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Better Late?

When I see flash alerts for the news articles on how “Sen. McCain is speaking out against torture, the CIA and other bad things!”, I keep wondering if NYTimes has been run over by The Onion. Sen. McCain has had time aplenty to speak out against bad things. It kind of sounds unconvincing at this point.

More Almudena Grandes

I’m still reading the horrible new Almudena Grandes. The subject of this endless novel is an effort to find and bring to justice the Nazis who had committed war crimes during the Holocaust and managed to evade justice after the defeat of Germany.

I’m on page 600, and so far there has been a single Jewish character in the novel who has been given a few lines. Unsurprisingly, he’s dishonest, scheming, and willing to risk absolutely nothing to avenge his slaughtered family. All of the hard work and the terrible risk of hunting down the escaped Nazis falls on the brave Spaniards and Spanish-speaking Americans. This makes a lot of sense within the framework that the novel has proposed: since Jews allowed themselves to be exterminated without as much as a whispered protest, it stands to reason that they would do nothing after the end of the war. It’s just the way they are in this novel, passive and kind of sleazy.

Leaving the anti-Semitic aspects of the novel aside, it really drags out. The brave Republican protagonists are sexual deviants and very boring fellows. They change their aliases every couple of pages and it’s impossible to figure out who’s who 600 pages in.

In short – although nothing is ever short in this very long-winded book – Lord have mercy on me and make this novel end sooner rather than later.

I’m overdue for a good reading experience at this point.

Exemplary Dog

The neighbors across the road are selling their house. I will miss them even though the only family member with whom I managed to exchange a couple of words in the 4 years we’ve lived here is the elderly grandma who recently came for a visit.

I’ll miss them because of their exemplary dog Riley. He’s a dog to put all other dogs to shame. First of all, he’s mute, which is something they didn’t know when they got him. But he hasn’t been known to make any sounds at all. Second, Riley is utterly devoid of curiosity. He never tries to jump on people, sniff them, or drool on their clothes. Riley walks looking straight ahead without noticing anything around him.

Grandma says they got him as a puppy, and he’s always been exactly like this. It’s bittersweet that the neighbors are leaving because I keep hoping for a nice immigrant family or a family of newcomers from Texas or Vermont, somebody who will be interested in saying hello every once in a while. But you never know, it can turn out to be a bunch of surly Missourians with a herd of huge, aggressive dogs.

A total dream come true would be a Hispanic family with severe pet allergies and a couple of toddlers. But when did I ever get that lucky? I’ve already had extreme good fortune with the exemplary Riley.

The Golden Twin

The posting of Sigrid Undset’s photos on the blog and social media has had an unpredictable and quite unwelcome effect. People are now asking me if I’m sure I don’t have literary talent and whether I think it’s possible I’d get a Nobel Prize.

Now I feel like I’m not living up to expectations, or something. It’s like, hey, you look exactly the same, so how come you are not talented and she is?

It often happens with twins that one is assigned the role of the golden child while the other one never fully lives up. So I’m like that ne’er-do-well twin all of a sudden.

Not Cute

Students often ask me, “You’ve traveled a lot. Is it true that people in other countries all hate us?”

People normally don’t but if they knew that the leading US newspaper starts a Saturday feature with “Sometimes it seems as if we’re living under a constant barrage of heavy news. But it isn’t all bad out there,” they’d probably consider it. Self-pity in the midst of incredible opulence is not cute.

College Application Essays

These “college application essays” are very depressing. They are so scripted, so predictable, so boring. Except for the one about the taxes, none of them has any life in it.

We wrote this kind of ideologically correct blather to prove we were faithful to the ruling ideology back in the USSR. But at least none of us believed the self-righteous, terminologically rigorous crap we were spouting. It’s a sad thing that all I can hope for is that these kids are utter cynics who are Soviet-like in their cold-blooded readiness to say whatever needed to succeed and to get access to a better range of consumer goods.