Commentaries

Dominick Dunne

Friends and family today buried Dominick Dunne, and of course Joan Didion was there. Stephen Sondheim was a pallbearer. Dunne died on August 26. Photo credit: Lawrence Schwartzwald/Splashnews.

Obsessed with details but oblivious (Heinrich Boll)

"Across the Bridge"

Our narrator is super-attentive to details but otherwise entirely oblivious. Yes, it's Heinrich Boll, one of his post-Holocaust stories about German society: "Across the Bridge". He works for a company whose business is suspect, but he doesn't inquire. He carries parcels and messages but doesn't know what they are. He relishes his routine trips, though, seeing in one house along the way the perfect rhythms of regularity: a woman keeps scrubbing windows, on schedule. The routine is an aesthetic, and it is associated with those first postwar months: he had crossed the bridge almost daily in those days, but then it was rickety and war-torn, and he remembers feeling that dread and emptiness. Would the train ever get across? Sometimes classic literary psychoanalytic readings work sufficiently. In this case, for sure. Let's call it - with the Mitscherlichs, who wrote on it about postwar Germans years ago - "the inability to mourn." By the way, I feel the same dread watching all those slow-moving Holocaust-related trains in Shoah and The Truce and elsewhere.

3 new PennSound Daily entries for your iPod

Here is an audio recording of the three most recent PennSound Daily entries on PennSound - on new materials in our archive by Abigail Child, Ken Jacobs, and Bruce Pearson. The recording was made using SpokenText and the voice you'll hear is that of an avatar, better than most. So download this and take your PennSound Dailies along with you today while you shop, wait in line at the DMV, wash the dishes.

PennSound Daily is written almost daily by our Managing Editor, Mike Hennessey.

meta-beer

In Addis Ababa. Does the sign indicate the beer of beers? A beer the taste of which makes one think of beer-ness?

Thanks to Mara Gordon for the photo.

lessons in hate

Jim Keegstra taught anti-Semitism in his high-school history class for 14 years in rural Alberta. He went way beyond--shall we just say--the curricular guidelines set out by the county, so there was little give in the decision county supervisors should have made to warn him first and then again and then fire him. But, again, it took fourteen years. He had tremendous local support and the school board (and others) were overwhelmed by the popular defense.

He taught that the American Civil War was a Jewish plot. He taught that World War II was caused by the Jews and that Hitler didn't kill any Jews. (Where did they go? "Hundreds of thousands went to Madagascar.") He made his students memorize the "fact" of the story of the Illuminati - a sect of Jews in colonial America who were given their instructions by the devil. He taught that John Wilkes Booth was Jewish. When a student wrote in a paper that Lenin and Trotsky were athiestic, he scrawled in the margin that that was incorrect--that they were Jewish, for the communist revolution in Russia was primarily a Jewish plot against the state. He says he most fears "that hard-core communist Jew, the financier, that hard-core rebel, that rabbinical Jew."

"The people who oppose me just do not know their history," says Keegstra.

A Canadian TV magazine - like 60 Minutes - ran a 20-minute segment on Keegstra. It was called "Lessons in Hate." I'm now making this segment available here.