Sunday, October 25, 2020

REVOLUTIONS WITHIN COUNTRIES, FAMILIES AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT--What's the price and who pays? --THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS. WILLIAM, MEMOIR OF THE MINOTAUR

REVOLUTIONS WITHIN COUNTRIES, FAMILIES AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT--What's the price and who pays?

Intense passions fuel revolutions within countries, families and people. Whether destructive or significant breakthroughs (or both), the costs of such challenges are huge and who pays is significant. 2017's Trumpian  revolution began a spectacle of  "disruption" of government fueled by a populist uprising yet funded by conservative elites. This revolution expanded the privilege of wealthy backers, while targeting the health and financial benefits of poor and working class supporters. Strangely, supporters rallied for fairness and an end to  corruption did not seem to be fazed by this reality.  Was  emotional release, the approval of a powerful figure, satisfaction enough?

Personality cults aside, fairness and an end to corruption are eternal cries by revolutionaries seeking to topple the status quo, sometimes with a violence that  destroys civilized life. Does anything good come from that?  Consider the French Revolution, which led to Robespierre and the guillotine's rivers of blood, also created The Rights of Man  (Thomas Jefferson was a consultant). That manifesto not only inspired a French Republic and our Declaration of Independence, but an allegiance critical to the American colonies winning the long war for independence. If not our suffering, history's view, perhaps this was progress.



The populist revolution against the American war in Vietnam -- the first in U.S. history to end an unpopular war--brought together races, classes and ages; veterans of many wars, clergy, military families, housewives and students.  Reportedly, when  President Johnson saw thousands of  people marching  from his White House window, he knew it was time to end the war. The passions of that revolution were fanned by the human costs,  nightly news footage of body bags awaiting transit home. 

The excesses of the Cold War were winding down on both sides. Less revolution than evolution, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the result of continual political and legislative conflicts in their republics. The Czech Velvet Revolution peacefully ended 41 years of one-party rule for a parliamentary government and other republics followed. 

As western democracies aged  revolution seemed almost quaint, until the rise in recent years of right wing nationalist parties and violent extremist groups.  Generations of lost jobs (blamed on government policies favoring global business) combined with a refugee crisis to create revolutionaries infuriated by changes in their status, A return to white racial privilege was a matter of "fairness." In the U.S., Trump's rallies encouraged racism with a new tolerance for violent expression.  
 
In 2020 the Trump oligarchy has been challenged by a  revolutionary election  to restore substance to government and the rule of law. Though almost half the population is yet mesmerized by the proto fascistic behavior of Trump, a clear majority voted for Joe Biden. But winning the election is only the first step. Like any despot in an authoritarian country, Trump is questioning the election outcome to seize power. A natural outgrowth of his  "disruption" of  democracy, yet how effective can it be with a clear loss? 

While I anxiously await Biden's transition, I am reading novels. Supposedly, an emotionally fueled teen-age "revolution" is part of  an inevitable evolution from childhood to maturity. Fairness and an end of corruption (hypocrisy) erupts in themes as varied as inspiration vs. responsibility, divine wisdom vs. bestial experience, tyranny vs. justice.  Here are three novels where the primal tensions, as in our collective lives, are not easily resolved in favor of a status quo. 

In THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS By Elena Ferrante, revolution is pivotal in the coming of age of a Italian girl from a middle class Neapolitan family. Education and career are valued over religion and traditional family ties. Books are articles of faith in a knowable world governed by progress. Giovanni begins as a parent pleasing thirteen year old, who admires her  academic father, a professor, writer and critic and her mother, who earns money editing romance novels. Her best friends, off spring of her parents' best friends, are also privileged products of a felicitous union of respectable progressive people. 

But as her teens progress, Giovanni develops uncertainty about herself, physically and mentally and and has problems at school. Expectations by her parents that she "behave" seem unfair and she talks back, cuts school, unlike her former compliant self.  When she overhears her father say she is getting her aunt's face, the comparison seems a curse. This aunt, she has never met  from the poorest of Naples, is considered an enemy of Giovanni's parents. She becomes am object of fascination; the entry to forbidden worlds of religion, passion, and most of all, truths that aren't relative. To her tempestuous uneducated aunt, morality is black and white. 

With an ally against her family, Giovanni rebels in larger ways, not graduating  high school, and, as her parents' marriage crumbles, acting out "sluttiness/" When her aunt instructs her to closely observe her parents, her beloved father becomes a monster of artifice and manipulation. Giovanni's revolution rides the axes of ugliness and beauty, escape and revelation, love vs infidelity, truth vs. perception. Eventually, she trades emotional security for a hard won self confidence. When she finally enters the lying world of adults, vowing to be real and different, you are left with a question--and a hope. 

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E. H. Young's WILLIAM (published in 1925) is a family story from the father's viewpoint, a man who unexpectedly finds himself a revolutionary against society's expectations and those of his beloved wife. A former sea captain become a successful businessman, he acts as a sentinel for the heart oppressed by unwritten rules. Though he has greatly enjoyed his comfortable attractive home filled with flowers, his wife's care for "quality" and reputation governs every aspect of his  household. His sensibility rebels for "fairness,"  what's of value in human existence against society's norms. The irony of a mature family man taking such a stand is not lost on him, It's love for his "feckless" daughter that inspires his revolution. He must choose between his traditional wife whose morality is as inflexible as her plans for meals and furnishings and the dictates of his conscience. Though William occasionally ran secret interference for his children's happiness, home and family was his wife's capable vocation. Now he must be honestly oppositional and damn the consequences.

In an era where a woman could be a muse but not an artist or writer; marriage to a creative husband, assuming money wasn't an issue, was okay but not so desirable. Falling in love with a married man was ruinous, resulting in complete ostracism of parents and siblings. Upholding the dictates of church and social status were not to be compromised. Yet Lydia's search for joy and meaning is one William understands. Though he loves his six children and struggles to understand them, Lydia mirrors his spirit. Her haphazard beauty and charm effortlessly transforms rooms and people. When she and William become conspirators for her love, their cause proves less about happiness than  her right to decide--even if it brings misery. Hers is an ageless perilous quest. The personal costs of William's "revolution" is the loss of his own illusions about his life and love, revealed in the process. 

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Unlike the heroine in the bestselling Circe,  the hero in Tom Shachtman's THE MEMOIR OF THE MINOTAUR is less a rebel against the Gods than an interloper between worlds. Both human and divine, he yearns for acceptance as an individual and is infuriated at being made a "monster" by Crete's brutal King Midas. This minotaur, the son of Midas's queen and a god in the form of a white bull, loves his half sister, Ariadne and believes that love is returned. But he has learned that the human world is far less predictable than the blissful fields of cows--his first family. He matures in the palace, intelligent, sensitive and amusing to his royal siblings, only tolerated by Minos as a demigod and freak. His birth meant his mother's death, yet she proceeded, knowing the outcome. Her fate is akin to the Minotaur's acceptance of his, chosen by the Gods, suffered by him in this retelling of the great myth.

The memoir is the Minotaur's revolution against his fate. and he spares no one, least of all himself.. Yes he murdered but it's mankind's bestiality that forced him into the role of "monster." Cruelty begins in  Minus' luxurious palace, where the king  names him "starborne." With Daedalus as teacher-keeper, he joyfully develops his human intelligence and sensitivity. But, as he grows stronger, mentally and physically, the king jails him in a cage below the palace and transforms him into a starving fearful animal. 

Daedalus, the brilliant architect and engineer, also enslaved, is tasked to design the cage and the labyrinth of his design becomes the minotaur's eternal prison. Worse yet, though the minotaur, is originally raised on plants, Minus forces him to develop a taste for meat. Sadly, his debasement  is a fate he cannot avoid. Minos manages to tyrannize and dominate all neighboring city states by demanding their best young maidens and men as tribute. The Minotaur. must eat to live and the horrific experiences of  both the young sacrifices he must take, both their pain and his killing, causes him tremendous anguish. Enforced bestiality is the ultimate existential dilemma, explored in THE MEMOIR OF THE MINOTAUR. 

Eventually, he decides to make the best of  life for himself and his victims. The carnality of life in the labyrinth becomes huge, death and sex taken to all extremes. The Minotaur provides what he can to his food supply, who are also companions and lovers. Easy death, sex or comradeship in exploring the labyrinth and food preservation are choices he describes. He also writes about the behavior of  the groups of tribute who arrive in monthly deposits. At first they look for a way out and then discover futility. Some actually do make it to the inner rooms of the extinct priestesses, whose mystic nature religion preceded Minus. In these caverns of royal tombs are death and luxury.

The Minotaur's memoir horrifically narrates his life, conscious of how it might be perceived by an outsider, the reader. Though he's betrayed and ultimately dies for his murders, in Hades he is accounted some peace for his previous suffering. This is a dark book in genre not as aimless as horror. It brought to mind MALDOROR, a long poem that horrifically depicts a world of human savagery. Camus' novel, THE PLAGUE also explores the baseness of human character but with possible redemption.  THE MEMOIR OF THE MINOTAUR  goes into similar dark territory to seek gold in human consciousness. Be warned it is not an easy journey, when the Gods' are in charge. 

S.W. 




Diana Rivera's "Toward the Light, 8th Avenue" in online exhibition Dec 3-31, 2020, https://www.laslagunagallery.com, Photography

https://www.laslagunagallery.com

Current Show, Photography, now open to view.

Diana's work is a silver gelatin print 15x10 inches. 

 “Toward the Light, 8th Avenue, 2018", from Diane's series “Ghost Waltz, Volume I: Acquainted With the Night, will be on display in the online exhibition "Photography" at the @laslagunaartgallery, December 3 - 31, 2020





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https://dianarivera.exposure.co/adventures-in-filmgreenwich-village   

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Return to pre-Covid spring days in New York's Greenwich Village...they will come again but for now there's Diana's photos. Earlier post has excerpts from her Valentino series. For more:  See dianariveraarts and dianariveracreative media on Instagram.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Howard Rosenberg's BLIZZARD OF LIES, a gumshoe journalist in "Heaventown" uncovers the truth behind a war hero immortalized by Hollywood .

 

Heaventown New York's claim to fame is Saint Billy, a film about  a local war hero, Billy Temple. Starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara, this Xmas favorite has spawned a plethora of tourist traps; a Billy themed museum, hotels, restaurants, boutiques. When veteran reporter Charlie Ginsberg is assigned a "puff piece" on the quaint town in advance of their annual Billy Festival, he's resigned to his fate. While The Word, a news site, offers few challenges, at least he's got a paid trip to a scenic place. He vows to enjoy the view but Charlie can't mothball his brain. Why are there no photos of the real Billy Temple in the museum that bears his name?  What about his accidental" death from the Billy-named bridge?

BLIZZARD OF LIES, Howard Rosenberg's entertaining mystery, is both a satirical and earnest look at American values and character.  Charlie mercilessly investigates stereotypes who often are on target and not--including himself. Yes he's an east coast intellectual, a pushy Jewish reporter, a type he also recognizes in a smart sexy local entrepreneur, who's President of the Chamber of Commerce. There's the officious African American police chief, first in the town, who has mysterious dealings, a cantankerous yet wise 90 year old founder of the local newspaper, a couple with a business empire built on curios, and a tender wiseacre barmaid, pretty as a prom queen. The personalities of Heaventown both define and defy cliches as they seek to mislead or direct Charlie's search for Billy Temple and the soul of the town. 

With  a nod to Citizen Kane , BLIZZARD OF LIES traces the paths of the GI legend and his reality,  from the trenches of WW2 to the making of the movie, and his death. The discrepancies between the official Billy story and the facts grow wider. As Charlie gets evidence to back his hunches, the town's "muscle" closes in. Before he's done, he exposes the shenanigans of  local commerce and the role of race and racism in the town's formation. He also contends with the cynical politics of  journalism involving The Word. Yet Charlie's ending is an unexpected happy one with an old love--serious hard hitting journalism. 

Less "Twin Peaks" than "the banality of evil", BLIZZARD OF LIES' reveals the every day corruption for profit that exists in many towns and the eternal price to individuals of cover-ups. But most of all, this is a fun read. Charlie Ginsberg is a fascinating detective; a merciless investigator and an instinctual lover, who defies logic in his affairs. Can he find a love that lasts?  What chaos and career suicide will his nose for truth lead him to next?  I look forward to the next Rosenberg saga. 

Howard Rosenberg, former LA Times critic and Pulitzer-winner, airs his views on his blog ROSENBEAST at https://howardrosenbergblog.wordpress.com

S.W.