Retrospection (prognostication, and … you know, don’t bother reading this)

December 2, 2008

There’s this box of books I have, you see. I’ve always been reluctant to put these volumes out on any shelf, namely because I have a young, curious daughter who loves to see how things come apart, and whether they go back together again. Obviously, this isn’t good for the books. Bradbury’s The Cat’s Pajamas turned to litter a while ago. That wasn’t the biggest tragedy. But the uncorrected proof of Streiber and Kunetka’s War Day? Really, I wasn’t paying attention to what I had. I somehow inherited the book from a former girlfriend who picked it up in a secondhand shop because she liked that one about the aliens. I didn’t know, or else it would have been stashed away in the box. The old copy of Joyce Carol Oates’ The Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature wouldn’t have. Sure, it was a thirty year-old paperback, and I should have been more careful. Hell, I should have actually read the thing before it got scattered all over the living room one morning when I didn’t wake up on time.

Er … anyway, that’s all beside the point. The point is that there’s this box, see? And it’s full of books. And it’s a back-breaker whenever I move it around the apartment. No, it won’t go on a shelf.

Anyway, she got into the box last week. Nothing died, but my heart stopped when she asked, “Why do you have two?” and brought me both copies of Jack Cady’s Singleton, one of which is autographed.

Oh, right. That’s beside the point.

So I decided to look through the box for something to read, and came across a copy of Michael Moore’s Dude, Where’s My Country? On the one hand, it isn’t even mine. Don’t take me wrongly; I’m a bleeding heart liberal if there ever was one, and I’ve read the book before, but, really, it’s not mine. I bought it for my brother, and somehow it ended up in my stuff when I moved.

Or maybe it is. Maybe I bought him Stupid White Men, even longer ago. Hmm, well, that tells you something about how important that book is. It shouldn’t even have been in the box.

Right. Moving on.

I further decided, upon finding the book, that I ought to read through it again. You know, since the Bush era is drawing to a close, it might be entertaining to read through and see what America’s favorite overweight agitator got right and wrong. I only just started, but there are a couple of points to raise just having read the introduction.

We’ve already conducted two wars since 9/11, and an upcoming third or fourth is not all that unlikely. (xi)

Part of me thinks Moore should have recognized something at the time, although it didn’t hit me until 2005; the scale of damage the Bush administration visited upon our military kind of precluded a third or fourth war. Or, at least, so says my bleeding liberal politic, but that’s not really the point. Rather, it turns out we didn’t get that third or fourth war.

The American people may look like they don’t know what’s going on half the time, and they may spend too much time picking out different-colored covers for their cell phones, but when push comes to shove, they’ll rise to the occasion and be there for what is right. (xiii)

And here, again, Moore was wrong. In this case, it’s kind of like the analog clocks in Space 1999. We should have known that mobile phone technology would eventually discourage those stupid plastic covers. Really, how many seconds did it take you to remember what they even were? I mean, I’m sure they exist somewhere, but those kiosks and carts are not exactly ubiquitous these days. I can’t recall the last time I saw a plastic phone cover at 7-Eleven. And, frankly, I’m glad. But tsk-tsk, Mr. Moore. How could you have missed something so obvious?

This is where my mind goes sometimes. Maybe we shouldn’t wonder why the novel is taking so damn long.

Oh, and hey, when checking to confirm the title of the destroyed Oates book, I found Roger Sale’s July, 1972 review of The Edge of Impossibility for The New York Times.



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