Karl Friedrich Strack was standing on the upper level exit of the Benjamin Franklin Hospital holding a bunch of red roses. His father had just died. He lifted his eyes toward the late afternoon skies and dispassionately observed a formation of soundless birds, masses of specks dotting the leaden late winter sky. They seemed to be passing over Pankow in the northern part of the city.
What kind of man was Paul Bowles? A composer who wrote. A writer who composed. A man famous and respected enough in a small circle of cognoscenti but otherwise infamous for not being famous…a stubborn, lifetime American expat in Morocco but with little trace of an obvious political complaint…an orientalist manqué….a quietly arrogant enigma in its many contradictions—but are they? He obviously liked it that way.
Lily Pad Roll: Journey to the Outposts of the Empire
by Gaither Stewart
Trepper & Katz Impact Books, 344 pp, $12.45 (Paper)
Also available in electronic format at $6.99
Reviewed by Branford Perry, Hipographia
I just finished a second reading of Gaither Stewart’s explosive and highly disturbing new novel, Lily Pad Roll, volume two of the Europe Trilogy.
At the end of such a novel I like to sit in silence, in semi-obscurity if possible, and let the atmosphere sweep over me in order to feel the sum effect of my reading and the residue and the mood I know I will feel come over me each time I think of the work in the future.
In this case the sensation is one of unease caused by both this well-told story of major aspects of American imperialism related by a master story-teller, but, above all in particular, of the enmity towards and the fear of the Russian bear on the part of the American eagle, whose evil presence overshadows Lily Pad Roll like Predator drones—because of America’s terrible and terrifying arms sufficient to destroy many times over the entire planet Earth, its highly trained special forces and aggressive policies supported by a chain of vassal states and satraps such as no other aspirant for world dominion has ever possessed. Neither Napoleon nor Hitler could have dreamed of such military power. Nor of commanding a nation-people standing so solidly behind their Fuehrer, a people filled with a sense of Exceptionalism and destiny tailored by God for world dominion, reminiscent of the “Manifest Destiny” of these transplanted Europeans to exterminate whatever stood in their path, even if it meant the extermination of the great indigenous nations of North America. (The “manifest” part would soon extend well beyond America’s continental limits to embrace much of the globe, apace with its growth in industrial might and military muscle.)
“I regard class differences as contrary to Justice.” (Albert Einstein in a personal statement of his credo.)
“The Russians have proved that their only aim is really the improvement of the lot of the Russian people.” (Albert Einstein in his 1934 refusal to sign a petition condemning Stalin’s murder of political prisoners.)
“Any government is evil if it carries within it the tendency to deteriorate into tyranny. The danger … is more acute in a country in which the government has authority not only over the armed forces but also over every channel of education and information as well as over the existence of every single citizen.” (Albert Einstein in a speech to Russian scientists in support of democratic socialist ideals and criticism of untrammeled capitalism.) (1)
BY GAITHER STEWART
(Dateline: Rome, 20 August 2008)
I have chosen to set out on this trip back in time to Joseph Stalin from the six-meter tall statue of the revolutionary writer, Vladimir Mayakovsky.
Standing on a square about a mile from Moscow’s Kremlin, the towers of which are nearly visible from famous Trimphalnaya Square, commonly known as Mayakovskaya Square, the poet’s statue seems lonely in the hubbub of modern Moscow. Passing right over the body of the “poet of the Revolution”, so to speak, this voyage passes through the intricacies and pitfalls of available choices in life, the artistic choices of the poet and the political-ideological choices of Stalin, a man caught at the center of an extremely complex world historical process. The ultimate goal on this journey is to suggest a reassessment of the historical role of Joseph Stalin, Soviet Russia’s leader of 30 years following the death of Lenin, the Vozhd of a revolution that changed irreversibly the nature of backward Russia and carried the revolution far beyond its frontiers. (LEFT: Mayakovsky’s monument.)
But first, the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
The Cubo-Futurist poet of the Russian Revolution, admired, pampered and promoted by Stalin and some Russian revolutionary leaders, mistrusted and criticized by others, apparently shot himself in his office one day in April in 1930 in Moscow. His death ultimately became the subject of speculation for historians and mystery thriller writers alike: suicide or murder? Both versions are tempting and facile: either he committed suicide because of putative disillusionment with the revolution or he was murdered by Stalin. Or perhaps it was a more mundane question of his love life.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Articles you missed the first time around.
For most Americans, the defense of “Americanism” is indistinguishable from the defense of capitalism, aka “the free enterprise system”—its favorite euphemism. Only in America can a citizen opposed to capitalism be denounced as “un-American.”
By Gaither Stewart & Patrice Greanville
Originally published on 2 August, 2008
The dismal demise of the American Dream (if it ever really existed), the dream not of what we believe it was but of what we wanted to believe it was. “It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this: That we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy who have always existed and presumably will always exist to get people to love their servitude.” (Aldous Huxley in a 1962 speech at Berkeley)
Dateline: (Rome) July 31, 2008 [print_link]
PHOTO: (Left) JFK, long enshrined as one of America’s best presidents, was a plutocrat in his own right, and a de facto propagandist for the superiority of the “American Way of Life.” No US president could govern (or get elected) on a platform that disparaged individualism, or the core values of capitalism.
IT’S UNDENIABLE THAT THE AMERICAN SOCIAL MODEL (the vaunted “American Way of Life”) is a paradox in the world. All you have to do is look around at other nations and the difference is clear as the Rome sky in July. Even today at the nadir of its profound social crisis because of its flagrant, outright failure, America continues unabashedly to hammer away at its people how fortunate they are, while simultaneously proposing itself to the world as the paradigm, the quintessence, the very epitome of western civilization.