Sunday, March 13, 2011

Career Counseling for Paul Wolfowitz from Maureen Dowd

From Maureen Dowd's column in The New York Times today:
Even now, with our deficit and military groaning from two wars in Muslim countries, interventionist on the left and the right insist it's our duty to join the battle in a third Muslim country.
"It is both morally right an in America's strategic interest to enable the Libyans to fight for themselves," Wolfowitz wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece.

You would think that a major architect of the disastrous wars and interminable occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq would have the good manners to shut up and take up horticulture.  Bu the neo-con naif has no shame.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book Review: 'Death With Interruptions' by Jose Saramago

Death With Interruptions (2005)
José Saramago (1922-)

238 pages

A simple enough premise for a story: beginning from the stroke of midnight ringing in the New Year, no one in the country dies. José Saramago bestows this gift upon the residents of an unnamed country --- and then imagines for us the result.

It would spoil the reader’s pleasure of discovery to provide even a single example of the many and often interconnected consequences of eternal life that Saramago’s friendly narrator describes in the first half of the novel. Suffice it to say, however, that it quickly becomes apparent to both political leaders and ordinary citizens that a finite life expectancy is integral to proper functioning most if not all aspects of daily life in society. Not unexpectedly there are some who adapt more readily to the new situation, and even find opportunities they can exploit to their advantage, but for most it is far from clear whether this new state of affairs is a blessing or a curse.

In the second half of the novel Saramago introduces the cause of the sudden change in the people’s fate, death herself. The narrator from this point in the story focuses on death and her occupation, and allows her to explain her decision to grant eternal life in the country in which normally she is responsible for killing those fated to die. And, when she tinkers again with her procedures, death unexpectedly meets her match, in an aging musician who is unaware of his imminent fate.

Death With Interruptions is written in much the same style as Saramago’s recent novels Blindness and Seeing, an omniscient narrator in conversation with the reader, reporting on the actions and conversations of everyday citizens, politicians and others as they cope with the unprecedented situation they face. As in these earlier books, Saramago writes all dialogue without quotation marks or even line feeds, setting off a change in speaker with simply a comma and a capital letter; the technique serves this story well, as it underscores the confusion and uncertainty of the characters by pulling the reader pell-mell through their conversations. And, in another similarity to his earlier writings, while the common people show for the most part a calm forbearance as they adapt to the sudden change in their world, most political, institutional and business leaders concern themselves more with the protection of their position and power than with the public they ostensibly serve.

Aside from the dark humor in Saramago’s view of society’s many and varied adaptations to the gift of eternal life, it is his damning description of the mediocre and self-centered leadership of the country that sticks with a reader after finishing the novel.

Read quotes from this book

Other of my book reviews: Fiction  or  Non-Fiction

Other reviews / information:

A review in the New Yorker that includes more discussion about Saramago's writing style.