(June 18, 2012)
[Please include your first and last names, and your city and state of residence. Thank you.]
Diversity and Eclecticism: The June 4 issue
To the Editor:
When the question is asked what Swans Commentary is all about, there is now a simple answer: Read the June 4, 2012 issue. It tells us with editorial calm how American agriculture, one industry that has survived, is threatened by a vindictive immigration policy. Then off to the very particular beauty of Vermont at grips with climate change. Followed by a judicial look, which does not take sides, of the possibility of change in France. The strong flow continues as the subjects change. An account of how the fantasies of one on-the-make novelist twisted the public's view of the universe. A glimpse of Freud's doubts about humanity and his certainties about dogs. The life story of two very specific cats, impressive by its patience with details. A query about what came first, the fictional chicken or the copycat egg. The pacific role of a very special Swami in the brawl between major religions. A return of the irreplaceable Anton Chekov seen in quick verbal flashes. June 4th: an issue of issues.
Lecce, Italy - June 5, 2012
Michael Barker's H.P. Lovecraft's Alien Legacy
To the Editor:
H.P. Lovecraft's playground was 40 feet from my house in Providence, Rhode Island, and I was among a small group of left-wing Lovecraft devotees. My essay on Lovecraft, his evolution, and his politics appears here and there in anthologies. I drew much wisdom from an interview with Frank Belknap Long, one of HPL's dearest friends across the decades.
The quick story is that when young, he was terribly afraid of what was known as Race Suicide -- the overtaking of Yankee stock by immigrants and nonwhites. His native Rhode Island, the most immigrant and most Catholic state for the last 150 years, saw an early decline in the textile industry and experienced a sense of decay and also a kind of bohemianism among the outnumbered (but often highly privileged) Yankees. He was fascinated by the same circumstances, and the themes of being captured or overwhelmed by the "other" was the basis for his literary triumph. In the pages of Weird Tales but also through personal correspondence, he came in contact increasingly with left-wingers like Long, and by the end of his short life, Lovecraft was a firm supporter of Norman Thomas, "Mr. Socialism" in the U.S.
So far as I know, Lovecraft's tales are the #1 source of horror films, nearly all of them perfectly awful. But his stories (first published in an anthology in Sauk City, west of Madison, an old stop on the "Free Thought" lecture trail of nineteenth century German-American radicals) and the memory of them remain. His friend and publisher, August Derleth, is a Wisconsin hero.
Madison, Wisconsin, USA - June 7, 2012
Emilia Romagna 2012 -- the Horrible Destruction in Northern Italy
If even your house can't be safe for you, which place can be? When the land quakes, Italians come out with the ideas of destruction and desolation of their history: Messina 1908, Irpinia 1980, l'Aquila 2009. A moment...and you lose everything, even your identity: When your family has passed away, the dreams of an entire life crumble and you become a citizen of a phantom city, and you can't find an answer to "who am I?".
Palermo, Sicily, Italy - June 7, 2012
[ed. Gabriele Contino is a high school student of Guido Monte.]
Meditation about the Earthquake in Northern Italy
I am writing a short meditation about the recent earthquake in northern Italy, which deeply affected my idea of human existence.
"We live a brief part of our life. Because the rest is not life, but only time" (Lucius Annaeus Seneca, De brevitate vitae 2, II). We die in the time, we live in the vain experience of our death. Dust and dream: we are the tears of the night reflected on the ocean of the shadows. "Ay, there's the rub": because this sublime mortality of our essence is the secret destruction of the spirit. When the instant of the immense becomes an expression of the void, the nature obscures the laws of the existence. I hear again the echo of the Time that sings the wail of the flesh: "A pickaxe and a spade, a spade, / for and a shrouding-sheet, / O a pit of clay for to be made / for such a guest is meet" (William Shakespeare, Hamlet - V, I).
Palermo, Sicily, Italy - June 9, 2012
[ed. Salvatore Balsano is a high school student of Guido Monte.]
The New France: Gilles d'Aymery's France: Change Is Now?
Hey Mr. d'Aymery,
Don't be too harsh with François Hollande and the Ayrault government. They have only been in power for a few weeks and have to wait for the result of the parliamentarian elections on June 17. While I did not vote for Hollande I wish his party gets a clear majority. It will allow him to govern and put in place his policies. Then, we'll have to wait until the fall or the end of the year to see the results of these policies.
Sarkozy may have given a dignified concession speech, as you wrote, but he and Fillon bequeathed a France in bad shape: A budget deficit of almost €60 billion in the first quarter; a monthly trade deficit of approximately €5.5 billion; a contracting economy; growing unemployment; and a very divided society. In other words, I would not like to be in Hollande's shoes. As to his "normal attitude" no one knows whether it's a "new normal" or a willful contrast with the perception that Sarkozy was a president bling-bling. Time will tell.
Also, in your much too short explanation of Sarkozy's defeat [Exit Sarkozy, Enter Hollande, May 7, 2012.] you forgot to mention a very significant gesture, that of Jacques Chirac announcing early on that he would vote for Hollande. It was presented in the media as a Corrèzian joke (both Chirac and Hollande are from the Corrèze department) but it was not. Chirac detested Sarkozy ever since 1995 when the latter took side with Chirac's challenger in the presidential election, Edouard Balladur. To Chirac, Sarkozy was a parvenu ["upstart"], a man ready to destroy his own allies on his way to power. (This, of course, is to forget that Chirac acted similarly in 1981 when he torpedoed Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's run for a second term, which helped François Mitterrand to win.) So, Chirac did it again in 2012.
Why a significant act? Why a portent gesture? Because by announcing that he would vote for Hollande (joke or not) he gave a clear signal to old Gaullists to either vote for Hollande or abstain -- and they did. Old Gaullists did indeed vote for Hollande or abstained. This is the main factor beside the economic and financial crises, the National Front choice of calling to vote against Sarko, and the little Bayrou episode that did Sarkozy in. Ironically, Chirac has been able to defeat two conservative presidents in his lifetime -- a Guiness Book record.
You are correct about our snail muncher's tax policies (I hear that F. Hollande is quite fond of snail eating). Upper-middle-class people as well as up-and-coming members of the young generation are leaving France. I have two friends who have already left. My husband wants to do the same, but I do not because there is no other country but France -- something you should at long last know by now: The food, the culture, the beauty, the diversity...and my beautiful legs! I'm afraid Mr. Hollande is going to do a lot of dammage -- much worse than Sarkozy. Hollande, Le Pen: Same combat. Sad days ahead, I'd venture to say.
Then, again, it looks like I am pregnant. So life cannot be that bad!
Paris, France - June 10, 2012
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