Parenting Success

On her very first school report card, my kid got the highest marks in every category except “respects authority and follows directions.”

I’m very proud. Not of the high marks on everything else because who cares? But yes of the lower mark on obedience. The way things are, obedience is not a good thing.

Book Notes: Dmitry Bykov’s June

I finished June (2017), and I’m very very happy that I have begun my return to Russian literature with this novel. It’s a serious work of literature. Complicated, big, the linguistic mastery is off the chart. Bykov is a famous poet, so the language virtuosity is not surprising.

The novel has 3 parts, and each offers the perspective of one central character – two Jews and one Pole – that’s given in the indirect free style. (That’s when you narrate the character’s thoughts but in the third person). Bykov even manages to give each character a recognizably different voice, which is very unusual with the indirect free style. When I read the first part, I was really thrown off by the cloying, lisping tone of the narrative. But then it became clear that the tone belongs not to Bykov but to the main character, a sheltered, smug Jewish boy Misha. For those of you who will be reading the novel, I highly recommend paying attention to the moment when the narrative switches from Misha to Boris, and the tone changes completely. It’s no big deal to do that when writing in the first person, but in the third it’s rarely attempted, let alone done successfully.

Aside from the extraordinary mastery on the formal level – and believe my expertise as a literary critic, there’s exceptional mastery here – the novel is great on the level of story, characters, and ideas. Big, big ideas about totalitarianism, war, fear, identity – and not in a stupid American way but in the sense of figuring out who you are and why.

June is the second novel in a trilogy, and now I’ll read the first and the recently released third. I’m beyond glad that Russian literature is back.

This is good news even for those who don’t read Russian literature or any literature. Until now, nobody knew what happens to a culture after 70 years of totalitarianism. Can it come back? Or is it dead forever? And how long does it take? Now we have an answer. It can come back (good news) but that takes a few decades (worse news).

For me, it’s particularly great to know that I can read some new books in Russian. I love my collected works of Chekhov but I know them by heart at this point.

Just Say No

People are still not getting it. Compliance doesn’t bring you freedom. Only non-compliance does.

Have people never dealt with bullies or abusers? Or at least seen them on TV? When did handing over your lunch money to a bully stop the bully from trying to get more the next day?

Also, notice the self-delusional nature of “I’m willing to make a deal.” Because it’s cute to imagine oneself as an equal, a fully autonomous agent of one’s own will. Nobody is offering you any deals, you simpleton. You will do what you are told and then get punished for it.

Keep Loving It

So what do you think happened to Alya, the character in Bykov’s novel who was in love with USSR and sang its praises? Alya’s character is based on a real-life person, the daughter of the famous Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (my favorite poet in the world).

Both in the novel and in real life, Alya was imprisoned, tortured, forced to denounce her father whom she adored which resulted in his execution. Then she was sent to the Gulag.

It isn’t hard to figure out that the excitable, pro-Soviet Alya would be among the first to suffer during the purges. But here’s another question. When Alya was finally released – a very ill woman, her husband executed, her whole family dead – how did she feel about the USSR?

She kept loving it, of course.

Endless Flow

The same people who spread the idea that psychoanalysis doesn’t work and you need lifelong meds to deal with your depression, anxiety, etc are now telling you that there is no natural immunity and you need lifelong mRNAs and boosters to avoid COVID. The same people.

They want you constantly medicated at least with one but ideally with 15 drugs because that’s great profits. This didn’t start today. It’s been going on for sixty years. Anti-depressants were the original mRNAs. And there have been many since. Oxycodone, statins, all sorts of stuff. The trick keeps working because the original idea that every discomfort needs a pill because “nothing else works” has been implanted very deeply.

First Stage of the Purge

Here’s another important observation from Bykov’s novel. When purges begin, it’s best to be among the first crop of the punished.

The regime is at its mildest stage at the beginning. Everybody is going to get their punishment sooner or later but the longer you stay in the role of a good, obedient boy or girl, the more virulent the regime will be with you. Every act of compliance makes things worse for you. Punishments will get harsher.

People think that they are buying themselves some leniency with compliance. But the reality is the opposite.