Monday, May 01, 2006

on god, mourning and ... racism

Three great pieces from TNR.

James Wood takes on Professor Harold Bloom's new book.

This essay by Rochelle Gurstein, on mourning, stayed in my mind, particularly her final paragraph. Commenting on Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking with C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed and Donald Hall's volume of poetry Without she says:

Didion's story, then, has reverberations with Lewis's, in that hers, too, reveals how the will is humbled through the experience of suffering. And so by the end of her story she is prepared to accept her husband's words: "You had to go with the change." Given Didion's resourcelessness, which is endemic to this pragmatic and therapeutic age, she has no choice but to find comfort in this rather paltry common wisdom. But, then, without Lewis's spiritual reach or Hall's aesthetic amplitude, is it any wonder that the contemporary experience of grief rarely gets beyond varieties of psychological adjustment?

And finally, Ryan Lizza does an amazing hatchet-job on the Republican 2008 presidential hopeful George Allen. For readers who actually read the whole thing, stick around till the end for a moment that could have been straight out of a Todd Solondz movie. Here it is, in case you don't want to read the piece.

Now the pin seemed even worse. Why would a young man with such a sensitive understanding of Southern racial conflict and no Southern heritage wear a Confederate flag in his formal yearbook photo?

I finally ask him if he remembers the pin, explaining that another of his classmates had the same one in his photo, a guy named Deke. "No," Allen says with a laugh. "Where is this picture?" He leans forward over his desk and tightens his lip around the plug of Copenhagen in his mouth. "Hmmm." He pauses. He speaks slowly, apparently searching his memory. "Well, it's no doubt I was rebellious," he says, "a rebellious kid. I don't know. Unless we were doing something for the fun of it. Deke was from Texas. He was a good friend. Let me think." He stretches back in the chair, his boots sticking out from underneath his desk. "Yeah, yeah, that's interesting. I'll have to find it myself." Another pause. "I don't know. We would probably do things to upset people from time to time."

He stammers some more, says he saw Deke in an airport recently. "I don't know, I don't know," he continues. "It could be some sort of prank, or one of our rebellious--we would do different things. But I remember we liked Texas."

UPDATE: More on George Allen's race problem at TNR here.

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