(September 10, 2012)
[Please include your first and last names, and your city and state of residence. Thank you.]
La rentrée: French Return from Vacations
Hey Mr. d'Aymery:
Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, asserted in his acceptance speech that he will create 12 million jobs in the U.S. when or if he is elected -- though he did not say how (actually, the entire convention was rather short on hows). Still, he looked supremely confident. Perhaps he could give a phone call to François Hollande and Jean-Marc Ayrault to give them some advice about job creation, and if he does not win next November he should move to Paris and become a business adviser to the French government. Because, here it's la rentrée (the return from vacations and beginning of school year) -- we just came back from Bréhat where we had a wonderful and quiet time -- and the economic situation is not rosy.
Unemployment has passed the symbolic 3 million mark, or more than 10 percent of the active population. An additional 300,000 jobs may be lost by the end of the year. The new government appears confused. It now acknowledges that the situation is grave -- that the country faces an exceptional economic crisis for which they fault the previous governments of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. I wonder whether they believe that Chirac and Sarko are also responsible for the crises in Greece, Great Britain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, etc.... It's an amusing spectacle. (What do you think of this new crew, Mr. d'Aymery?)
No decision has been taken yet to redress the economy though we have a new department (un ministère) led by the dandy Arnaud Montebourg -- the department of productive recovery. We'll have to wait until October to find out what kind of rabbits they'll pull out of the famous hat. Meanwhile, the popularity of our "normal" president has fallen below 50% according to recent polls, the fastest tumble in recent history, which, evidently, must be blamed on Sarkozy. And 66% of the French people express pessimism toward their future and that of their children. When people are pessimistic they do not spend money, so consumption is tanking.
Now you can see why we need Mitt Romney, a good family man, a job creator, and a savy business aggregator. Only Romney can redress the French ship of state. Please, American friends, do not elect him as we cannot wait to have him land on our blessed shores. But if he cannot make it, send us "go-ahead-make-my-day" Clint Eastwood. We'll oblige! Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. Let the fun begin.
To end on a positive note: Kudos to Manuel García, Jr. and you, and you, and you, for coming up with the Special Summer Issue. It was a real gem and treat.
Enjoy the bread and circuses, and keep smiling.
Paris, France - September 2, 2012
Gilles d'Aymery responds: It's a bit early to get a definitve opinion on this new crew. We'll soon enough find out whether it's a millesime filled with picrate ("plonk") or fine wine. Irony, however, is all over the place. President-normal Hollande used to say that there was no real economic crisis, just a problem created by Sarkozy. Once the latter out the problem would disappear. Now he is acknowledging that there is a grave economic crisis. Bizarre, no? When the last secretary of education, Luc Chatel, promoted a new course on morality in schools, the "socialists," now in power, ridiculed and opposed the idea. Now, the new secretary of education is advocating a course on morality. Hmmm. When the Sarkozy government began dismantling Roms's camps, the socialists were up in arms against the measures in the name of human rights. Now, the new minister of the interior, Manuel Valls, is expulsing Roms at a higher rate than the Sarkozy administration ever did. It seems that, to put it mildly, this crew came to power unprepared to confront the socio-economic challenges France faces. Time will tell.
Same Sentiment: Gilles d'Aymery's The Passing Of A Muckraker
To the Editor:
I have read Gilles d' Aymery's piece about Alexander Cockburn and I feel much the same way. I was trying to think why. I suppose in part I felt that he was a windbag. He might have had some insights but a lot of the time he seemed to be pulling things out of his own head, and what he pulled out was, with each passing year, less and less interesting. I was originally inclined to like what he wrote. I read his father's work; I lived in England in the 1960s and admired left-wing British journalists. They were mean-spirited in a very creative way. I did read Cockburn when he first started to write for The Nation. I liked his voice. He was different; but before long there was little that was surprising in his columns. I don't know why for sure. I thought that it might have had something to do with the fact that he lived in remote Humboldt County. I know that shouldn't matter in the age of the Internet when everyone and everything seems connected and is, as they say, "just a click away." Cockburn seemed to become a parody of himself. His less attractive traits became more pronounced and his more unattractive traits -- as a writer -- seemed to be magnified. I am willing to give him another chance -- to reread his piece. I know that I can say this: he did not contribute to my education and evolution as a thinker, a radical, or a writer myself. Andrew Kopkind, who died in 1994, did. In the 1960s, his writings for The New Statesman were powerful, gripping, inspiring. For a time, Noam Chomsky's essays in The New York Review of Books were transformed. Cockburn never touched my heart or intellect as they did. If he influenced others -- great. We all do respond to different voices.
Sonoma, California, USA - August 30, 2012
Remembering Florence Shay
To the Editor:
When I heard that Florence Shay died, I felt the world had got smaller. She would have laughed at a remark like that and come back with one of her own, maybe that being so tiny herself she never took up more than a normal parking space, if she managed to find one. She will nevertheless be missed in the biggest of ways. A year or so before I met Florence, I suggested to a nephew of mine and his wife that they visit her bookshop. They did and became habitués. The next time I was in Chicago they took me to meet Florence. It was a strange drive to Highland Park. The visit was full of meaning for them, some sort of ritual. The amazing little woman enriched their lives. They clung to her. We were pilgrims.
In a chat with Florence, despite all the big ideas in the books around her, she made you keep your feet on the ground. She could be opinionated but never ethereal. You felt a whole lifetime behind her of saying yes or no; never maybe. How many people owed something to her decisions? She was practical to a point that made practicality seem spiritual. It came through in her marvelous blog, so stubbornly brave in the last months. I used to tease her about never having read James Joyce's Ulysses. It was our joke. The novel, labyrinthine and endless, was not a yes-or-no book. I'm rereading it now still looking for arguments to convince Florence.
Lecce, Italy - August 29, 2012
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