Category Archives: Thornton Wilder

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.” — Thomas Merton

ONE OF A KIND

Drop everything you’re doing this instant. Go out and buy Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts.”

Read it.

Erik Larson

Larson hit it big with his “Devil in the White City” a few years ago. His latest is even better than The Devil. The best way to describe Larson’s books is to call them “fact novels.” They’re not historical fiction in the sense that we understand some of Gore Vidal‘s works or even Philippa Gregory‘s. He’s a straight historian who tells his true stories with the care, craftsmanship, and imagination of the novelist.

I copped In the Garden a couple of days before The Loved One and I drove off to Florida last week. I couldn’t put the book down throughout our stay. Here’s a sure sign that I love a book: when I near the end, I intentionally slow myself down so as not to finish the thing. When I read the last sentence of In the Garden, I felt a sense of loss and emptiness.

Anyway, In the Garden tells the story of William Dodd and his family who moved to Berlin in 1933 when Dodd was named US Ambassador to Hitler’s Germany.

The Dodds About To Board An Ocean Liner For Germany

Larson follows in detail the lives of Dodd and his daughter Martha, a flighty narcissist who had passionate affairs with a Russian diplomat who turned out to be a spy, a Gestapo big shot, a World War I flying ace, and other dashing but morally iffy swains. Martha, who viewed herself as a literary figure and an adventuress, previously had carried on flings with the likes of Carl Sandburg and was ardently devoted to Thornton Wilder, although she and he did not play on the same team, before her family set out for Germany.

Gestapo Strongman and Martha Dodd Paramour Rudolf Diels

Ambassador Dodd was among the first to recognize the coming horrors of the Nazi regime. This despite the fact that, like most Gentile Americans, he harbored at least a hint of anti-Semitism.

For her part, Martha at first embraced the Nazis, with their sharp uniforms and their hordes of tall, hunky, blond, young men marching through the streets of Berlin at any given moment.

Arousing

A striking aspect of Larson’s description of 1930s Berlin is the sense of peace and serenity which imbues the city despite the recurring ugliness.

And why didn’t the United States government raise a bigger kick in protest against the Nazis? One big reason was the fear of being labeled hypocrites: this holy land treated blacks pretty much the same way the Nazis treated Jews.

The whole thing reminds me of many of my lefty confreres who seem convinced that these Great United States, Inc. today are merely a rerun of Springtime for Hitler. Come to think of it, tons of right wing whacks think Obama nation is Reich redux as well.

All I have to say about it is, read In the Garden and you’ll know that the real Nazis were sine qua non.

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The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“There’s nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.” — Thornton Wilder

FRUSTRATING THOSE GOOGLE SPIES

Here’s a follow-up on a report from NPR’s Morning Edition. Reporter Steve Henn explained how to thwart Google’s mechanism for keeping track of your website search history.

This is important to people who believe our wired society is turning into a Big Brother nightmare. These folks don’t want some faceless, soulless corporation knowing what kind of winter boots they like to buy online or which political candidate’s blog they follow. It’s of even more pressing urgency to those who surf websites like, oh, say, www.hairydivas.com.

Yes, This Site Does Exist

(Now, I haven’t linked to the above-mentioned site not only because it’s NSFW but even if you were tempted to cruise it at home, you wouldn’t want to have this up on your screen if, by some weird turn of fortune, you up and collapsed of a heart attack and left this vale of tears. Can you imagine your loved ones and paramedics knowing that this was your last act on Earth? Suffice it to say this site is dedicated to comely women who proudly display extraordinarily lush growth in their tropical locales.)

Anyway, here’s how to stop corporate eavesdropping and avoid afterlife humiliation.

Go to Google itself. Type in the words google dashboard.

The top result should read Dashboard – Google. Click on it.

Sign in using your gmail password.

Your Google Accounts page will turn up.

Okay so far? Click on Manage account.

This page should turn up:

Scroll down to the section called Services.

Click on Go to web history. This should be displayed.

Now click on Remove all Web History. You’ll be asked Are you sure you want to clear your entire web history? Your web history will also be paused. Click OK.

That’s it. You’re finished. This should appear on your screen.

Now you’re safe to purchase online any brand of winter boot you desire without some market research weasel from Google knowing about it. And you can go to hairydivas.com. Just make sure your heart is in good shape.

THE SANTORUM BOGEYMAN

Lots of my Democratic friends were pulling for Rick Santorum to upset Mitt Romney in yesterday’s Michigan primary. I’d even heard that some Michigan Dems had registered as Republicans so they could cast a vote for the man who would bring us back to the good old days of the Inquisition.

Their reasoning? Santorum would be walloped in November by Barack Obama whereas Mitt Romney has a chance against the incumbent.

Very clever, no?

No.

I Wonder What Rick’s Measuring

This is why I’m thrilled to pieces that Romney edged Santorum in Michigan yesterday. What if by some bizarre chance Santorum was elected president of this holy land?

It would indeed become a holy land — and not in the ironic, jokey sense that I use the term. Santorum clearly desires a theocracy here.

That’s not a risk I’d be comfortable taking no matter how clever some people’s voter strategy is.

THE PRICE OF JUSTICE

So, Lauren Spierer’s parents have upped the reward for information on the whereabouts of their missing daughter to a quarter of a million dollars.

This acknowledges the possibility that someone, somewhere knows what has happened to the IU student and has not spoken up yet only because the money wasn’t good enough.

Wow. Imagine that. What kind of ghoul do you have to be to deny these poor souls closure because $100,000 just isn’t good enough for you?

Considering the likelihood that Lauren Spierer, who went missing on June 3rd, has met a horrible end, that would make for a total of two ghouls in this case so far.

SEX CRIME — 1984

Both Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart comprised Eurythmics. In truth, though, Eurythmics was all about Annie Lennox.

I’ve never seen the 1984 film, “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The book was depressing enough, albeit brilliant literature. I couldn’t imagine sitting through the nearly two-hour exploration of a world that is terrifyingly possible. At least with the book, if the mood became too oppressive, I could put it down.

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