Insight of the Day

No matter who wins the election we will always have books.

This is my insight of the day.

Talking about books, I finally finished the JK Rowling series and am now struggling with Zora Neale Hurston for my book club. That book is going to be the end of me because I’m just not getting it. But it’s super famous so I’m thinking there’s got to be something to it that I’m not seeing. Maybe the book club will help.

What are you reading?

11 thoughts on “Insight of the Day”

  1. I am finishing Fallada’s “Little Man, What Now?” you have reviewed here:
    https://clarissasblog.com/2017/07/25/book-notes-falladas-little-man/

    Was impressed by “Every Man Dies Alone,” but “Wolf Among Wolves” seemed too hard right now, so chose this shorter novel and recommend it to other readers of the blog.

    Do you remember the scene in which the poor salesman is fired after confusing between the actor and his role? Reminds of US politics from all sides, doesn’t it? If anyone wants to understand the reference or/and check whether he liked Fallada’s writing style, I put the relevant quote in the next comment.

    Did you know Fallada’s “Iron Gustav: A Berlin Family Chronicle” has also been translated into English? The description made me want to read it and you may enjoy it too:

    “A powerful story of the shattering effects of the First World War on both a family and a country – from the author of bestselling Alone in Berlin.
    Intransigent, deeply conservative coachman Gustav Hackendahl rules his family with an iron rod, but in so doing loses his grip on the children he loves. Meanwhile, the First World War is destroying his career, his country and his pride in the German people.
    As Germany and the Hackendahl family unravel, Gustav has to learn to compromise if he is to hold onto anything he holds dear.
    Iron Gustav is both a moving, realist account of the aftermath of the First World War, and a deeply involving story of a family in crisis. Yet running through the unflinching truth, immediacy and emotional power of Fallada’s prose is the charming, almost folkloric whimsicality that makes him such a master story-teller. “

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  2. The scene in question from “Little Man, What Now?”:

    ‘You are,’ cried Pinneberg breathlessly, ‘you are Mr Schlüter! I’ve seen you in a film. Fancy me not realizing at once!’

    The actor was highly gratified. ‘Oh yes? Which film did you see me in?’

    ‘What was it called? D’you know, it’s the one where you were a bank clerk, and your wife thought you were embezzling money for her, but really it was the management trainee who was giving it to you, who was your friend …’

    ‘I know the plot,’ said the actor. ‘So you liked it? Which bit of mine did you like the best?’

    ‘Oh, there were so many … But you know I think the best bit was where you came back to the table after you’d been in the washroom …’

    The actor nodded.

    ‘While you were away the trainee had told her you hadn’t stolen the money and they laughed in your face. And suddenly you went all small. You shrank. It was horrifying.’

    ‘So that was the best bit, but why?’ pursued the actor insatiably.

    ‘Because … please don’t laugh … I felt it was so like us. You know things aren’t going at all well for ordinary people like us, and it seems to me sometimes as though everyone and everything is making a monkey of us. Life in general, you see what I mean, and one feels so small …’

    ‘The voice of the people,’ declared the thespian. ‘But I’m extremely honoured, Mr … what is your name?’

    ‘Pinneberg.’

    ‘The voice of the people, Pinneberg. Well, now let’s get back to business and find that outfit. It was all rubbish at the theatrical outfitters. Now we’ll see …’

    And they did see. They waded through all kinds of clothes for half an hour, an hour, until there were mountains lying about. Pinneberg had never been so happy to be a salesman.

    ‘Good man,’ muttered the actor from time to time. He was a patient tryer-on. He could try fifteen pairs of trousers, and still be looking forward to the sixteenth.

    ‘A good man this Pinneberg,’ he muttered.

    They finally did finish however, having examined and tried on everything that the young man from Ackerstrasse might possibly think of wearing. Pinneberg was in seventh heaven. He had hopes that Mr Schlüter might perhaps take more than the one good suit, perhaps he might also take the red-brown coat with the mauve check. He asked breathlessly: ‘Well, what shall I put on the bill?’

    The actor raised his eyebrows. ‘The bill? I was only trying the stuff on. I’m not buying it. What did you think? Don’t make such a face. I have given you a bit of work, haven’t I. I’ll send you tickets for the next première. Do you have a fiancée? I’ll send you two tickets.’

    Pinneberg said hurriedly in a low voice: ‘Mr Schlüter, please do buy the things. You’ve got such a lot of money. You earn so much. Please buy them! If you go away now and haven’t bought anything, they’ll blame me and I’ll be sacked.’

    ‘You’re a funny one,’ said the actor. ‘Why should I buy the things? For your sake? Nobody does me any favours.’

    ‘Mr Schlüter!’ said Pinneberg, his voice growing louder. ‘I saw the way you acted that poor little man in the film. You know how things are for people like us. I’ve got a wife and child too, you see. The child is really small, and he’s still so happy. If I’m sacked …!’

    ‘Good lord, man,’ said Mr Schlüter. ‘That’s your business. I can’t buy suits I’ve no use for just to keep your child happy.’

    ‘Mr Schlüter!’ begged Pinneberg. ‘Please do it for my sake. I’ve been with you an hour. At least buy the one suit. It’s pure Cheviot, very pleasant to wear and I’m sure you’d be satisfied with it.

    ‘Will you kindly stop it,’ said Mr Schlüter. ‘This pantomime is getting boring.’

    ‘Mr Schlüter,’ begged Pinneberg, laying his hand on the departing actor’s arm, ‘The firm gives us a quota, we have to sell a certain amount or we’re sacked. I’m five hundred marks down. Please, please, buy something. You know how we feel. You acted it!’

    The actor took the salesman’s hand from his arm. He said very loudly: ‘Listen, young man, just keep your hands off me. What you’re saying has damn all to do with me.’

    Suddenly Mr Jänecke appeared. Of course he would.

    ‘May I help you? I’m the manager of this department.’

    ‘I’m Franz Schlüter, the actor …’

    Mr Jänecke bowed.

    ‘Strange salesmen you’ve got here. They manhandle you into buying. This man claims you force them to do it. That’s extortion. It deserves a letter to the newspapers.’

    ‘The man’s a bad salesman,’ said Mr Jänecke. ‘He’s been warned several times already. I’m very sorry that you just happened to get him. We’ll dismiss him this time. He’s useless.’

    ‘My dear sir, that’s quite unnecessary. I’m not suggesting that. Though he did grab my arm …’

    ‘He did? Mr Pinneberg, go at once to the Personnel Office and get your papers. And as for that nonsense about a quota, it’s all lies. Only two hours ago I told this man that if he didn’t manage it, well, he didn’t manage it, it wasn’t as bad as all that. He’s just incompetent. A thousand apologies, Mr Schlüter.’

    Pinneberg followed the two men with his eyes.

    He stood and watched them go.

    It was all over, all, all over.

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  3. You are right. I am reading Samuel Archibald’s Arvida, a collection of short stories about characters in this unique Saguenay town. Next on my list is Alejandro Zamba’s Poeta chileno. Just finished Castellanos Moya’s Cuadernos de Tokio y Cuadernos de Iowa.

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  4. I mean, it will take 3 hours of your life, so yes, do read it. He has some great reflections on los indignados in there, one in particular. And even when some reflections are repetitive, even in their structure, he is still a wonderful story-teller.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dabiel Mahoney’s The Idol of Our Age – How the Religion of Humanity subverts Christianity, which is uneven in parts but a thought-provoking read on the whole.

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  6. Finally reading The Communist Manifesto-hadn’t realized it was so short! Marx is spot on about some things, but other things are affirming for me that committed orthodox Marxism is not my thing (as if the historical reality of what’s that looked like in practice wasn’t enough.) Some of what he says is just not true in the year 2020, even things that I think were true in his historical moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “All that is solid melts into air” remains truer than ever.

      In my opinion, Marx’s greatest mistake was not seeing how extraordinarily capable capitalism was of changing and adapting. Once capitalism gives you a 5-day work week and an 8-hour workday, your capacity to organize for socialism is half-dead.

      Also, he didn’t give enough weight to the power of the immaterial motivations.

      But there are tons of what’s useful in him still.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the biggest flaw in his writing is that he seems to think capitalism is perpetually on the brink of its downfall. An easy prediction to make in the 1800s, and indeed, capitalism could not persist in that particular form. But it’s impressive when any piece of political writing remains at all relevant centuries later, let alone this relevant.

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