The Trouble with Bygones

May 16th, 2009

I find it painful to watch House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defend herself. It?s not that I don?t believe that the CIA failed to brief her about waterboarding terrorist suspects. I do, especially now that former Senator Bob Graham has demonstrated that he was no where in the room three of the four times the CIA claimed it briefed him. And he has no memory of discussing waterboarding in the one top-secret hearing he attended (no notes allowed, all aides excluded.)

It?s a nasty business we?ve been involved with since 9/11, and the further we get from that horrific event, the clearer it is that our government behaved badly

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A Prince Remembered

March 6th, 2009

Once upon a time, not so many years ago, the term great American writer was understood to mean great white male American writer. There was some diversity among them. They might be Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, agnostic or atheist. They might be well-born or from humble backgrounds. They were usually heterosexual, and often quite flamboyantly so, but if they were not, they kept their sexual habits to themselves in fear of being considered, well, girlish.

Women wrote, to be sure, but men decided what would be published and other men decided who would hear about it. Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird might be wildly popular, but their authors, Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee, were considered one-book wonders. African American men, even geniuses like James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison, might have been granted a distant corner of the literary establishment, but they were read by serious white men, whereas their female counterparts were the real invisible people. Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote four novels during the Harlem Renaissance, died in a welfare hotel in Florida where she had supplemented her income by cleaning people?s houses.

The second wave of feminism that hit the United States in the 1970s gave women new determination to be heard, to write about what interested them, and to read what other women were saying about the female condition.

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Isn't it cinematic?

February 27th, 2009

I?m wondering?was I the only blogger to watch both the Academy Awards and the president?s prequel State of the Union Address? Two different worlds, of course, but often they conflate in the mind of this electronic onlooker, especially when you throw in the Obama Administration?s first state dinner with all those fancy gowns.

My reaction when I heard about timing of the dinner was, ?They?re going to miss the Oscars.?

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Beyond Slogans

February 10th, 2009

It?s not the New Deal. Or the New Frontier. Or the Great Society. Or, heaven help us, the Reagan Revolution. But I?m hoping after last night?s news conference, the passage of a stimulus package in the Senate and today?s rollout of a new TARP bailout that this is the Real Deal?a viable plan to restore some rationality to our economic life together as a nation.

Perhaps after the debacle of the last presidency it?s too easy to give President Obama high marks for engaging in a fruitful discussion of economics, foreign policy and, yes, even A-Rod?s steroid use. (He?s concerned about the message it sends to children.) For showing his understanding of the dynamics of Congressional politics, for using one of his vice president?s gaffes to make a point that no program?s perfect. This give and take went on for a full hour before he thanked the media and a heavy foot could be heard coming down from the podium as he strode off.

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The Silent Majority as Literature

February 4th, 2009

I?m looking for a postcard. There?s no picture on the front; it?s one of those government-issue ones with the address on the front and the back left blank for a message. I think there was a stamp, but I?m not sure.

The message was typed on a manual typewriter. In it, the writer explained why I, an editor in educational publishing, could not delete or use a euphemism for a four-letter word from one of his short stories

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