Bouncy Castle Hamlet and Other Links (on a Plane)

For your reading pleasure today, here’s a roundup of literary news I found floating around in the series of tubes that we call The Internets:

— So as not to be the only litblog in the world that hasn’t mentioned this, Nobel-laureate Gunter Grass, author of The Tin Drum has come out. As what? As a member of Hitler’s Waffen SS, that’s what. Grass has been called the “conscience of his generation” for his outspokenness on the need for Germany to own up to and reconcile with its past, so his incredibly late admission has caused quite a furor. UK’s Guardian has some extensive coverage of the issue here, here, here, here, and here. There. Consider it mentioned.

— Speaking of things that ought to be mentioned, the long list for this year’s Man Booker Prize has been announced. Due to apparent misogyny in The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs, Irvine Welsh is right out. I’m sure hipsters all over the world would be crushed, if hipsters could bring themselves to be crushed over anything, that is.

— Any Bukowski fans in the house? If so, then you’ll probably enjoy checking out this group of mp3s on Salon. Available for download are four poems and an interview for your listening enjoyment. Of course, since Salon is decidedly uncool, you’ll have to sit through an irritating ad to get to the recordings, but you can ease your pain by imaging Buk kicking their asses for putting up a damned commercial while you’re, uh, watching the damned commercial. In other news, the film version of Factotum is being released on Friday (though apparently it saw a European release last year).

— Apparently, George Bush likes Camus. (Betcha a million dollars he thinks it’s “came-us”.) For more on this, Maud Newton quotes Laila Lalami, who links to Ed Champion. Circles make me dizzy, and I like this theory best.

Hamlet in a bouncy castle? Good idea, I say. Not as good as my idea of having a production of Antony and Cleopatra starring Kevin Federline and Britney Spears, but then, there are no ideas that are that good, so I’m willing to cut the organizers of Edinburgh’s Fringe festival some slack.

— And finally, where would we be without Photoshop? Someplace I’d not care to visit, that’s for sure. Now, you may say this is not literary, I give you permission, however I’d just counter with, so?

One Response

  1. An Open Letter to Gunter
    An Open Letter to Gunter Grass

    Dear Mr. Grass,

    So the truth has come to light. As a high school student, you were on the wrong side. Your side lost.

    Now, you lose again. Or have you. I don’t know. Once again, only you know.

    I, too, shudder to think about the past.

    As a high school student, I, too, was on the wrong side. It was so easy. Right up to 1965, I thought the Vietnam War was justified. It is what I had been told.

    To what extent are we products of ourselves, our own inventions; to what extent are we products of the cultures we are from, the cultures where we do what we are told to do, where we do not dissent, and to what extent do we believe the lies that are spoon-fed to us by the self-preserved culture at large.

    The one concerned with the big bucks. Like our publishers. And not unlike the one concerned with keeping the death camps well-stocked and alive. We do what we are told to do. We walk through life asleep even and especially when we cannot see ourselves.

    Or are you hot on the author’s tour and if so is it for the money (I seriously doubt you need it to pay the rent) or is it about bringing light to the dialogue about complicity.

    There are more questions than answers as well there should be.

    Our response to culture as homo sapiens is emotional; it is not anymore rational than the holocaust was rational. My change of faith toward war came in one sweeping, utterly shocking moment when what is a piece of art sliced my soul into pieces. The photograph of a young girl running naked through her Vietnamese village — burning from napalm — changed not just my opinion, but my life.

    I would oppose that war and refuse to serve and there are consequences.

    You did not choose to face them then or now and it has come back to haunt you. But you are right about one thing: you are different from the rest of us.

    Your art DOES set you aside. You are NOT us.

    The real tragedy belongs to us. That we are so twisted we can now denigrate everything you have ever written. And we will. And we will enjoy doing it. Our great and shining morality put you on that pedestal and we will kick you in the balls and off it. You will see.

    That we as homo sapiens and members of flawed cultures and social networks cannot see this — choose not to examine US, but you, — will be the end of us.

    It will.

    It is not you we should be looking at. Your life will be over soon enough. We should be looking at ourselves. It is too convenient to point our pointy fingers at the writer who as a school boy was wrong. Once again, we have brought war and nightmare to humanity. And no one — but perhaps a minority of artists with their small voices — are saying it was wrong. We, like the SS, cling furiously to being Right. Once again, we must save our Correctness in light of patently absurd (life is mostly patently absurd) evidence that would suggest otherwise.

    We are complicit, too, and it is too damn easy to point our fingers at someone else. We like things black and white. We refuse to accept our eternal condition as complex animals who live with a complexity of relationships where truth is relative, elusive, and usually defined in the eye of the beholder.

    We will tear you down now. We will. We love to see the mighty fall. How many of us knew about atrocities done in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Africa, Serbia; we did nothing. My refusal to serve is nothing. It is meaningless. What did I do to stop that war in Asia. March. Marching is nothing. Growing your hair long is nothing.

    To grasp the meaning of life in your art and hold it by the throat is everything.

    We. Can. Do.

    And you have done that. But we will not see the humanity in your work and we will not read it even if we do read your scandalous memoir which is a necessarily flawed marketing phenomenon kept alive and burning like an engine by the people who sell our work and live off our sweat like the parasites they are.

    We will bring you down and they will make a ton of money and your work will be forgotten and in the end you will join the rest of us in death and obscurity. Our bones will be forgotten. The Nobel Prize will be forgotten. Our marching will be forgotten. Our books will be forgotten to commercialism. Our complicity in not holding the culture to a higher standard will be forgotten. Our higher standards will be forgotten. Our cultures will be forgotten as well they should be as your century was the bloodiest in the history of mankind. Your editorials will be forgotten. Your beating your tin drum will be forgotten. Our infant ephemeral humanity will be forgotten. The holocaust will be forgotten. Cambodia will be forgotten. Genocide and how it works will be forgotten and evil in the hearts of men will win because it always does.

    You know that. You have told us that time and time again.

    I do not have answers. Not one.

    I have a plea instead.

    Do not listen to your publisher. Do not listen to your publicist.

    Listen to your heart. In the end, it is a writer’s heart. Listen to the beating of that drum.

    Do not hit the talk show trail.

    Go home. Stay home. WORK. Write the best thing you have ever written. Do it for us before you die. Before that flame is gone. Before the talk show circuit snuffs it out on the golden publishing road to another fortune. Do what you were born to do and that was not to apologize or explain and explain to journalists and talk show hosts. Your apology like most is meaningless and silly.

    You were born to write. You do it better than anyone. Go home. WORK.

    Join the ranks of the rest of us out here struggling with our voices and our demons. You owe the publishers and the publicists and the talk shows nothing. You owe us.

    Your work.

    One more book. Do it now. Use your voice for more than the agony of redemption. No one will remember redemption.

    We remember things like the sight of a naked twelve-year-old even as she burns.

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