prey to conspiracy theory. The advent of faux newz on the one hand and the long standing mindlessness of conspiracy-theory on the other, it’s a wonder that the country hasn’t fallen prey to some blonde blue-eyed dictator. Or has it? I, for one, never thought much about the conspiracy to kill JFK but the Warren Report didn’t make much of an impression either. Yet the movie by Oliver Stone changed all that. Now don’t get me wrong. The JFK assassination isn’t the same conspiracy-theory as the moon landing. The Zapruder film saw to that. But there is something about all the unanswered questions regarding JFK that the government covered up. I mean, “cover-up” is really the only thing we know that happened. Or? Nomatter. §David Talbot does something different. He’s actually explaining a mindset in this book. He takes a new angle on trying to explain a mindset, a rationale, of how certain people within the upper echelons of government and (big) business actually think. That such a way of thinking could lead to the assassination of Kennedy is a bit far-fetched–and Talbot doesn’t make that direct link. But what he does make clear is that JFK did represent a new way of thinking in America. And that way of thinking was counter to how a few other people thought. Is that then the reason he was killed? What exactly was JFK’s way of thinking? §Enter Allen Dulles, the CIA and a bunch of old, conniving white men who are stuck in the mind of a ten year old that has Howitzers sticking out of every orifice. What to do with those Howitzers, eh? I guess–so goes their rationale–one has to put them to some kind of use otherwise they’d just be a waste. And so. The mindset of adult-children with cannons sticking out of their arses has taken over a once great nation-state. Which means all we can say now is: it was fun while it lasted. Or? Indeed. The Devil’s Chessboard is a bit of a bore to read–if you know anything about American history and American foreign policy. Yet I stayed in the book because of how the author was able to weave a single thread through it from beginning to end. That thread is the idea that a certain way of thinking is what rules the show. It’s not so much about politics, parties or individuals running things. America is run by a way of thinking. And not only is there one way of thinking but a different way of thinking will not be tolerated. This is how the system conspires, how it perpetuates. And since most Americans have fallen for the lie of trickle-down no other way of thinking can prevail. Which brings me to #americant. If anything is true/real about David Talbot’s book, it’s the fact that America still has a chance. It has a chance to break free from the singularity that rules it today. And even though Talbot doesn’t go anywhere near trying to explain that, he does masterfully explain the mindset of one of the rulers, one of the powers-that-be, a man who’s way of thinking is the reason there is so much demagoguery, right-wing batshit, faux newz, and/or militiamen fighting for “rights” they never had in the first place. Or maybe not. Rant on. -Tommi

Science Fiction Saves The Middle East

der golan marathon

Der Heimatlose: Heimatlosigkeit is das schöne Gefühl, in der Welt zu Hause zu sein.

The Displaced: being displaced is the comforting feeling of being at home with the world.

First. Dear worst-reader, I’m no book critic–even though I probably should be. I mean. I’ve read a thing or three about writers who never made it but ended up being book critics. Or do they end up being journalists, bloggers, drunks? Nomatter. I finally got around to reading my friend’s new novel The Golan Marathon. I’ve obviously got a few things to say about it and as a pseudo writer who might end up with a swollen liver, that may or may not be a good thing. Btw, I read Yassin’s first novel, which I blogged about hereBefore I get to this new book, I have to worst-write a bit about what’s been going on for the past few months where I’ve barely blogged and even found myself brain dead in the realm of micro-blogging, aka twitter–which I usually don’t put much effort into anyway (as any tweeter can tell). And so. For those interested in The Golan Marathon, scroll down. For those who wish to waddle through more worst-writing… Good luck.

Second. I’ve been traveling. Actually, let me put that another way. My better half has been traveling–and I’ve been allowed to travel with her. Which means, other than being a failed writer–or is it a wannabe writer?–I usually join my better half for travel because she needs me to carry her luggage. Which is ok. Husband luggage carrier is also a career. Or? And. Free flights to Asia and Africa ain’t such a bad perk either. Nor do I mind sitting in economy while she enjoys the view from business class. The other good thing is, traveling ain’t such a hindrance to my work on account

  1. I’ve got an ageing but fully functional laptop plus an ageing and poorly functional iPad4 (which Apple is making obsolete because of its stupid iOS updates) and
  2. I actually like typing on airplanes–even virtual typing on airplanes with an iPad.

Btw, my better-half’s luggage has a nickname. I call it the weight of kill-man-jar-oh.

(Short pause. Breath.)

Third. I had a ghostwriting deadline for mid November. I suppose it doesn’t matter that I got the assignment way back in July. Although I thought I could manage the travel and the work since then, the thing I can’t manage is the procrastination. This caused me to go into panic mode by the end of October when we started travelling. The only thing to do at that point is shut down all extra curricular activity. In other words, shut down anything requiring brain work that doesn’t charge per page. Of course, the most significant thing I had to shutdown was reading. For you see, when I read I really, really read. Sometimes it fully occupies me–even more so than the occupation of following each letter with my forefinger and moving my lips in sync with the words on the page. And if you think that’s bad, get a load of me when I’m reading German. I’m a royal mess when I read German. After all these years I still find it tortuous. And so. It breaks my heart when I have to put down a book on account I have to make a living. It’s like leaving a movie right in the middle. But so is life, eh dear worst-reader! With that in mind, I had to stop reading The Golan Marathon when I was about half way through it. Damn! I had to put it down for almost three weeks. Luckily I got back to it. Yeah, I got back to it.

Thoughts on The Golan Marathon by Yassin Nasri.

Heimatlose is German for displaced person. I had to look that up at leo.org. In a different context the word Heimatlos (without the ‘e’) means homeless-person. Confused yet? Don’t worry. It doesn’t get any worse. Unless, of course, the author decides to use words like Schwer–another confusing German word that I post about here. But that’s enough about how difficult German can be. 

The year is 2033. The Syrian conflict is over. The  pointy-eared, weasel-eyed dictator Assad is long gone. What is left is for Andy to find some roots. So he travels from Germany, where he was raised, to Syria, where his family is from. What Andy finds, though, is not what he expected. He not only gets caught up in the past of his family but he also realises that there is an alternative world out there. An alternative world that is ultimately an idea–and I will assume that it is a grand idea directly from the soul of the author. Luckily the idea is simple. It goes something like this. There is a unified, peaceful middle east by the year 2033. In this world there are guys and dolls who hang out, are cool and they all use futuristic gadgets like Google Glass and Apple’s Siri. Heck, there are even electric cars that rival Tesla. Yes, Yassin has created a world. And not just any world. A world of ideas.

At other times while I was reading this book I kept getting confused. And not just confused because I was reading it in German. I was getting confused about where this story takes place: Syria and the middle east. A place where, these days, there aren’t very many ideas. Is it possible that the middle east can someday find peace and harmony where young people from Israel and Syria can hang out at cafés and wear t-shirts with political statements? Really? Andy, Yassin Nasri’s alter-ego, makes the impossible possible. Andy dallies through Syria as though he’s sitting on a flying carpet and the world is his sweet date. In fact, I’m so convinced of the impossible after reading this book, that I can’t wait to go to Aleppo or Damascus… and just hang out. If all goes well, I might even still be alive in 2033 to do just that. I mean. Come on, dear worst-reader. A story has been written that perfectly describes peace and harmony in a place that reality dictates must be war-torn and kaputt? Yeah. Is this book a first of its kind? For me, at least, I think it is.

Once again my hat is off to Yassin. This book is a wondrous achievement in the genre of science fiction, the middle east and optimism. What a combination.

Rant on.

-Tommi

Notes From Underhuman

underground dostoyevsky

Thoughts this morn about Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground. I’ve been enjoying the taste, feel and smell of this 1972 paperback for the past few weeks. I think I acquired it while visiting London in 1995. Obviously it’s not dealing with age and dryness but neither am I. Funny thing is, I’ve already gone through three or four rubber-bands to keep it together. Looks like I won’t be reading The Double anytime soon. Oh well.

To begin, here’s the intro from the author where he, for whatever (literary) reason, feels the need to qualify his work.

“The author of these Notes, and the Notes themselves, are both, of course, imaginary. All the same, if we take into consideration the conditions that have shaped our society, people like the writer not only may, but must, exist in that society. I have tried to present to the public in a more striking from than is usual a character belonging to the very recent past, a representative figure from a generation still surviving. In the chapter entitled ‘The Underground’ this personage introduces himself and his outlook on life, and tries, as it were, to elucidate the causes that brought about, inevitably brought about, his appearance in our midst. In the second section we follow this personage’s memoirs of some of the happenings in his life.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

What’s the saying about Russian novels? If you’re happy–don’t read one. As far as this worst-reader goes, since happiness is over-rated, you’d think the likes of Dostoyevsky would be for me. But the truth is, after reading The Idiot so many years ago, I’ve spent more time staring at my old copy of The Brothers Karamazov than reading it. (Ok. I’ve read parts of it and plan on reading it whole. Someday. Maybe.) Like most of Dostoyevsky’s work, the biggest hurdle is not his subject matter or its depth but instead the winded, drivelling, unending sentences, not excluding multiple page single paragraphs. I mean, come on, you gotta be smart to read this guy–or?

When I can get through the sentences, two things happen (in my worst-mind) while doing so. First. If aliens ever come down to visit and they want to know what it is to be human, they should read Dostoyevsky (or Gogol). Second. After Dostoyevsky, and living in #eurowasteland for so long, I’ve concluded that no one knows The European better than the big D. Yeah, baby. That’s right. The only way to understand The European is to read depressing Russian novels of yesteryore. And what is The European, you ask. How ’bout this. Bureaucracy. Greed. War. Clans. Fascism. Authoritarianism. Genocide. Etc., etc. All the industry, farmers, cheese, booze, classical music, cars, art and architecture, theatre, etc., etc., pale in comparison  to the death, destruction and human waste The European has given humanity. Seriously. All of the world’s problems stem out of the inhumane death and greed culture that is The European. And before you attack me regarding America–heed this. America is not just bluejeans and Hollywood, war and money, different kinds of cheese, art and fascism, and let’s not forget, the new world and the land of the free (to be stupid). That’s just a front, a story, a narrative. America is The European thru and thru. In fact, it is The European version 2.0. Did I mention how we all need to be so thankful to The European for imperialism?

It was/is The European mindset that slaughtered the Indians of North America. It was that mindset that fought the silly clan war known as the American Civil War, igniting it all because The European needed slaves to build its new world. It was that mindset that perverted capitalism and turned the northern hemisphere into a cult of self perpetuating greed and death. Indeed, dear worst-reader. When I read Dostoyevsky that’s what I get out of his writing. And it feels kinda good to read it these days, as though something inside me is vindicated, as though, after all these years in Europe, among these The Europeans, I can finally read him. Yeah. Maybe it is time to get on with Karamazov. Or maybe not.

Notes From the Underground is short novel about the narrator who can’t control his anger and frustration while trying to exist in the blossoming automaton world of late 19th century (far eastern) Europe. I’ve read on the Interwebnets that some think this work is the beginning of existentialism–but I have no idear what that is supposed to mean. All I know is, if you could bring the narrator of this story to life, you could put him right in the middle of the corporate world; he’d fit perfectly. Even though there is a huge amount of anger and confusion rolled up inside him, he is docile and weak on the outside; he seems to stand for nothing except musings about Russian soil. His ego is so overblown that when he argues with comrades and ends up challenging one to a duel, no one even shows up for it. Instead they all go about their meaningless, automaton lives in the(ir) bureaucracies, the(ir) cafés, the(ir) dinning halls of sloth and gluttony. And just like the automatons in the corporate world, the narrator  himself is fluff and meaninglessness–all on the verge of sissy tears–just like all those soccer “men” who fall down on the field like gurly-girls in order to find an advantage. Yet, does the narrator find meaning in his search? The question hasn’t changed since the late 19th century. The automatons find meaning in what ever they deem fit. They find it in their arrogance. They find it in that other great European pastime that is the opposite of humility–misbegotten pride. They find it in their nationalism, tribalism, clans.

The earth knows no noses higher than those noses in Europe. (-tommi)

This is a quaint story to read. I rather enjoyed it–long sentences or not. I felt a kinship with the narrator–or was it empathy? Nomatter. The important thing to keep in mind about it is that there is contempt between “the author of these notes” and “the notes themselves” (see quote at beginning of post). Dostoyevsky is obviously extremely judgemental of his surroundings yet he never quite reveals why. There is something naive about how he writes this. Or maybe it’s carelessness. I don’t mean his prose, though. His ability to transcribe the mind’s eye is flawless. It’s just the subject matter he’s addressing that gets me. It’s as though he created the narrater in order to just mock everything about the world he’s forced to live in–The European world. Either way he is judging society by portraying its components and how they interact in the most banal of all settings.

“We Russians, generally speaking, have never been stupid transcendental romantics of the German, or especially the French, kind, who are not affected by anything; the earth may crack under their feet, all France may perish on the barricades, but they remain the same, they won’t make the slightest change even for the sake of decency, but still go on singing their transcendental hymns right up, one might say, to the grave, because they are fools. But here, on Russian soil, there are not fools, as everybody knows: that is what distinguishes us from all the other, Germanic, countries.” -Notes From Underground, FD

There is something eerily profound about what Dostoyevsky is getting at in this short novel–that I may be confusing with my own worst-prejudices. And. As usual. I’m not sure I understand any of anything I read. But he makes me think of the wave of revolution that preoccupied Europe before and after Dostoyevsky. Before Dostoyevsky I’m referring, of course, to the French Revolution. In its essence wasn’t the French Revolution not just an attempt break the chains of feudalism and monarchy, but also an attempt to subvert The European? In a lesser attempt, the Russian revolution–which emulated the French–tried to do the same thing. Is there no irony in the fact that both those revolutions lost and who was the winner? In Russia, The European turned to authoritarian communism embodied by Stalin and the Soviets. In western Europe, The European turned to predatory capitalism disguised in the bullshit called socialism. I couldn’t help but feel that Dostoyevsky was alluding to this level of human failure that could only come from the mindset that is The European. The people he argued with, the female he so clumsily fell in love with, the servant he couldn’t stand up to, etc. They all represent The European. And like all Europeans, the story just reaches the last page. Or something like that.

Rant on. -Tommi

As I Die Laying

as i lay dying paperback

It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end. -Darl

Took me a while. Can’t remember exactly when I bought the book. But I do remember buying it in Frankfurt off the Leipziger Strasse near the university. I also remember reading Faulkner in College so many years ago. Can’t say the memories are fond, though. I think we read some of his short stories. Nomatter. As far as reading him goes, Faulkner is not unlike Hemingway (to me) even though the two are completely difference writers. When I was younger I just couldn’t get through either one. The pages confused me. The writing cadence (is there such a thing?) through me off. Hemingway had a way of just boring me with his endless narrations of landscapes or seas. Faulkner’s writing style threw me off, too. Something about stream of consciousness, perhaps. Or it had something to do with school, the pressures of grades, judgement. Reading in order to write a paper for a professor never did me any good, that’s for sure. Not that I’m cutting on professors or schools. But I have often thought about whether or not writers realise what is done with their work at university level. Is it a good thing? Is it a not so good thing?

A few weeks back I decided to give my library a thorough one-over and dusting. In doing so I also created a nice little database of my books. Been wanting to do that for years. Luckily technology has caught up to my wants. Found an app for my iPad that scans book bar-codes. Works like a charm. If there are no bar-codes, as is the case with this old paperback, then all I have to do is input the ISBN number and the app locates it. But I’m off subject.

ripped page
Copy not in the best shape. Missed a page.
I picked up this old paperback with the idear it was time to try again. (Btw, I’ll be trying the same thing with Hemingway soon.) And although it was slow reading, it seems I’ve finally found a way in–to Mr. Faulkner. Maybe. Here’s my first impression. Faulkner writes As I Lay Dying with a vengeance. Even though I was only able to get through one or two chapters with every sitting, I looked forward to the next time I opened the book. The breaks in-between allowed me (my mind) to breath–from the Anstrengung. Yet Faulkner has a style, a cadence, if you will, that is tumultuous. I don’t know if its because of his ability to write as his characters actually speak or if its getting my mind to play along with the accents of the southern characters he’s portraying–accents that I know so well. In fact, I found it sometimes easier to read the text out-loud. My better half would often tell me to stop moving my lips while reading. “It means you’re stupid,” she’d say. Reading this book out-loud stopped my mind from having to think about each word written, how they were placed, etc. Having grown up around rednecks and Volk that aren’t the brightest stars in the heavens, the sound of Faulkner’s words were easier to speak than to read. Wait. The probably doesn’t make much sense.

Not only have I read what is probably one of the greatest books ever written but I feel as though it speaks to me, as is the case with a few other books/writers. Umberto Echo is one. The Master And Margarita is another (a book I must re-read, btw). Not sure when I’ll get to it but Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury is on my list now. That said, this book, as difficult as it is, is a joy. Supposedly written in a matter of weeks while Faulkner was working at a power plant, it was also submitted “as is” for publication. Italics are used in the text which I can only assume indicate some form of correction, collation, etc., and was set by the publisher. Other parts of the text have obvious grammar issues but I suppose that has to do with Faulkner re-creating the jargon of his characters. Although there is much said about this book, I’m wondering if all the sayers missed something.

For example. There is one thread that binds As I Lay Dying together. Although many consider it a brilliant portrayal of a downtrodden American family coping as best it can with circumstance, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of cynicism on the part of the author regarding that family. But is Faulkner also a cynic regarding the American ideal? What is portrayed in this book is not just a clumsy group of half-wits facing uncertainty. Faulkner is sharing a point of view regarding how Americans cope with that same, ever existing, uncertainty.

The death of the matriarch requires that the family trek her un-embalmed corpse for nine summer days so she can be buried in her hometown. The way Faulkner describes how they build her coffin, the text even includes a small drawing, is brilliant. But because the mother wanted to be buried in her wedding dress, they think they have to lay her up-side-down so that the dress won’t be crushed by the shape of the coffin. Imagine a bumbling group of half-wits trying to figure that out! Because of wild weather and a flooded river the family not only shows its lack of cognitive ability but also its self-destructive nature. Crossing the river causes great loss plus a broken leg for one of the sons. The fact that the father eventually pours concrete on the broken leg to try and stabilise it, well, that also says a great deal about intelligence.

Let’s see. What happens next? Oh yeah. The daughter is sexually abused by a family acquaintance on the trip and her prescribed naiveté plus ten dollars isn’t enough to get her an abortion. And here’s the real kicker. Although they make it to the mother’s wished final resting place, there is very little written about the funeral. Instead the father 1) meets a new wife and 2) with the ten dollars his daughter was given for her abortion, of which her naiveté won’t allow her to speak about it, the father takes the ten dollars to get new teeth. Indeed. That’s kinda hi-larry-us. Obviously. The best of the American family isn’t quite best enough, eh, dear worst-reader.

It seems to worst-moi that there are three ways to portray the American “family”. There’s the funny way, there’s the sad way and then there’s the violent way. Funny and violent seem to mix well. The Sopranos comes to mind. Portraying the American family sad is a bit more difficult to do. I mean, who wants to watch reality? But I’m sure there are examples out there. To categorise the Bundren family this way might be a bit belittling. And that’s ok. The text, the challenging way it is written, makes up for it all. Or?

But my mother is a fish. -Vardaman

Once again, probably for lack of proper (academic) training, and as much as I enjoyed reading this book, I can’t help but consider it a criticism of America and the ideals that permeate the American mindset. Portraying the family as a unit that must depend on its ability to rationalise any situation can only mean that it is as strong as its weakest link–I mean it’s as strong as its weakest thinker. Or maybe not. I don’t know what to say about this book and I’ve already said too much. But that’s what I do.

Rant on. -t