As a morning person, the night time for me is not the right time, at least as far as creative writing is concerned. I subscribe to two national magazines, The New Yorker and National Geographic. Both are incredibly interesting, and well worth the time. However valuable The New Yorker is, I really would prefer that it be a monthly as the constant stream of weekly brilliance is just too much to handle along with the daily dose of the Austin newspaper and The Wall Street Journal. Previously I subscribed as well to The New York Times, but simply was overwhelmed with good things to read along with the one fiction and one non-fiction selection monthly from my men’s book club. Wow, a surfeit of riches! I am not a video watcher so reading’s my thing. But too much of a good thing still is too much.
With that caveat, I must comment on the current issue of The New Yorker, December 14. The cover art is even more special than usual: “The Tree of Life,” with an amazing potpourri of imaginary creatures illustrating some of the manners in which, at least this artist’s concept, life has evolved. “The Talk of the Town,” a group of weekly essays and op-eds opens with a commentary on the difference between the way the US has handled COVID compared with Germany. It is hard to imagine that the greatest pandemic in a century continues to devastate an advanced country such as ours. National leadership has been uneven, to say the least. In the end, many people are going to contract this thing and become sick, and some will die, until a vaccine is available and is taken by most of the population. For reasons I simply do not understand, this country somehow has cleaved in a manner illustrating distrust of science and in deference to fear something called a “Deep State.” To my honest amazement, these factors among others have convinced many that the vaccine is dangerous and that taking strong measures to isolate and limit the spread of COVID is a threat to their version of personal liberty. I know this is a digression, and some probably will unsubscribe and send me hate mail, but yesterday, as I drove my wife to a medical appointment, two men were standing at the most congested intersection near here with large American flags and vivid homemade signs screaming in large letters: “Trump Won.” To think that persons would stand out there on a dangerous traffic island for hours and be that committed to a belief that, over and over, has been reviewed and rejected as fact by the courts and numerous recounts and reviews! It’s like people are zombies infused with some sort of drug. I don’t get it.
But on with comments about The New Yorker. One of the main stories is called “Rereading Lolita.” Now this fifty-year old novel was, and is, controversial and indeed is pedophilia porn at times. The author, an independent professional writer, is extremely erudite and seems to have read Nabakov’s other works as well as other Russian authors. I’m not going to go back and re-read Lolita, yet the article just reinforced to me how amazing these “New Yorker” articles are. In fact, Ian Frazier, who penned this specific piece, grew up in Ohio. He included a wonderful (and not entirely inaccurate) description of Ohio as “the centrifugal state” where people seem to be flung thousands of miles out, to the East and West on Interstate 80, or to the south or north on other major roads. As it happens, I just finished reading “The Wright Brothers,” by David McCullough, a wonderful book centered on Dayton.
Speaking of Dayton, ironically my dad was transferred to Dayton from Huntington, WV, to do production control for a GM plant there, an automotive plant that was converted from some sort of car production to make fifty-caliber machine guns when WW-II started. Dad was a finance guy for cars before the war started. He was older, in his early thirties, and was not drafted since he worked for GM. My sister was born in that three-year stint. I remember it only from a handful of old B&W photos in a family scrapbook. I must have been two, three or four years old. But I digress.
If reading about a young nymphet being taken advantage of is not your thing, the next article surely must be, that is if you’re interested in how mankind has moved around, fought and killed, and enslaved and procreated. Very old human bones have been discovered in an extremely isolated and remote lake in northern India, at an elevation of sixteen thousand feet. Covered by landslides and ice, as well as in very cold water, these skeletal remains are being studied and theories proposed as to how and why they were there. Personally, I am fascinated with early human history, and found the story and various theories most interesting. As the article states at one point, “(it) shows how DNA evidence can upset established archeological theories and bring rejected ones back into contention.” This is not “Adam and Eve,” this is the real deal of “the way it was” nearly a thousand years ago.
I never made it fully through the next article, a nine pager about Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock, who spoke at a Libertarian conference in Las Vegas in 2015. His involvement with a woman who may, or may not, be a Russian agent is explored. Bryne is an intellectual entrepreneur. He is concerned that society as we know it might break down and he personally has prepared for this by stocking up on foodstuffs and weapons at his large ranch in a remote portion of the Rocky Mountains, at least five hours by car from the nearest airport. He has a “conspiratorial mind” as he describes it. Of course, if life as we know it does collapse, one wonders if a Libertarian philosophy of “each person for himself” with guns and isolated on remove enclaves with six months of dried foodstuffs will be the sort of life for which we want to prepare. All in all, I did a bit of skimming, and ran out of interest and bandwidth.
"Onward into the fog," as one of Austin’s weird businesses states.
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Enjoy life; it's the only one we will get.
J.K. (Jim) George
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