Wednesday, April 11, 2018

OUR BELOVED DICTATORS


 Let’s admit it, we love dictators.

We love Mussolini.
 We love Napoleon.
 We love Pinochet.

No? You disagree?

You believe that, in a country like ours, they should be thrown overboard, and in a jiffy, p-l-e-a-s-e?

 True, the frame of this entire nation, what sustains it, what articulates its flesh is liberty.  And this, despite the initial crimes that were committed against Native Americans and African Americans. We’ve got our own apartheid, our own holocaust, which we should claim . Why? Because we must not forget, for one. But also because it is upon these abuses that we learned and were able to construct the most sophisticated democracy on earth. Granted, it makes liberty quite expensive, and democracy far more precious than priceless stones like The Sancy Diamond. But that’s the way it should be. What we have is not to be taken for granted, and the American Constitution, with its system of carefully orchestrated check and balances, is not as infallible as we thought it once was, but only as solid and honest as the lawmakers who handle it.

  Democracy, in order to survive, must reinvent itself, as society evolves. It does so by amending old laws, creating new ones, establishing new rights. Rights of women, of gays and transgender people. The rights of Blacks and Latinos. The rights of Natives and Mother Earth. So democracy is that organic matter, that stream that un-pollutes itself, that manuscript in constant search for “le most juste”— for just action. It is not a finished work, nor should it ever become one.

 Were it so—finished and square, with a wall, no horizon—it would no longer look like itself.
 Finished, it would be, indeed, finished. A dictatorship.

 Democracy can be, in fact, chaotic at times, albeit capable of offering prosperity and stability. When good economics and low unemployment are part of the landscape, when the middle class spreads wide like a solid foundation, we don’t mind the occasional chaos, for that goes with liberty. But when the economy crumbles, when the job market locks up and poverty increases; when the wealth distribution is so uneven that the middle class keeps shrinking at an alarming pace, stability disappears and chaos is as dizzying as a disease.

 Scraping the bottom of the barrel, workers are wondering how they are going to pay their bills. Cancer patients are asking themselves if they will have to cut their pills in half again in order to be able to reach the end of the month.

 In what used to be the wealthiest nation, Americans feel now weakened, unprotected.

 Whose fault? Democrats’? Republicans’?

 Or just Congress, either party, filling their pocket and bowing to high interests, while forgetting that children will  go hungry at home, waiting  impatiently until the next morning, when they will be fed at school the only meal of the day?

 If democracy needs a diversity of parties and p.o.v., corruption does not discriminate. It is all embracing. And in the past ten-fifteen years, it appears that corruption has been far more active than democracy. Had the reverse been true, chances are the aforementioned economic situation wouldn’t have occurred at such a profound level.

 In other words, our congress grew corrupt and lazy as our country grew fragile and desperate.

 Knees were so weak when he arrived. The knees of our county. Our knees.

 But when we saw him, so loud, so strong, we welcomed him with open arms.

 We would grow strong too.

 We had seen his name time and again on gigantic towers.

 A gigantic name on a gigantic tower. TRUMP. Even his name looked like a tower.


He promised order. Order. And a great big wall.

 There he was, a loud mouth, for sure, with a bad temper, just like daddy. But that was character, that’s what it was. Character.

 And he talked like the rest of us. A man so rich who talked like simple people. That meant we could get rich too.

 So what if he was if he was connected to the Russians, or to the mafia?

 He would protect us.

 So what if he was a bit of a dictator at times? So what if he had the Sinclair Broadcast Group force its 137 stations spread propaganda about him all across the nation? He had his heart in the right place. He cared about us.

 Right?

 Right?

 These were rough times and he was the right man for the moment. He would fix things.
 He would.

 Come to think of it, Hitler came soon after that huge 1929 economic crisis. That’s what got him elected. He would fix things too.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

We forget

I forget?

With all the daily political drama, and all the fight with the local group of Indivisible, I forget. I forget that I am an individual too. With specific talents and, possibly, a mission.

I forget this incessant Trumpian drama is but an interruption, that this frustration, this anger will eventually stop. Because this regime will stop.

I forget that I can resume what I love to do. Write. And today, I got a reminder.

Once in a while (often in dark moments when I tell myself my steps on the writing page are useless and insignificant), I get messages of people telling me that some people like my reviews. I am always happily surprised when I see this. The joy is comparable to people enjoying my books. Writing is writing is writing. It tells me that people are reading and are reading readers, searching and thinking. A good sign.

Today, I was all the more surprised that two readers liked a review of a book that had completely gone out of my mind. A book of essays with a great title, actually, The War Against Clichés by Martin Amis.

Yes, we do forget. A dangerous thing, forgetting ourselves. A good thing there are those around us to remind us.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

WHY THE FRENCH ELECTIONS THIS COMING SUNDAY COULD AFFECT US ALL

France is not the first power in the world. Or the second, or the third. It ranks 6th among powerful nations these days. And yet, with the upcoming presidential elections, it could become the center of the world again. In other words, France’s elections this coming Sunday could affect us all. Here’s how:

If fascist Marine LePen gets elected, she will want out of Europe. Add that to the Brexit, and the entire Europe crumbles, as it was founded on/by the German-UK-France axis. The concept of Europe, besides economical, is a pacifist one. It was built so that something like WWI or WWII would never happen again.

With Europe gone, nationalisms (fascisms) are awakened. Tensions develop. Wars become imminent.
Who profits from this? Russia, of course, who can invade the now divided nations, economically like the Chinese are doing in Africa, or militarily. Or both. Resistance would build, no doubt, in many parts. The US would want to intervene. So would the Chinese. They wouldn’t want their piece of the cake to be eaten. Another World War could begin.

If Emmanuel Macron is elected, Europe will go on. Balance, if precarious, will be worked on and eventually solidified. It all depends on one vote. One vote.

Les Français, on compte sur vous. Pas de conneries!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

LIT AND POLITICS


After reading a few disappointing novels, I decided to go with John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire for a good dose of literature with beautiful prose, and Stephen King's Mr Mercedes. I knew I had two masters in my hand. And I was curious to know how King would do with the mystery genre. What I was sure of was that I wouldn't be disappointed.

Right?

King, after all, can build a sentence. And Mr Mercedes is the winner of the 2015 Edgar Award for Best Novel. So, damnit, I was all set.

What I didn't suspect (although I was reading a mystery) was that I was having one of my---rare, but still present---naivety seizures. But I did wake up. Took 50 pages, though.

Those same pages that the critics from major publications bother to read, I assume. Otherwise, there would be no positive feedback. And the only pages that King wrote, I suspect. I had similar experiences with Grisham. Not the early Grisham. The well established Grisham.

Well, the well established King seems to have imitated his colleague. Oh, I was quite thrilled by Mr Mercedes' beginning, even if I thought that the slang there was a bit overdone.

But after aforementioned pages, everything stagnates. The psychological insights of the murderer, promising at first, go in circles. The incest theme is just there to titillate. Still, I yawn instead, No one who has fallen in love will believe in the love story there. The eroticism and sentiments feel like overcooked noodles. And this silly sleepover is the motivation of the retired cop to find the killer? P-leeease!

Toward the end, there is some action that grabs some interest. Did King edit the mediocre ghost writer? Did some smart editor? But it is too late. It makes the novel all the more uneven.

In conclusion, Mr Mercedes is basically an ode to mediocrity. In other words, a piece of crap. So here is my message to Stephen King, John Grisham and the like. Don't become just a brand! There are writers like me who love words, who work their ass out to produce serious, thoughtout work, so let us share it. What you do isn't fair to the reader; it isn't fair to us. You're just playing politics. Literature and politics make for a bitter, undigestible sauce. So why don't you move the hell over?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

ABANDONMENTS


Three.

Three major abandonments in my life. I reflected on that, this past Sunday at 1 p.m, as I finally sat down to get some breakfast.

3. Three. (Take your pick. The number. The feelings. The blades.)

My best friend.

My family.

My other best friend.

Not necessarily in that chronological order.

But certainly in that emotional order.

I didn't realize as a child that I was abandoned by my family. I just thought I didn't fit the mold. That's why they didn't love me the way they loved each other. It's only later, when I fell in love, when love became a frightening thing, that I realized I didn't know what love was. For years I had to grow accustomed to it. To this day, love still frightens me from time to time.

In my teenage years, I found something magical. A beautiful, profound friendship. We could remain silent for hours, watching the river run in the summer, the flames crackle and rise in the fireplace in the winter. We knew a cozy conversation existed within that silence. Our parents thought we were weird. We didn't give a damn. Our silences lingered. Until that summer. She was sixteen and it was a Sunday. I had just returned from Spain. Spanish boys had taught me how to French kiss. I was going to tell her all about it. I was going to meet her after lunch, but a car beat me to it, hitting her moped in the bright, Basque sun. Christine was sixteen. She would never grow old; she would never French kiss a boy. That summer, I learned about pleasure and death.

When I promised myself never to open my heart to another best friend, was I right?  "Beware of your first movements, as they are the right ones," said Talleyrand. I had to take an antidepressant when I lost Christine. My wounded heart had locked its doors. But this new girl kept knocking with her smiles and her enthusiasm. Her sense that life could be fun. She made me see bright colors again. So little by little the doors of my heart opened up and she became my new best friend. She did prove herself worthy of the name. She and her family did everything they could to help me cross the Atlantic with the man I loved (and to whom I am still married after 37 years), despite terrible threats made by my mother.

Almost three decades went by. I kept seeing her as my best friend. So much so that I crossed the Atlantic (the other way this time) when I sensed she was too depressed to handle life on her own. That’s when things began to decay. Or, rather, that’s when the decay started to show. She first presented me to her yoga students as her "best friend," then just as "a friend."  A friend who had flown to France because she was worried about "a friend." Later, she sent a birthday present to my husband but my own birthday was nearly forgotten. There was a distracted wish, no gift. For too many years, I had failed to notice that, when she called and I picked up the phone, she insisted on talking to my husband afterwards. When he picked up the phone, she was satisfied. There was no need to hear my voice.

A couple of nights ago, I dreamed of broken dishes.

I am surprised I can still stand up when all within me feels so scattered and broken at the base.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

THE DONALD

When my daughter and I were on the phone today, she told me she had almost finished reading my novel, "Was Donald Chancecastle modeled after Donald Trump?" she asked.

Smart woman. When I created the pompous, noisy character, I did have The Donald in mind. I thought about changing the first name. But, considering the satiric characteristics of the novel, I kept it. For if there is some grandiloquence in "Donald," you will also find quirky comedy there as well. Think "Donald Duck."

And, to top it all, Donald Chancecastle is kinky.

Little did I know that he would come out when The Donald would make such an apparition in the news.

Of course, no one in their right mind would vote for Donald Chancecastle.

Friday, August 28, 2015

ANATOMY OF A TITLE



I wrote From A to Zoe before I wrote Chainsaw Jane. Why it got out now, and not before CJ? I didn’t have a title. Or I had too many titles, take your pick. For years, I convinced myself the titling issue was the reason. Yup, for years—no kidding—I tortured my little mind with title possibilities. Made one list, then another. Threw them in the basket or forgot about them. Began a title list again. Abandoned it once more. For a long time the novel was called And So It Starts Again. After all, Zoe, the narrator, was making tabula rasa of her old life and beginning again. There was an irony in that title that I kinda liked: Zoe is convinced her new life will go smoothly, with no single bump on the road. And guess what? She falls on her ass at every turn.

I tried that title on people. No reaction.

At one point I considered No Mozzarella for Me. The title stood on the manuscript first page for longer than a few minutes. Months went by and it was still there. Was that the one? Once you read the novel, you will understand why this cheesy option was a serious candidate. There is a rat there who will only eat Swiss cheese. The only way he will bite into mozzarella is when he realizes the other alternative is starvation. And of course, the title also suggested that Zoe wanted a more flavorful bite of life—that life should be relished.

I tried that title on people. No reaction.

Some members in my writing group thought that just Zoe would be plenty of title. Zoe, after all, means life. Zoe and zoo have the same origin, and in this novel, animals actually play a major role. And the Brooklyn Zoo does play a role as well. I liked the concept. Still, I felt it was missing something. But what, exactly?

To an author, the choice of a title is a way to direct the reader toward her way of thinking. It is, from the very beginning, an invitation into her world. She’s getting her house ready for the guests. The title is the central bouquet at the banquet table. Without imposing a way of thinking to the reader (without imposing a topic of conversation to the guest), the author is setting a tone.

Well, I didn’t have my tone set, I didn’t have my bouquet, I didn’t have my title, dammit!

So I went back to cogitating on Zoe. I knew the central theme, of course. But I also knew it was a tragicomedy narrated by a sassy yet vulnerable woman; someone who fell, nearly collapsed, but found somewhere some indomitable courage to get up once more. Someone who used bite, humor, satire as surviving tools. I never had much trouble with a title before. With Chainsaw Jane, the reverse happened. I had a title; I needed to find a story to go with it.

Finally, I had a couple of serious contenders. That was during one of my trips to Denver, when I visited my daughter. One of them was From A to Zoe. This one seemed to be appealing to other people besides myself, including my daughters’s husband (at the time her fiancé).

Finally, a reaction, and a positive one at that.

Finally, the banquet’s bouquet.

Soon after, I was ready to let From A to Zoe go, meet the world. I kept asking myself why it took so long. But then it struck me and it struck me harder than before: Zoe is the story of a woman who starts all over again.

This past summer, I put my house for sale. I will sell all my furniture, take my husband and my pets with me, and leave. I will start all over again. Learn the basics again.

And, I suspect, fall on my ass again. But like Zoe, I’ve got expertise in that field as well.

Whoever started saying there was no coincidence might have been on to something.

http://www.amazon.com/Zoe-Novel-Marie-Jo-Fortis-ebook/dp/B012UQUWXQ