Friday, July 23, 2010

THE TIME OF OUR TIME by Norman Mailer

When you read a particularly incisive ;well -researched , hard-hitting article in some of todays quality periodicals ,like the great Seymour Hersh exposes of Abu Ghraib , in magazines like New Yorker , Rolling Stone and even some of Britains Sunday supplements the style of writing and the skilled essayist delivery were not invented overnight but was a genre developed over the period of the early 50s by such greats as Truman Capote , E.L.Doctorow and Norman Mailer.

This style of writing , as well as getting stories out which are against the mainstream grain , though valuable enough to touch the public concern in great appreciable numbers requires a certain pugnacious pusillanimous ego.

This trait did not win Norman great respect in the higher established literary circles , nor the approval of the mass media.But he did permeate a stand-offish respect with the public which , despite many a calamitous review , brought his work in solid numbers through many decades.

This Book is an extended highlights spanning of some 50 years of his work.Containing clips of a vast and powerhouse archive which astonishes.As you see in the review titles the word "Imperfect" is one that comes out loud and clear , but genius is never far behind.Whatever you think of Norman Mailer , without doubt he captured post-war US thought;politics and culture in a light which is only now becoming clear.

Below is a Mailer sharing his crystal clear views on the "appeal" of fascism:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller

Though we take it for granted today as a perennial classic for all ages this Book took seven years to write off and on , the title also went through many changes prior to becoming one of the most famous catchphrases of the English Speaking World.

Surprisingly , more than one Person i know has said they have tried to read the Book on many occasions but have struggled to get past the first hundred pages.This is understandable for todays reader as the early part of the Book , breaking new ground at the time , does regurgitate the same joke over and over in ever increasing circles , the effect is a little like watching Monty-Python today seems stilted and laboured even though every comedy satire programme and social stand-up comic we enjoy today would not be here if the major-ground it broke had not cleared the way for them to express themselves comfortable to a mainstream audience.Here are examples this "joke" poping in and out in various guises:

p78 " everyone agreed Clevinger would go far in the academic world.In short , Clevinger was one of those People with lots of intelligence and no brains."

" he was a very serious, very earnest and very conscientious dope."

p95 " always impressed by how unimpressive he was."

If you do struggle with "same joke fatigue" i suggest you skip to Chapter24 titled "Milo".This is the beginning of a serious narrative and the rewarding critique of society and bureaucracy , the Book is no lesser for one having skipped to this chapter, then you can get full value of this classic and appreciate why it consistently nears the top of favourite lists for many readers.

The reward for getting through the Book is also to have the special experience of an uplifting ending which , due to spoiler effects , is so little talked about.Below is an interview with Heller on the 40th anniversary of the ultimate publishing of the work.

Joseph Heller did not rest on the laurels of his debut novel becoming his most popular one over time , here is an interview in which he shares perceptive views on the failings of the usually lauded Athenian Democracy and how we seem to be jumping head first to repeat their catastrophic errors:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This is a story about the conditions of the Soul , when the Intellect fails us and the Spiritual fails us , what do we do , what can we do.

In a time of nouveau plotlines from young turk authors , Haven has written an old fashioned book.

The standout of this story is the plot takes place in small town america , not in the coastal metropolises.This gives the angst a real-time feel about a very real america where life is lived in towns and communities of a few thousand to several hundred , a total which represents a much misunderstood and casually maligned significant population of the United States which is becoming an increasing and progressive force countering the neo-establishment "liberal" seaboards which , according to Chris Hedges intimations in the previous video , are rapidly taking on a role of the "progressive" monoliths whereas small town america is taking on a radical role of changing America back to the ways of the old role of strengthening from within without projection of blatant Empire.

Throughout American History a role reversal has been a significant factor , small town america is now where progress is to be found , and as the Book portrays , one of the reasons is that the question of americas soul has already been asked and resolved to some extents , in the same way as , according to Colin Powell the US military had faced and countered the race question in the 50s whilst the rest of US civil society had to wait nearly two decades before they followed suit , whereas the Power belt are in denial , fumbling from one crisis to another as they try to answer the questions of life with military hardware before it inevitably dawns on them to ask and answer the same questions.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


In the oscar winning film "The Hurt Locker" the first words , rather like the quotations of Herodotus in "The English Patient" are from Chris Hedges 2002 Book.Herein lies a paradox in the interpretation and therefore conclusions of the work which even the Author has straddled from inception to the changing scenery of War from a highly visual 3-dimensional video game making war into a armchair playstation type game into todays litany and picking over of various "failed" military objectives.

At first sight the Book can be seen as giving solace to a pessimistic view that War is always with us because it is part and parcel of the Human make-up.The average man will demand it sooner or later and his thirst must be quenched.The notion which Hedges unwittingly allows into the process is that the pressure for war is bottom led in society and , sooner or later , those at the top will have to oblige to release the pressure valve so as to control the process and give the baser orders what they crave whilst strengthening the elites position as to conduct and fall-out.

It will be seen this paradoxical view of looking at war as a base necessity for a base desire is not one that Chris Hedges ascribes to at all , but it does have to be pointed out that this Book does give comfort for those who follow this cynical view of Human need.

One question which rightly nags away is in the areas where Chris describes the raging Battles and the requisite inferred "addiction" in the post WW2 zones such as Gaza ; the Balkans ; Iraq is whether , using the addiction to conflict argument the wars in these regions are because the local populace are nourishing a satiation from them or , as a political geographer would likely conclude it is unhealthy outside , external contingency which fuels conflicts which could be readily resolved if left to the devices of the local Peoples without external power block mischief.

"War is a pornography of violence" states the author , describing the essential difference on page 166 we are told Gray wrote " between comradeship and friendship consists , it seems to me, of the heightened awareness of the SELF in friendship and the suppression of self-awareness in comradeship."

The earlier part of the Book deals with the "addiction" of journalists to war-situations rather than the desire of the population in war zones to prolong the process for fear of transfer to a stable non-War existence , the lack of clear differentiation between the two within the Book is where a paradox interpretation is allowed to develop.

As the Book progresses , as also the "case" for war on Iraq was being fought out in the media and political platforms laying partizan siege on the beleaguered civilians Hedges clear anti Iraq War credentials come to the fore in unambiguous terms.At last he realises that modern wars are foisted by the elite entrenched groups on a population that is unwilling to go to Conflict for reasons less than absolute national necessity , so much so , that millions of dollars of private and public finances had to be pumped into the most heavily resourced propaganda campaign in Human History to record even a slight , short-lived , public majority for a war which only a minority of the elite wanted.

Hedges quotes Milan Kundera " the struggle of one man against power.Is the struggle of the memory against forgetting".

Below Chris Hedges set the record unequivocally straight between understanding the "addiction" for war by society and knowing when an unrepresentative elite is trying to take society into the disastrous war for highly suspect and spurious reasons:

Check out especially at the 5 min 5 sec mark his desription of how liberals have lost touch with the working man and like the characters in Dostoevsky Notes from the Underground they aspire to speak the language of the working man whilst falling full square behind the agenda of the corporate elite , all in the name of progress.

Turning attention to how to address ending Conflicts Chris on page 130 sees much value in the type of conflict-resolution processes as the South African Truth and reconciliation Process , deeming it necessary.The reason for this is set on page 133 " the lack of closure tortures and deforms those who wait for an must be rectified if healing is to take place.".This commission processes are essential because they allow macro and individual victims of War to come to terms with what has happened and to begin the collective endeavour to heal the pain and cure the wounds in order to rectify the past in order to be able to plot a better future.

Admonishing those bitter-enders that still clamour to bring about a war using false propaganda and scaremongering tactics we see on page 146 " It is hard , neigh impossible, to fight a war if the cause is viewed as Bankrupt".The result of the increasing desperate propagation's for continuation of unpopular wars is " the notion that one fact is as good as the next" becomes " one of the most disturbing consequences of War".We can be laid by degrees and extremes of wanting War in order to "aid" the eradication of cultural practices , so we now have some advocating Nato troops being in Afghanistan because it may do the Womanfolk their good , without explaining how fully armed Nato soldiers are to be considered a positive role model for the betterment of female liberation any more so than soldiers of the Armies of Alexander the Great can be considered a worthy intervention for womanhood in the cities they sacked in the same areas 3 millennium ago, rather than the prevention of genocide , which is one of the few cases of war Hedges is prepared to countenance.

The last , and not least , concern is the damage done to the foreign soldier on the ground in a zone in which the hearts and minds of the local population have not been remotely won.On page 162 we get the observation we see in increasing veracity at home " War...probably worse is the psychiatric and spiritual toll" , that is of those poor combatants who return from a tour of duty without any physical wounds." In the 1973 war a third of all Israeli casualties were due to psychiatric causes"