Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Things That Go Bump in the Country

As a lifelong insomniac, I have the same problem most with the disease do: I tend to do anything to make myself not sleep. I would venture to say that insomniacs try to frighten themselves more than non-insomniacs, perhaps because they have a little extra time on their hands? Or is it that soothing activities in those furtive late-night hours make little sense. Either way, where some watch horror movies, others read mystery novels, I dip into politics between the hours of 2 and 4 am, lately reading book that have, quite frankly, scared the bejesus out of me.

In keeping with my habit of renegging on self-made promises, I suppose I join the ranks of liberal bloggers who are frightened about the way things are going. 9-11 being five years ago, we have moments to survey the damage we've done as a country, and it has been ghastly, creepy, and beyond the pale--a quiet pale, sadly. Guided by new books authored by two of my heroes--Frank Rich (of the New York Times who wrote The Greatest Story ever Sold and Lewis Lapham (formerly of Harpers) who compiled the best of his columns into Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration--I now manage, in the wee hours, to frighten myself into something of a dither, high dudgeon, a tizzy as they say.

Both of these books are nothing short of brilliant, not simply for their insights (though they both have them to spare) but the new information I gathered: for example, through Rich's book I learned of an elite group of Beltway cronies, the likes of Cheney and Condeleeza, the White House Iraq Group--or WHIG for short. The obviousness and irony of their name is hardly lost on me: it is more like something out of Thomas Pynchon, in a nightmare moment emblematic of dystopian decay, and yet this is real, this is really happening!. While Lapham is more than happy to bash Bush in the most deservedly sardonic tone (high flown as he is, when he is at his best), Rich is more even handed, laying out his case in a clear and obviously fact-checked way, gently guiding the reader to the facts: that none of this is funny, but that it certainly is good theatre. The irony of Rich's former job and his current one being not at all dissimilar was also not lost on me. The "Butcher of Broadway" is perhaps the only one who could sort this morass so plainly, and I continue to count on him to do so. His pulling back of the curtain is masterful, a tour de force not only of reportage but also of understanding and presenting. Both of these books, erudite, careful, well-mannered, and startlingly accurate, should be required reading.

But I encourage you, from one who knows, not to read them late at night, not unless you want to have nightmares, to fear not terrorists but our own voters, and the troupe of evildoers they twice damn near elected.


Blogger Cary Ann Rosko said...

Though I am not an insomniac, nor have I read either of these two books, clearly we are on the same wavelength:


2:28 PM  

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