Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vacation dispatch #2

Reading report: I read Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead. Loved it. Hilarious but also profound--no easy combination to pull off.

I've read all three of Whitehead's previous novels. His first, The Intuitionist, is in my opinion a work of genius. The second, John Henry Days, was very good. Apex Hides the Hurt, his third novel, I wasn't crazy about; after the depth of the first two it seemed slight. Now this one, very different from all that came before, and a wonderful gift to readers from an astoundingly gifted writer.

Colson Whitehead couldn't write a bad sentence if his life depended on it. He can, however, write wicked parody of bad sentence writers. Check out this delicious takedown of James Wood.

Activity report: I've made two forays into Manhattan, the first to the Morgan Library and Museum to check out the riches of the old robber baron J.P. and then to the main library, and the second to the Museum of Modern Art. I have some things to say about all three stops, and will when I can bear to sit at the computer for long enough. This desk is in the hottest spot in our apartment, and given this endless stretch of 90-degree-plus days it's anyone's guess when I'll be able to sit here long enough to write a substantive post.

Political note: This past Thursday heroic people's lawyer Lynne Stewart was resentenced to 10 years in prison. The ostensible reason for the much harsher sentence is outrageous. Basically, if the judge's remarks are to be taken at face value, he piled on the years to punish Lynne for her public comments making light of the original 28-month sentence. That is, he means this 70-year-old dubbed Mother Courage by Ramsey Clark to die in prison for something she said. So free speech is now a capital crime. Behind the whole thing, though, the original charges as well as the drive to deepen the punishment, to lock her up and throw away the key, is the ongoing, ever broadening assault not merely on civil liberties in general but more specifically on political activism and left advocacy.

I haven't heard word of what's next in the movement to free Lynne Stewart, although I'd assume the harsh sentence will be appealed.