Book Notes: The Risk Pool by Richard Russo

This is one of Russo’s working class novels, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The Risk Pool is about fatherhood, masculinity, and the chaotic lives of those who are barely hanging on to remaining in the working class.

In his memoir Elsewhere, Russo wrote about his mother, a neurotic harpy who almost ate up his whole life. The Risk Pool is also very autobiographical and is based on Russo’s father. The love that the writer feels for both of his very difficult and burdensome parents practically drips off the pages.

I can’t recall reading any other American novel that concentrates so intensely on masculinity and the bond between father and son. Crucial topics and, unlike the midlife crisis of highly educated men that was the subject of Russo’s That Old Cape Magic, extremely under-explored in today’s literature.

The novel is about a hundred pages too long, unfortunately. Russo dragged it out to follow a four-part structure based on a quip about the four seasons in New England to which he seems very attached. You could easily cut out 1,5 of those parts, and the novel would be even better.

It’s really great, though. Very intense. Unforgettable characters. I’d say it’s one of Russo’s best if they weren’t all so wonderful.

Bye-bye, Citizenship

In order to get rid of the nation-state (and democracy), it’s necessary to destroy the concept of citizenship. Then, you can drag a bunch of people wherever you need, let them “vote,” and you’ll get any results you need in an “election.”

But this is only an intermediate step. The next stage of the process is to let people vote electronically from wherever they are if they claim (or you do on their behalf) that they have a stake in any particular election.

Unwoke Donation

Women’s March posted the amount of their average donation but it turned out to be unwoke:

Of course, 1492 is the year that created Latin America, so by saying it was bad you deny the right of hundreds of millions of Latin Americans to exist because they displease your imperialist ass.

Uniquely Naive

And then it’s going to be the smokers, the obese, the women with high-risk pregnancies that require a lot of medical attention. And so on and on.

In this environment, wishing for single-payer healthcare makes you uniquely naive.

Do you know why Cuba has such low infant mortality rates? Because women like me aren’t allowed to carry our complicated pregnancies to term. Abort or you won’t get medical help, you old / diabetic / hypertensive / something else bitch who’s likely to cloud our beautiful stats with your reproductive problems.

Oh, Memories

Somebody used my research in his doctoral dissertation. And his thesis advisor is my very first (and only) Spanish teacher from 22 years ago. Oh, how I bugged that poor guy with my utter incomprehension of the past tenses in Spanish. I haunted his office and waited for him by the men’s room until the poor guy couldn’t stomach the sight of me. It went on until a friend from Mexico said “I bet you a beer I’ll explain you the past tenses in two words and you’ll finally leave us all in peace.” He did (the two magical words were ‘interrupted action’), and I got an A for the only Spanish language course I have ever taken.

And now that instructor’s student writes a PhD thesis on my stuff. Life is funny.

Also, that very first Spanish teacher was Salvadoran. And my research has now arrived at its Salvadoran inflection. A coincidence but a really interesting one.

Knowledge of Geography

I didn’t put Klara in a private Christian school for the education but I have to say that they do provide good education.

We were talking about Thanksgiving turkey and I said, “Klara, do you know that there’s a country called Turkey?”

All of a sudden, she switched into a very adult voice and recited, “Mommy, Turkey is a country in the Middle East that is surrounded by three different seas. It’s known for its Mediterranean crops. . .”

I almost fell out of my chair. Then she asked me if I could help her draw the Ark of the Covenant, which I had no idea what it even was. So she brought her school book and showed me the map of Israel, and the Jordan River, everything.

She’s going to know the Bible and geography better than I do. Not that it’s very hard because I was educated in the USSR, and the only thing we learned in geography classes was where natural resources were located. I was 20 years old before I found out what the capital of Canada was but I can still reproduce the map of their fossil fuels from memory.

Piling Up

Evidence is also piling up that if you hit yourself over the head with a crowbar several times in rapid succession, you might experience some discomfort in the cranial area.

Or not.

Wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions here. Let’s be very careful with the evidence and give it at least a couple more centuries before we figure out the concept of “seasonal flu.”

Too Essential

Are you noticing, though, that it’s not even positive or negative, vaccinated or unvaccinated, infectious or not? It’s strictly about essential vs non-essential, with the non-essential totally lording it over the essential.

You are too essential to deserve consideration. To deserve a face, a school, a body, a mind, an experience of normalcy. Shut up and provide your body for medical experimentation and your hands for work.

In the USSR, it was all about the workers and the peasants. The first ever state of the workers and the peasants! All power to the working classes! But the reality was that workers lived in barracks and peasants weren’t allowed to have passports so that they wouldn’t be able to leave their place of residence. They were so essential they had to stay put and weren’t allowed any form of ID.