REDEPLOYMENT

Commanders say we do not shoot children, but children are killed.  Long range artillery and drones mask the consequence of killing. 

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

RedeploymentRedeployment

Written by: Phil Klay

Narration by:  Craig Klein

PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)
PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)

“Redeployment” is a work of fiction.  It is written by Phil Klay, a Marine officer who served in Iraq in 2007/2008.  (Klay is the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for fiction for stories written in this book.)  “Redeployment” is about military’ enlistment, deployment, redeployment, and combat.

recruiter
There is an unpaid price for a military recruit who goes into combat.  The price is unseen and unknown until after it is experienced.  Those who first join have no idea what is in store for them when placed in a circumstance of killing or being killed.

Joining the military, particularly when one is in their teens or early twenties, is often an escape.

Enlistment is often a way to escape (or transition) from parental control, poverty, or life’s rudderlessness.  For a few, military enlistment is an adventure, a career, an opportunity to get in shape, a chance to see the world.  For others, joining may be a family tradition, a romantic notion of defending one’s country, a desire to impress parents, guardians, or friends.

One of Klay’s characters joins because of financial help offered by the service to pay for an education; another character joins because of family tradition, another because it impresses his father.  Klay’s stories offer insight by explaining most reasons are too simple, or clearly misunderstood by new recruits.   

VIETNAM WAR
Klay’s stories show that training for combat is not being in combat.  Military training creates a sense of team entitlement, i.e., of being tougher, more unified, more capable and important than civilians.  Training is meant to break-down individualism.  Military training masks the humanity of anyone that is not part of the team. 

Orders are orders.  Hierarchy of command is inviolable.  If a commander orders flattening of a town, soldiers are expected to act without thinking and remember without conscience.  Soldiers are able to act by dehumanizing those outside of their team.  In Vietnam humans become gooks.  In Iraq humans become towel heads.  These are tricks of propaganda that allow short-term actions but often fail to leave soldiers’ consciences. 

Klay tells the story of a soldier who wants to know how many of an enemy are killed in a bombardment.  The soldier asks if there was an investigation.  The commander says no and sees no reason.  The soldier visits a behind-the-lines’ command post which cares for the dead.  He asks if a team will be sent to the site that has been bombarded.  The NCO asks if Americans were killed.  The soldier says no.  The NCO answers the question–“No, there is no investigation because we only concern ourselves with our own”.

BASEBALL IN THE VIETNAM WAR
Klay tells the story of the American financier that donates baseball equipment for Marines to teach Iraqi children how to play baseball.  The request goes up and down military channels despite the ludicrous misapprehension of what is really happening in Iraq. 

 A Marine officer is ordered to comply with the request to mollify the uniformed or ignorant financier’s request.

Another story is written about a civilian contractor hired to build a waterpower station in an Iraqi community.  The Marine assigned to oversee the utility installation is told by a local Iraqi that the pumping station being built will create too much pressure and blow-up the plumbing in town.  The Marine explains the problem to the civilian contractor, but it does not stop the project.  It is an assignment that is being paid by the American government whether it works or not.  All the contractor is concerned about is completing the job and being paid.  Klay offers more stories, i.e., equally appalling–examples of wasted dollars and efforts to rebuild Iraq.

Klay writes of the misunderstandings that compound America’s mistakes in Iraq.  There is the story of the Egyptian American recruit that speaks Egyptian Arabic but does not know Iraqi Arabic and must learn the difference on his own because the military believes there is no difference.

The character Klay creates who oversees the water plant construction and an Iraqi baseball assignment is also responsible for producing Iraqi jobs.  This Marine’s civilian subcontractors are often ill-equipped to do what needs to be done.  One of the opportunities is farming but the civilian subcontractor assigned to help knows nothing about farming.

Another story is of an Iraqi who starts a women’s clinic to help women in Iraq who need medical assistance.  However, because her clinic is not creating enough jobs, there is little financial assistance to expand the service.  Klay implies Iraq is a “Bizarro World” where no one seems to communicate understandably, and most act without accomplishment.

BIZZARO WORLD OF WAR

Klay implies the experience of becoming a Marine saturates the being of some soldiers.  Their experience in combat and the comradeship of belonging compels re-enlistment and/or redeployment.  Being a civilian becomes too unstructured.  In some cases, Klay suggests civilian life is threatening to a soldier with experience of combat.  Some redeployed soldiers become command officers that live in a world of only “us and them” with all of “them” as expendable sub-human beings.

America’s pending departure from Iraq is a betrayal of “you broke it, you fix it”.  America tried and failed.  In that failure, the realization is–“the fix” can only be made by Iraqi leaders.  Iraq’s dilemma is America’s forgotten lesson of Vietnam.

(Baghdad Bombing kills 32 and wounds over 100 on January 21, 2021.)Baghdad Bombin kills 32 and wounds over 100 1.12.21

In a final story, Klay writes of a Marine veteran horribly disfigured by an IED.  A Marine that joined and served in the same place and at the same time as the disfigured veteran is a close friend.  The uninjured friend stays in touch with his fellow ex-Marine.  They recall old times.  They are close friends, but the IED has so profoundly changed their relationship that the friendship has devolved into a friendship of un-equals.  Intimate civilian relationships, taken for granted by both before disfigurement, are now probabilistically experienced by only one of the friends.  Klay’s stories show that combat is a psychological, often physical life changing experience.

ICONIC IMAGE OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM
ICONIC IMAGE OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM

Klay is a veteran.  He seems to be saying it is important to understand what it means to become a soldier before signing up.  “Redeployment” is neither right or wrong, but it can be right and wrong.  The best civilians and soldiers can do is “try to do right”.

UNDERRATED MASTERPIECE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Breakfast of Champions

Written by: Kurt Vonnegut

Narration by:  John Malkovich

KURT VONNEGUT (1922-2007)

KURT VONNEGUT (1922-2007)

The author, Kurt Vonnegut, offers a fascinating glimpse of a mind teetering on, and then falling over the edge of reality into insanity.  One might classify “Breakfast of Champions” as a surreal satire but that diminishes its insight to insanity.

JOHN MALKOVICH (ACTOR, DIRECTOR WHO HAS APPEARED IN OVER 70 MOTION PICTURES)

“Breakfast of Champions” is an imaginative and underrated masterpiece.  The underestimation is realized by the listener in John Malkovich’s excellent narration. 

There are no heroes in “Breakfast of Champions”.  There are three main characters.  There is the teller of the tale, Kilgore Trout, and Dwayne Hoover.

Vonnegut clearly satirizes the maladies of the American twentieth century but he concretely reveals how wealth, poverty, and escapism grind people down and compel abhorrent, often violent, and insane acts.  He exposes the American dream’s illusion of happiness. 

In Vonnegut’s story, our Creator is a tinkerer who creates machines that are known as human beings.  These human beings are set in motion, endowed with consciousness, and no longer controlled by the Creator.  They are machines that follow the laws of physics and are self-sustaining, reincarnating machines that live forever without recollection of past lives.

CREATOR.png

The teller of the tale is not revealed until the last chapters of the book.  It is the Creator of humankind. 

Kilgore Trout is a science fiction writer who is invited by an admirer of his books to receive an award, in a coal mining town, for his pornographic science fiction stories.  The award is for the greatest writer of all time.  Trout is at first reluctant to take the trip to the coal mining town but succumbs to their acclaim for his fame and begins hitchhiking across the country to receive the award.

COAL MINERS

Dwayne Hoover is one of the richest men in the coal mining town from which Trout is receiving the award.  Hoover is an auto dealer.  He is the best employer in town, with the best employment package; including employee health plans.

However, the largest employer in town is a coal producer.  The coal company is an environmental polluter, low wage provider, and the biggest cause of citizen illness in town.

Trout and Hoover may or may not know each other but the Creator knows what is going to happen when Trout finally arrives.  In Trout’s hitchhiking progress he meets fellow machines (people who are coping with life).  Their stories are of middle class lives that remind reader/listeners of the passions, weaknesses, and desires of all human beings.  At the same time, the Creator explains what it is like for people that live in coal mining towns.  There is Hoover’s “girl Friday”, the homosexual piano player, and an artist who is recently awarded $5,000 for a painting.  Each machine (person) plays a role in a developing crisis that approaches at the speed of Trout’s hitchhiking progress.

BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN

A reader/listener feels bad things are going to happen as the story progresses.  Hoover is taking what the Creator calls “bad chemicals”. 

At one point Hoover cannot speak except to repeat one word of a sentence said to him by another.  Hoover crosses the street and feels, with each step, he is sinking into the earth.  Hoover returns to his office, calls his girl Friday, and says he needs her to come with him to a local motel room to relieve a persistent erection.  Both Hoover and his girl Friday have lost their spouses; i.e. Hoover’s wife by suicide; girl Friday’s by war.  They have been lovers for some time.

BAR PIANO PLAYER

Hoover continues taking bad chemicals.  The Creator arrives at a bar in town.  Trout arrives at the same bar.  The piano player is playing.  It is somewhat unclear but Hoover shoots the piano player in the back of the head, and bludgeons his girl Friday. 

Trout tries to stop the beating of the girl, and the tip of Trout’s finger is bitten off by Hoover.  Hoover is arrested.  The piano player is dead.  Girl Friday is concussed, and Trout has his hand wrapped in a bloody handkerchief.  Hoover is taken to jail; girl Friday, the dead piano player, and Trout are on their way to the hospital.

FREEWILL

Vonnegut seems to be explaining that money is not happiness.  Human beings have free will to be good, bad, morally upright, or insanely brutal. 

Having a job that barely offers the basic necessities of life only reinforces machine-like living.  Destruction of the environment diminishes those who work for dirty industries and those ancillary businesses that suck off polluter’s productivity.  Drugs are a way of escaping reality but they have consequences. Some machines (people) fall off the edge of sanity, become violent, and sometimes murder innocent bystanders.

STEPHEN CRAIG PADDOCK (PERPETRATOR OF THE LAS VEGAS, NEVADA MASSACRE.)

STEPHEN CRAIG PADDOCK (PERPETRATOR OF THE LAS VEGAS, NEVADA MASSACRE.)

“Breakfast of Champions” is not only a story of the 1970s.  It is the story of yesterday’s school shootings, postal syndrome killings, the Paddock atrocity in Las Vegas, and Donald Trump’s delusional attempt to void America’s 2020 Presidential election.  Vonnegut suggests a human being, whether there is a Creator or not, has free will.  Vonnegut implies humans are choosing to be machines.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Mislaid: A NovelMislaid

Written by: Nell Zink 

Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell

NELL ZINK (AMERICAN NOVELIST)
NELL ZINK (AMERICAN NOVELIST)

Sexual orientation, and what became known as LGBT rights, is hotly debated in America.  Four rulings between 1996 and 2015 changed the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.  The Supreme Court invalidated a state law banning protected class recognition based on homosexuality; invalidated sodomy laws nationwide, denied the validity of the “Defense of Marriage Act”, and made same-sex marriage legal in America.

Nell Zink validates the direction of society’s recognition of LGBT rights in her book “Mislaid”.  Zink creates four characters who illustrate how American equal rights for the LGBT community are changing.  Lee, a husband, is gay.  Peggy, his wife, is lesbian.  Being gay or lesbian is a label implying gays only have sex with men and lesbians only have sex with women.  “Mislaid” suggests that is a myth.  Lee and Peggy clearly express their preference for same-sex liaisons; however, being gay or lesbian is a preference; not an inviolable mandate or predilection.

sexual orientationHumans may be seduced by the pleasure of sex regardless of sexual orientation.  Though both Lee and Peggy are noted to have same-sex preference, they become man and wife and bare two children during their marriage.  Just as the words gay and lesbian are labels, the same can be said of bisexual.  Sexual acts are fundamentally gender neutral.

The disingenuous politicization of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by the governor of Florida is disgusting.  The Disney corporation creates amusement parks for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

CHILDREN
Zink implies that sexual preference is a happenstance of genetics, not parental influence.  Current science and sociological studies reinforce that belief.

A second myth that is exploded is that the children of gay and/or lesbian parents produce sexually confused offspring.  Both the son and daughter of Lee and Peggy are heterosexual.  Zink implies that sexual preference is a happenstance of genetics, not parental influence.  Current science and sociological studies reinforce that belief.

Love between Lee and Peggy is not part of their sexual relationship.  At best, it is a partnership of circumstance and convenience.  Lack of love leads to divorce when their son is nine and their daughter is three.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE 2Lee is the dominant presence in the relationship.  Lee psychologically abuses his wife with extramarital affairs and ridicule that is focused on Peggy’s unrealistic literary ambition. Peggy’s reaction is to act out by driving her husband’s favorite car into a lake and eventually leaving her husband.  Peggy expects to take both of her children with her but their nine-year-old son refuses to leave; in part because of Lee’s labeling of Peggy as psychologically unbalanced (another frequently misused label).

GENDER INEQUALITYEach child grows up in starkly different environments.  The boy becomes an academic athlete at William and Mary while the girl becomes a struggling scholarship-aid student at the same school.  Their independent upbringing represents two ends of the spectrum of growing up in America.  One, is a life of upper middle class wealth; the other a life of poverty.  One shows the privilege of being a man and the difficulty of being a woman in a world largely controlled by men.

“Mislaid” could have been a much better novel.  It deals with life’s complexity very well, but fails to engross its listener in its characters.  A reader/listener’s empathy is rarely tapped by a story full of potential.  However, Nell Zink deftly and intelligently covers a host of subjects that warrant the time it takes for the public to read or listen to “Mislaid”.  It provides a better understanding of the LGBT community.  It illustrates how much more difficult it is for an American woman than an American man to raise a child on her own.

WOMEN ARE THE SUN

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

A Doubter’s Almanac: A Novel

Written by: Ethan Canin

Narrated by: David Aaron Baker

ETHAN CANIN (AMERICAN AUTHOR, EDUCATOR AND PHYSICIAN)

ETHAN CANIN (AMERICAN AUTHOR, EDUCATOR AND PHYSICIAN)

“A Doubter’s Almanac” is a 21st century classic. 

Though some may argue otherwise, Ethan Canin writes about a universal truth; i.e. “women are the sun; men are the moon”.  Canin catalyzes one’s doubt and ambivalence about life’s meaning in a story about moral transgression, addiction, guilt, and redemption.

The story begins with details of a person with a superior intellect, and an amoral life.  He is Milo Andret, a mathematician blessed with the ability to understand complex spatial relationships, even as they change shape. 

Milo is never lost in a physical wilderness but is trapped in a space reserved only for himself.  In some ways, Milo reminds one of Ivan Karamazov (Dostoevsky’s protagonist in “Brothers Karamazov”), a rationalist that denies God because of the irrationality of faith and the cruelty of life.

Canin’s character, Milo. is a boy narcissist who matures into a misogynistic adult and dies as a repentant grandfather.  Canin reveals the nature of geniuses who exploit their superiority.

Milo, like Ivan in “Brothers Karamazov”, treats others as superficial human beings who only have relevance in respect to what they can do for him.  Milo is a self-absorbed genius that begins as a naïve young boy looking for recognition from others for a superiority that he only vaguely sees in himself. 

Milo is a boy narcissist who matures into a misogynistic adult and dies as a repentant grandfather.  Canin reveals the nature of geniuses who exploit their superiority.  They will alienate others.  Some will lie to win praise.  They are awarded for presumed new discoveries that are beyond the reasoning ability of their peers.

Genius is shown to have a short productive life.  Canin describes geniuses as God’s spies because they have momentary insight to the laws of nature.  However, God designs human brains to deteriorate early in their lives.  Once past the age of 30, God’s spies are blinded by mental deterioration. 

Milo crosses that threshold just before discovering a mathematical proof that has escaped human understanding.  Canin’s story suggests Milo fudges the truth of his mathematical proof by purposefully ignoring a false calculation.

addiction

Milo, like Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, knows he has made a mistake, and punishes himself with alcohol, anti-social behavior, and misogyny.

Consciously, Milo attempts to redeem himself by teaching his son to become a mathematics topologist like himself.  His son and daughter have inherited Milo’s ability to understand complex spatial relationships.  However, Milo’s son also inherited his father’s addictive behavior. 

Milo’s son turns to mind altering drugs just as his father turned to alcohol.  They choose addiction to escape the pressure of their innate genius.  Because of Milo’s misogyny, he discounts the nurturing role of his wife and innate ability of his daughter.

All who surround Milo are sycophantic because of his mathematics reputation.  Milo knows his reputation is founded partly on a lie.  He wishes to redeem himself with a new discovery but has lost his cutting edge genius.  Milo is plunged deeper into misery by the realization that scientific discovery is an endless creation of new questions.  One great mathematics proof only leads to another question and the search for another proof.  Milo drinks himself to death, and his son is heading in the same direction.

Milo’s son abandons his mathematics career to become a financial Quant for an investment firm.  He becomes a multi-millionaire before the age of twenty by arbitraging stock and commodities by hedging price movements in the market.  The deterioration of his father’s health draws him back into the orbit of his father’s life.

The last two-thirds of Canin’s book is a dissection of Milo’s life and the future of Milo’s wife, two children, and two grandchildren.  Milos is divorced by his wife after years of psychological abuse.  His son returns to be with Milo to understand why Milo became the father and person he had become.  Milo’s daughter and wife are estranged but eventually come back to see Milo in his last years of life.

The final scenes of Milo’s life are a summation of Canin’s view of human nature.  Death is a Sisyphean struggle for Milo.  The beginning of his life is symbolized by a long chain he carves out of a single piece of wood when a boy.  It is a beginning recognition of his genius.  It is later revealed in an interview with a mathematics professor that becomes Milo’s champion and mentor in college.  This chain becomes the lynchpin of Milo’s life.  The professor recognizes topographic genius in Milo’s ability to create a perfect chain out of one piece of wood.

CARVED WOODEN CHAIN

MILO’S CARVED WOODEN CHAIN-This chain becomes the lynchpin of Milo’s life.

The chain’s linkage with seminal events in Milo’s life re-occurs when it is offered by him to his first love.  She recognizes the chain as a proof of his genius.  However, she refuses to take the chain as a gift.  His first love leaves him; partly for another man, but primarily because of her youth and the wish to experience the adventure of life.

The chain reappears at the end of Milo’s life.  The most important people in his life are present; e.g. an early mathematics competitor of Milo’s who marries Milo’s first love, his first love, his wife, his son, his daughter, and two grandchildren.  A confrontation occurs.  One of the links in the chain is chipped when the chain is thrown, by the daughter, at the husband of Milo’s first love.  Milo’s former mathematics competitor explains to the assembled group that Milo is the failure he predicted he would be when they were young.

The uproar from the mathematics competitor’s declamation reinforces two themes in Canin’s story.  One, science proofs are at best leaders to future unknowns or, at worst, false starts that are dead-end mistakes.  In either case, a genius, let alone an average seeker, never achieves a satisfying conclusion.  In searching for the unknown, life is wasted.  Second, all the genius or average seeker can do is “never give up”.

Canin has written a good story; expertly narrated by David Baker.  It is a tribute to the seekers of proof about the nature of existence.  The nature of existence seems beyond the grasp of the human mind but Canin implies neither men nor women should ever give up.

What Canin’s hero confirms is that women are the sun and men are the moon.  Nature and nurture make us who we are but the principal source of our power is the sun.

MYSTERY WITHIN A MYSTERY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Magpie MurdersMAGPIE MURDERS 

Written by: Anthony Horowitz 

Narrated by: Samantha Bond, Allan Corduner

ANTHONY HOROWITZ (ENGLISH AUTHOR AND SCREENWRITER)
ANTHONY HOROWITZ (ENGLISH AUTHOR AND SCREENWRITER)

Anthony Horowitz offers a mystery within a mystery.  Anthony Horowitz successfully suspends imagination and compels listeners to know “who done it” in two intertwined mysteries.  As an added benefit, Horowitz offers insight to the writing profession. He explains the genre of mystery with a fictional editor who manages a curmudgeonly, difficult, and successful mystery writer.  The writer commits suicide or is murdered while writing his last book, MAGPIE MURDERS.WRITERS WHO WRITE EVERY DAY

An audio-book listener is drawn into the story of MAGPIE MURDERS but finds the last chapter is missing.   The listener’s imagination is suspended.  Who is the killer?  Horowitz’s fictional editor trails the mystery of the last chapter.  While trailing the last chapter, she investigates the suicide or murder of the writer.

LITERATURE'S QUICKSAND
LITERATURE’S QUICKSAND

Somewhat frustratingly, the listener wants to know who the MAGPIE MURDERS’ killer is.  Was the last chapter completed?  And then, the listener is drawn into the fictional editor’s mystery of whether the writer purposefully committed suicide or was shoved off a balcony.

 

THE STORY'S ROAD MAP
THE STORY’S ROAD MAP

Great American Bestsellers
Parenthetically, Horowitz explains why writing can be frustrating for financially rewarded authors.  Bestsellers are a reflection of commercial success; not literary quality or contribution.

At times, MAGPIE MURDERS has too many words.  The distracting part of Horowitz’s book is the fictional editor’s digressive readings of other writer’s poorly written stories that show the difference between good and bad writing.  Parenthetically, Horowitz explains why writing can be frustrating for financially rewarded authors.  Bestsellers are a reflection of commercial success; not necessarily literary quality or contribution.  What holds the story together is the listener’s captured desire to know who killed whom.  Who is the MAGPIE MURDERS’ murderer?  Is there a murderer of the mystery writer?

The audio-book director’s decision to have two narrators, one a woman; the other a man, helps make the experience of the book more understandable.  The intertwining mysteries are clearly delineated by the change in narrators.  Both mysteries maintain the listener’s interest in Horowitz’s book.  The MAGPIE MURDERS is a primer for good writers and an entertainment for mystery fans.

DISCRIMINATION’S COMPLEXITY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Invisible Man 

Written by: Ralph Ellison 

Narrated by: Joe Morton

RALPH ELLISON (1914-1994, AUTHOR, CRITIC, SCHOLAR)

RALPH ELLISON (1914-1994, AUTHOR, CRITIC, SCHOLAR)

Few books capture the complexity of discrimination and its societal consequence. Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” is one of the few.  To re-read/listen to Ellison’s book, it seems a biography of its author. 

Ellison was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  He attends Tuskegee Institute, a black university in Alabama.  He fails to graduate and moves to New York.  He becomes a spokesman and propagandist for the communist party before WWII.  He eschews communism after the war while living in New York.  He becomes acquainted with other writers (like Richard Wright) who expose discrimination and its abomination.  In these details, one sees Ellison as the “Invisible Man”.

JOE MORTON, JR. (AMERICAN STAGE, TV, AND FILM ACTOR, NARRATOR)

JOE MORTON, JR. (AMERICAN STAGE, TV, AND FILM ACTOR, NARRATOR

The intensity and credibility of Ellison’s story is magnified by Joe Morton’s skill as an actor.  Every line reflects an understanding of discrimination and its relevant emotions.  In reading “Invisible Man” much of what Ellison wrote is missed.  Morton offers clarity and visibility to the “Invisible Man”.

In outline, this story follows the path of Ellison’s life.  The hero is expelled from college in his Junior year and moves to New York.  The reason for his expulsion is an aspect of discrimination and its consequence. 

A rich white financial supporter of the university is being shown around by Ellison’s “Invisible Man”. 

Through a series of incidents, the white supporter becomes embroiled in the reality of human poverty in a black community.  His immersion exposes an incestuous relationship with an inference that incest is not limited to the poor; i.e. that it reflects on his personal white life.

The white university benefactor appears overwhelmed by a realization of evil’s equality among men.  A rich white man’s evil is no different from a poor black man’s evil.  He asks the “Invisible Man” to get him a shot of liquor. 

Because they are far from town, the only place for a drink is a seedy bar in the neighborhood.  In trying to please the university’s patron, the “Invisible Man” inadvertently embroils the rich man in a bar fight.  No one is killed but the experience illustrates how discrimination relegates parts of society to a life of poverty, anxiety, and despair.

Upon returning to the University, the patron tells the “Invisible Man” to have the President of the school come see him in his room.  Dutifully, the “Invisible Man” calls the University President and is condemned by him for showing the patron a part of town that shows what it is like to be black in America. All the student had done was what the benefactor asked him to do.

EVERYWHERE IN CHAINS

EVERYWHERE IN CHAINS (A respected black leader (this University President) is saying—if you want to get ahead, you must hide who you are, play by a white man’s rules, and interpret everything a white person says to mean you don’t matter; and act appropriately to reinforce a white man’s stereotype of “Negroes”.)

The University President expels the “Invisible Man” for a mistake he believes he did not make.  The President disagrees.  He tells the “Invisible Man” he made a horrible mistake. 

The University President explains that he should have “shucked and jived” to steer the patron away from the reality of being black in the south. 

The President is telling the Black student he must “play the game”.  This is a statement about the complexity and disastrous effects of discrimination.  Not only white America stereotypes Black America, some Blacks reinforce it.

The “Invisible Man” accepts the expulsion and understands the President’s reasons for expelling him.  He asks the President for letters of recommendation to rich patrons he knows in New York.  The “Invisible Man” plans to get a job in New York that will allow him to come back to the school after a year of exile.  The President agrees and writes several letters, seals them, and tells the “Invisible Man” not to open them.

In New York, all but one letter is delivered to offices of potential white employers.  No job interviews are offered.  With a last letter in hand, the “Invisible Man” insists on seeing the white patron that the letter is addressed to.  He is interviewed by the son of the business owner who offers to show the letter to him. 

The letter is a condemnation of the “Invisible Man” by the Black University President who had no intention of ever allowing him to return to the University.

With no job, no prospects, and dwindling savings, the “Invisible Man” realizes he is screwed; i.e. not only white America denies his existence, but Blacks in power accept cultural rules and screw him as royally as white America.

Dr. Bledsoe, the black University President is saying: “Play the game, but play it your own way, my boy.  Learn how it operates, learn how you operate.”

Both black leaders in power and whites deny equality of opportunity.  There seems nowhere to turn.  That is, until Ellison’s story tells of an eviction of a black family in Harlem. With that eviction story, the “Invisible Man” becomes visible. 

Relying on his education and previous speech-making experience, the “Invisible Man” addresses a crowd around the dispossessed family and sparks a riot in Harlem. Members of “The Brotherhood” are in the audience.  The leader of “The Brotherhood” is impressed by the “Invisible Man’s” ability to motivate the crowd.  The leader offers him a job.  At first, it seems like the dawning of a new life, an opportunity to prosper while doing good for himself and the community.  In the end, it is just another game. Another authority figure telling the invisible man to “shuck and jive”. The only reality is “playing the game” by someone else’s rules.

COMMUNISM IN THE USA

COMMUNISM IN THE USA (The game is the “science” of collectivism; i.e. what is important is not the individual but the collective.  Whomever does not play the game by the rules is to be sacrificed.  He/she is either ostracized, or murdered, if the rules of the collective are disobeyed.  If the collective is challenged by a minority, the minority is sacrificed.  The suicide, or murder of an individual is of no consequence except as it benefits or hurts the collective.)

When riots break out in Harlem, the “Invisible Man” expects “The Brotherhood” to be supportive of the plight of the poor and dispossessed but what he finds is that “The Brotherhood” is happy to see the destruction because it advances their collective objective; i.e. the destruction of the State and its replacement by “The Brotherhood”.  They care nothing for the black community.

Ellison cogently reflects on his life to explain that the individual is of supreme importance; i.e., not the collective, not white culture, not black culture, but only the individual within the whole of humanity.  Majority rule is as tyrannical as minority rule when it discounts individual freedom.  Blacks playing the game by rules of white culture, or any collective, is as harmful to minorities as slavery.

Choosing to become invisible is not a solution for discrimination but it is a symptom of the American apathetic and un-involved.  Ellison suggests his “Invisible Man” is only in hibernation and will soon awaken to become an involved individual.  2020 may yet prove Ellison was right.

EVIDENCE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

 The TrespasserThe Trespasser

Written by: Tana French

Narrated by: Hilda Fay

women in man's world
French’s “The Trespasser” offers a glimpse of what it must be like to be a woman in a man’s world.

TANA FRENCH (NOVELIST, ACTRESS BORN IN VERMONT, LIVING IN DUBLIN)
TANA FRENCH (NOVELIST, ACTRESS BORN IN VERMONT, LIVING IN DUBLIN)

Tana French shows that evidence is the fundamental proof of guilt or innocence.  French’s “The Trespasser” offers a glimpse of what it must be like to be a woman in a man’s world. To be a female detective on a murder squad is a perfect venue for exploring the perfidy of men in power positions.

French’s story shows how power distorts the relationship between the sexes.  In a culture that reinforces male dominance, women use the same tools as men to acquire power; however, with a substantive difference.  Intellect, sex, and prejudice demean women while men reap reward and praise for the same qualities.

BRAGGING ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT
BRAGGING ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT

BILL COSBY TRIAL
BILL COSBY TRIAL

In modern times, the currency of society’s male domination is apparent in the trial of Bill Cosby.  Regardless of the accuracy of Cosby’s only eligible accuser, 40 other women have independently accused him of sexual impropriety.  Though testimony of these 40 women is not admissible as evidence, their testimony strongly smells of Cosby’s guilt.   If guilty, Cosby represents the guilt of society.  An innocent verdict is no absolution for Cosby but it is a measure of American society’s acceptance of a President’s locker room talk on a bus and behavior in a women’s dressing room.

FEMALE POLICE DETECTIVE
FEMALE POLICE DETECTIVE (In French’s story Conway presumes every male in her squad, and at one point even Moran, plot against her success. This presumption is reinforced by Conway’s experience as a police officer and detective.)

French creates a mystery solved by Detective Antoinette Conway with the help of her partner, Stephen Moran.  Conway presumes every male in her squad, and at one point even Moran, plot against her success. This presumption is reinforced by Conway’s experience as a police officer and detective.  Her gathered prejudice against all men (or at least those in her squad) nearly derails her dogged search for the murderer of a young woman.  French reveals how Conway overcomes her personal prejudice by accepting the truth that men and women are equally good and bad.

A father abandons his wife and daughter.  The abandoned wife seeks answers to the whereabouts of her husband.  The Missing-Persons’ department of the police is asked to investigate.  The father is reported as having died, after living many years with another woman.  The mother dies. The daughter is obsessed with the investigating officer of the Missing Persons’ department because of his ambiguous relationship with her mother.  The daughter plans an elaborate ruse to meet the investigating officer and find out more about her father.  The daughter becomes entangled in a web of relationships; i.e. the Missing-Persons’ officer (who is now the head of a murder department), a close female friend, and a possible new boyfriend.  The daughter is murdered.  Conway’s task is to find the murderer.

In French’s story, the search for suspects, and resolution of the case, are introduced to Conway’s investigation of the murder.  The substance of the story shows women as intellectually strong, and mentally tough as men.  Of course, history, as well as this fictional story, shows many women are as intellectually strong and mentally tough as men; e.g.  Cleopatra, Sojourner Truth, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Benazir Bhutto, Malala Yousafzai, and others.

FAMOUS WOMEN IN HISTORY
FAMOUS WOMEN IN HISTORY (History, as well as this fictional story, shows many women are as intellectually strong and mentally tough as men; e.g.  Cleopatra, Sojourner Truth, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Benazir Bhutto, Malala Yousafzai, and others.

French’s story brings the inequality of human life into the day-to-day life of today’s women.  Conway is characterized as an intelligent, determined, and independent murder detective.  Conway is not perfect.  She carries her own prejudices, but she focuses on evidence to prove her murder cases.

TRICKSTERS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.comThe Nix

The Nix

Written by: Nathan Hill

Narrated by: Ari Fliakos

NATHAN HILL (AUTHOR, AUSTRALIAN ACTOR, PRODUCER, AND DIRECTOR)
NATHAN HILL (AUTHOR, AUSTRALIAN ACTOR, PRODUCER, AND DIRECTOR)

Nathan Hill models the mythology of tricksters in his latest novel, “The Nix”.  In Hill’s story, “The Nix” is everyone’s companion; sometimes acknowledged—sometimes not, but always there. It plagues life with uncertainty.  As an amoral spirit and seer, it carries the experience of generations.  It carries the past; interferes with the present, and manipulates the future.

The purpose of “The Nix” in one’s life is to manipulate the future.  “The Nix” plays with human lives that hurt those who are closest to them.  Hill pictures “The Nix” as a ghost that follows a Norwegian immigrant to America.  The Norwegian marries, finds work at a napalm producing corporation, and parents a daughter who becomes the Nix’s new human plaything.  The Norwegian father loves his daughter but fails to express his love constructively.  He is hyper-critical of his daughter’s accomplishments.

The father frightens his daughter with a story of “The Nix” who lived with him in Norway, traveled with him to America, and now lives in the basement of their mid-west home.  He explains how one may inadvertently anger “The Nix” by  spilling water that trickles down into the basement.

BASEMENT MONSTERS
The father frightens his daughter with a story of “The Nix” who lived with him in Norway, traveled with him to America, and now lives in the basement of their mid-west home.

The daughter constantly struggles to impress her father.  She fails to live up to her own expectations.  She becomes psychologically paralyzed by concern for what her father thinks. To add to her woes, she presumes she has offended “The Nix”.  She acquires a melancholy and romantic view of life that ruins her future marriage and scars her only son.

GENERATIONSHill captures the trials of three generations; i.e. millennials, the “Greatest Generation”, and the “baby-boom generation”.  Hill describes interests, obsessions, and consequences of living in the age of technology, WWII, and Vietnam.  He ties each generation to the luck and circumstance of life with the presence of everyone’s “…Nix”.  He shows how history does not repeat but shows how it rhymes (as Mark Twain noted).  We become like our parents because we carry their genetic markers and habits; sometimes we inherit a trickster, a ghostly companion called “The Nix”.

DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION 1968
DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION 1968

Hill’s story begins with an abandoned eleven-year-old boy and his father.  A young mother and wife leaves her young son and husband to re-invent herself.  She is a part of the “baby boom” generation.  Though she loves her son, she feels driven to return to the most tumultuous time of her life.  It is the time of the Democratic Convention in Chicago; i.e. when Hubert Humphrey is nominated by the Democrats for President of the United States.  She becomes embroiled in the youth movement that disrupts the nominating convention in Chicago with marches against America’s role in Vietnam.

PRISON SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (CALIFORNIA PRISON)
The daughter is arrested by a troubled and angry police officer.  She is thrown into jail.  She prays to her God to release her from her predicament.

Her experience in Chicago illustrates the presence of “The Nix” in her life.  She is arrested by a troubled and angry police officer.  She is thrown into jail.  She prays to her God to release her from her predicament.  In her dreams, she is visited by “The Nix”.  She makes a bargain with “The Nix” to return to her father’s home in the Midwest, and marry her hometown boyfriend if she is released from jail.  “The Nix” bargains with her in a way that determines her future; i.e. the abandonment of her son and husband, and a search for her father’s past in Norway.

lust versus love
Her deliverance from jail comes from a fellow protester.  She falls in lust, if not love, with the protester

Her deliverance from jail comes from a fellow protestor.  She falls in lust, if not love, with the protester.  The trauma of police brutality, and her bargain with “The Nix” compel this mother-to-be to return to her mid-western roots; but, with a romantic remembrance that stays with her; even when she marries a man she thinks she does not love.  Though her future husband is not aware of her pregnancy, the proximate time of her marriage makes the boy’s birth seem like her hometown boyfriend’s offspring.

MORALSHill cleverly reaches back and forth in history to show the son growing into an adult; becoming a college professor, and by luck and circumstance, becoming re-acquainted with his mother after her thirty-year absence.  In this re-acquaintance, the theme of Hill’s story is crystallized.  Along the way, listener/readers are introduced to the millennial generation.  One is struck by the millennial generation’s grasp of technology and what becomes a perception of the moral and ethical behavior of this new generation.  Obsession with gaming, self-imposed isolation, and entitlement are characterized as endemic characteristics of this new population cohort.

THE GREATEST GENERATION
THE GREATEST GENERATION

A mystery surrounds the abandoning mother’s father and what he did when he lived in Norway.  His life experience is a reflection on the “Greatest Generation”; i.e. those who lived through WWII.  The secrets of his life in Norway are revealed toward the end of Hill’s story.  It speaks to what some of the “Greatest Generation” did not do to give them such an exalted title and reputation.

GOOD AND EVILThis is a story that exposes weaknesses in every generation.  There is plenty of immoral and unethical behavior to go around.  Hill implies it is because of the presence of “The Nix” in everyone’s life.  Good and evil are two faces of “The Nix”.  It inhabits everyone’s life.  Humans have free will which can turn to either good and/or evil (as noted in Kierkegaard’s “Either, Or”).

With some criticism of the author’s use of too many clichés, “The Nix” is a clever and thoughtful reflection on mythology, history, and human behavior.  One of Hill’s clever analogies about “History” is the example of the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968.  He describes the historical event as a drip of water, in a bucket of water, dropped into Lake Michigan.  The 1968 convention is like every event in history.  One historical event is a part of a vast picture so big it cannot be seen whole; let alone, understood.

The context of history is too big for any human being to understand.  The idea of the “…Nix” encompasses a much larger picture than one historical event.  “The Nix” implies every historical event is subjective.  In other words, history never repeats, but it does rhyme.  Here we are again in Putin’s war. Biden and Putin Teleconference