Mindy Newell: Historical Fiction
History is important. Understanding the history of a subject leads to the understanding and interpretation of current events. Knowing where you were can help you in comprehending where you are now. For instance, want to understand the current Mideast conundrum? Learn about World War I and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire by the British Empire and its allies because that’s where our modern Middle East troubles really started.
“But history is so boring!” you say?
Then pick up a good book. I don’t mean a “bustier and boudoir” romance novel – I mean a novel that explores, through its characters and situations, the mores and creeds and ethos of its time. War And Peace, To Kill A Mockingbird, Marjorie Morningstar, Tales Of The South Pacific – well, okay, James Michener’s book is a collection of short stories – The Grapes Of Wrath; even Gone With The Wind will help you understand the South of today.
I bring this up because I’m currently reading Watergate: A Novel by Thomas Mallon, a noted historical novelist who is also a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review.
Yes, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post wrote a wonderful non-fiction book about the botched break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex, and All The President’s Men was a brilliant movie starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein and Jason Robards as Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee. I thought the book and the movie were the last words on the scandal, too.
But Mallon does a brilliant job in imagining the emotions, thoughts, and personal ambitions of those involved in what Vanity Fair called, in its review of the book, “the operatic drama of Watergate.” The scandal was truly a Greek tragedy, a tale of moral bankruptcy and the corruption of leadership that still echoes in the hall of the United States government today, and not to the good. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Tea Party, the obstructionists, the corporatists, the Mitch McConnells, the Eric Kantors, the John Boehners, the Koch Brothers, the Dick Cheneys and their ilk took away from the Watergate scandal the wrong lessons.
As in: Be cleverer as you undermine the Constitution of the United States.
On July 21st, John Boehner sat with Bob Schieffer of Face The Nation and actually said that Congress passes too many laws and that it “ought to be judged on how many laws it repeals.” And what laws would those be, Mr. Speaker of the House? You mean Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act?
As in: Lie until people believe it.
As in: Don’t fight the media. Use the media.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Fox News.
As in: The right to work without a union.
Yes. The right to work for less pay, worse benefits, more hours, and less environmental protection.
As in: Corporations are people.
The Washington Post, home to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the paper that took down a President and his cabal of co-conspirators, was sold this past week to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. Bezos hasn’t said anything about his plans for the Graham-owned icon.
But we all know how great Amazon has been for Barnes and Noble and Borders and the great publishing houses like Random House and Penguin and Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
That was a great story, wasn’t it?
TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis