MAGA Writer

Great news! Sam Quinones, the author of Dreamland, is going to release a new book in two days. Its titled The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth.

Dreamland was so good I couldn’t wait for Quinones to write something – anything! – else. It’s a “build the wall” book whether the author wants it or not. I’m sure Quinones would rather bite his own head off but he’s the biggest MAGA writer in the country.

Halloween Humiliation

There’s this big Halloween parade in our town, and I’d never been until today. First, I was too adult, then Klara was too little, then there was icy rain the day of. Finally, we decided to go because the event is legendary.

Folks, it was horrid. I haven’t felt this humiliated since I stopped working at Cornell. I’m writing this right now, with my cheeks burning in shame. Here’s what happened.

I thought, a Halloween parade, right? Costumes, fun floats, what else could it be? And maybe there was all that but I couldn’t find it in myself to stay beyond the first 8 minutes.

The beginning was beautiful. Veterans walked with flags, everybody cheered. A wonderful moment.

And then the important people in luxurious vehicles drove in a procession. First, the Chamber of Commerce, then the Mayor, the administrators at my university, the owners of a McMansion here in town, a big law firm. As they drove, they threw candy into the crowd and plebeian children crawled on the ground picking it up. If at least the fancy vehicles were decorated for Halloween or the people in them wore costumes, maybe this would feel differently. But no. I was particularly struck by the teenage son of a local millionaire who wore a fancy suit and threw candy at children crawling in the dirt with a look of mild disgust.

That’s when we left. Thankfully, Klara doesn’t get the hype over candy and didn’t mind leaving. I never limit her access to sweets, so she wouldn’t bother to pick a piece of candy off the ground.

I’m particularly struck by the symbolism of the contrast between the veterans starting the parade to remind us of the sacrifices made for our freedom and people crawling in the dirt for meaningless handouts as if the concept of dignity were non-existent.

As they say, this explains a lot. Learn as a child to crawl in the mud to entertain your social betters, and what won’t you do as an adult?

Book Notes: Carlos Alberto Montaner’s Autobiography

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a Cuban writer and dissident. He was 16 when the dictatorship of Fidel Castro imprisoned him. Montaner escaped from prison and eventually managed to leave Cuba. His autobiography titled Sin it más lejos narrates six decades of efforts on the part of Montaner and other Cuban intellectuals in exile to bring democracy to Cuba.

Montaner always believed in the possibility of a peaceful democratic transformation of Cuba. But he hasn’t been to Cuba since 1959 and doesn’t know how far gone it is. I remember seeing in Havana groups of young healthy men sitting on the porches of crumbling houses and drinking rum at noon. They sat amidst piles of fetid garbage but it never occurred to them to clean it up. The difference between them and an extremely energetic, resourceful and active – even as he nears the age of 80 – Montaner is the best illustration of how socialism (and Cuba is a socialist, not a Communist country) sucks people dry and leaves empty, indifferent shells.

The book offers some fascinating details about the dictatorship that I never knew. Montaner also has a lot of stories about Hispanic writers and politicians and how they acted in connection with the Cuban tragedy.

Montaner is a very interesting person. He got married at 16 and lived his whole life with the same woman. Sixty years later, he still writes about her with love and admiration. This is unusual because male authors often erase their wives from autobiographies altogether. VS Naipaul is an example of such writing. I was stunned to discover that he spent his lonely summer in England that he described so beautifully in a book with a wife who isn’t mentioned once.

Poor, poor Cuba. Such a great country so tragically destroyed. And so uselessly, too, because nobody learned anything.