Friday, June 12, 2015

Same Old Story

I am currently reading three books. One at my bedside, another during the day and a third Peggy and I read aloud every night. In addition we just finished a semester in Greek drama reading works by Sophocles. The characters are all cross fertilizing in my head along with our nightly Netflix.

Teddy Roosevelt took an arrow from Hercules but bulled his way (like a moose) through a stump speech. Whatta guy! Then he brought two oceans together. A man, a plan, a canal, Panama. Zeus spelled backwards is Suez and his letters are suspiciously close to Jesus, God knows! But neither deity would help the double agent spy in post war East-Berlin who is being choked by a Russian on page 288. I got the large print edition from the library so I’m only about half-way through and certain the good guy will outwit the bad guys by page 559.  Why do I read such books, I asked myself. They answer the question, and then what, then raise the question, who cares? Leaving Berlin is a page-turner diversion which has taken me away from a stack of scrupulously un-read New York Review of Books.

Saul Bellow’s, Augie March which we are reading together, is a picaresque novel. He is a kind of Huck Finn floating down the mean, but adorable streets in an urban shtetl of 1920s Chicago with a cast of bootleggers, hoodlums, pimps, petty thieves, retards, cheaters and womanizers…..all with ventricles and auricles of gold struggling to get a piece of the rock. The neighborhood smells like the sort that Lincoln Stephens would investigate for McClure’s Magazine and Jacob Riis would have wanted to clean up. A sober Dana Andrews would have exposed it as a crusading newspaper editor while Teresa Wright waits for him with a re-heated pot roast in the oven.

Kevin Spacey plays a modern day Richard  III, ever-duplicitous and uber-ambitious with hubris to spare and blood on his hands. His White House is made of cards.

Not the sort that T. R. knew according to Doris Kearns Goodwin. He was too busy busting railway and oil Trusts. Like our country, itself, he was a man filled with contradictions, despised by Wall St. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday but loved the rest of the week for setting us on a path of global imperialism which has dwarfed the Greeks at their peak passing from hubris to chutzpah to super-power domination.

He revered the wilderness but hunted animals heedless of the ecosystem. He begged to lead the cavalry across German trenches not understanding the century had changed. Eventually walls and empires come tumbling down, power is an empty grail and all books become one.

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