A different perspective

Paul O’Connor, a veteran journalist, offers a review of a book that he says isn’t easy to read – but worth the effort.

Reviewed by Paul T. O’Connor

CASTE: THE ORIGIN OF OUR DISCONTENTS. By Isabel Wilkerson. Random House. 388 pages. $32, hardcover.

Many weekday mornings, a friend calls to discuss the news and express his astonishment at the conservative political positions of the people he grew up with in Western North Carolina.

“Don’t they understand that they are voting against their own best interests?” he often asks.

Isabel Wilkerson, in Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, would disagree with his analysis. His rural white friends understand what they are doing, she would say. They vote for the one interest they find more important than good health care, a healthy environment and a fair tax system: the status that comes with being white in America.

“The precarity of their lives and the changing demographics of the country induced (during the Obama years) a greater need to maintain whatever advantages that they (non-affluent whites) had come to expect and to shore up the one immutable characteristic that has held the most weight in the American caste system,” she wrote.

That may sound like a fairly common assessment of white working-class voters – that they are duped into voting against their own best interests by race-baiting candidates. But it is different.

Wilkerson makes a clear distinction between two -isms that we often conflate: racism and casteism. The first entails malevolence and sometimes violence. Casteism often appears benign, sometimes committed by people who harbor no ill will toward people of color. It is the effort by people in one caste to maintain their advantage over those in the lower castes.

Before we reach the above quote on page 325, Wilkerson has made her case that America supports a caste system that is among the world’s most severe and entrenched, and that many white Americans, foreseeing the year 2042, when demographers predict that whites will no longer constitute a majority of the population, fear that they will lose control of their country and the privileges that being atop the caste system brings.

Caste and class differ, she writes. Many are the professional athletes and high-tech gurus who were born into working- or lower-class families who, by nature of their accomplishments, now occupy the highest of our financial classes. But, when it comes to caste, there is no escaping. Wilkerson, with all of her accomplishments, may live in a beautiful home in an exclusive neighborhood, but she still suffers the humiliations of casteism from white plumbers and airline stewards.

Caste has been inescapable, to date, in America; class has not.

Wilkerson, who won a Pulitzer Prize as a reporter for The New York Times and then wrote an astounding history of the African-American diaspora, The Warmth of Other Suns, stands as one of our most compelling chroniclers of contemporary America. As she showed in her previous book, she has mastered the art of telling the stories of ordinary people.

In Caste, she draws from the stories of people she has interviewed, and adds both her own stories and others from historical sources. In every case, the stories provide the examples for the characteristics of casteism that she will soon explain. For example, in telling her airline experience, she explains the inescapability of the caste system.

Caste also relies on sociological, anthropological and historical sources to explain castes.

Many Americans, including myself, probably never considered the American racial structure as a caste akin to that in India, nor of the Aryan social structure of Nazi Germany, but Wilkerson makes very strong historical arguments about their similarities. In one chapter, she relates the history of the Nazi racial purity laws.

To formulate a racial purity policy, the Nazis looked to other nations. They found what they wanted in the American South, focusing on how states made racial segregation, and the permanent African-American subordination, part of the legal structure. In the end, these Nazi policymakers left their conference in awe of how America could portray itself worldwide as the land of the free and equal opportunity when it legally relegated a major portion of its population to second-class citizenship. The Nazis also concluded that the American laws were too harsh for German consumption and diluted them, at least in the initial stages.

Wilkerson, in conclusion, agrees with my friend that his old pals are not acting in their own best interests by clinging to the caste system. It harms us all, pigeonholing all of us based on the color of our skin and other meaningless attributes, thus asking too little of some and too much of others.

This is not a pleasant book to read. To the contrary, it’s disheartening. But it is also transformative. It has the potential to provide us with a whole new way of seeing our social structure, a perspective we really need.

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How could he?

Bob Moyer reviews a book that’s both mystery and thriller, as are many of the ones he reads, but this is a nonfiction book of history.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

MENGELE: Unmasking the Angel of Death. By David G. Marwell. Norton. 432 pages. $30.

He stood on the ramp, as scores of Jews flooded out of the boxcars at the end of the track in Auschwitz Birkenau. With a gesture of his hand he sent them to work — on the right — or to the gas chamber—on the left. He was not the only one who made “selections.”  Every doctor after 1943 was assigned to the duty. Yet he was the most feared, the most remembered by survivors.

He was the Angel of Death.

He was Josef Mengele.

He would appear at other sites around the camp and make impromptu selections. He once had a broomstick held up, and children walked up to it. If they went under, they were killed; if they didn’t, they lived. He also made selections that led to horrific experiments — people with blue eyes, with cleft palates, twins. His legend increased as he eluded capture after the war.

Yet he did not escape the memories of many, including the international organization of twin survivors. They raised such a hue and cry that in 1985 an unparalleled cooperation among Germany, Israel and the United States came about to find him, or what happened to him. David Marwell was appointed director of the American group under the Office of Special Investigations. This well-written book, which reads like a mystery, is his record of that search. Using both forensic and historical methods, the commission approached a number of burning questions: What exactly did he do, why did he do it, and what happened to him after the war? How could one man have inflicted so much horror in such a short time, since he arrived in 1943, and Auschwitz was abandoned in 1945? How could one man think up such evil torture?

Nothing in Mengele’s well-to-do upbringing as the child of a factory owner suggested his future activities. His education was standard for an ambitious, educated young man; he became a doctor, and acquired two other degrees. He became expert in his field, and was encouraged as well as promoted by his mentors, who were the leading experts in his chosen field—phenogenetics, the study of the influence of the environment on genetic properties, and how the genetic properties can be inferred from the phenotypes, or traits. That very description explains his value to the Nazi regime — the word phenogenetics even comes from the German. A central premise of the regime was the superiority of the German volk, and the necessity to separate the inferior races from them. Before the war started, Mengele frequently was called upon to make judgments about whether an individual was of Jewish ethnicity (the length of the jawbone came into play). It is therefore logical that after a stint on the eastern front, for which he was decorated, he found himself in an ideal situation, where he could experiment on a plethora of subjects within the realm of his scientific discipline.

How did he justify the cruelty of his actions?  Once again, he simply fell into the dominant premise of the regime. When one of the newly arrived doctors requested to be removed from selection duty, Mengele convinced him to return, pointing out that these were not people, they were an affliction on the volk. In other words, they were already dead. Doctors under the regime, particularly in the elite SS they were members of, were no longer to care for the individual — they were to care for the health of the race. The author illuminates the path Mengele took to the platform at Auschwitz with astonishing and agonizing detail. His argument emerges clearly. Mengele was not an evil aberration who created tortures for the sake of torture — he was the product of an evil system into which he fed the results and products of his experiments. Everything he did was in the name of science.

He escaped after the war. Once the war ends, the book becomes a thriller tracing his exit to South America; a cat-and-mouse game once he settles into a series of refuges in plain sight; and a detective story that demands a lot of shoe leather as they search for a man reported to have died in 1985. The political intrigue is thick in the finale of the book, as the tension among the three countries involved suggests. Yet even after all the incontrovertible evidence that piles up, even given the assuredness of Marwell himself, the book leaves an iota of doubt—was it Mengele in that grave?  The only thing we can be certain of is that he eluded capture, and justice for all his victims. Marwell does indeed unmask the Angel of Death, who would be shocked to the core that every tenet he held has been proved false — whatever race we are, we are 93 percent like everyone else. We are not different.

(Don’t be put off by the book’s length. 83 pages are Notes and Index.)

 

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A story for our times

I’ve enjoyed many of Chris Bohjalian’s books, some more than others. This one sounds especially — even oddly — timely, and pretty scary. I’m not sure I want to read it, but I’ll pay attention to what Bob Moyer has to say.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

RED LOTUS. By Chris Bohjalian. Doubleday. 367 pages. $27.95

You might not want to read this nail biter of a novel

You might be weary of hearing about disease spread from animals to humans, creating a pandemic.

You might be revolted by the habits and hordes of rats that live under and around us, devouring everything, including each other.

You might get queasy at being privy to the private thoughts of a cutter, a person who hurts themselves. The doctor at the heart of this novel takes to those returning thoughts when an apparent accident kills her boyfriend while they are on a trip to Vietnam.

You might, however, relish a rollercoaster of revelations, well-researched details and well developed characters that cascade out of this book. When the emergency room doctor returns to New York, she learns what she suspected — that accident was no accident.  Her boyfriend was lying to her, and she sets off to find out how much and why. Each step she takes leads her deeper into danger, and adds a bit of dread to the reader’s stomach. The author is expert at developing narrative tension, switching between points of view, including an italicized commentator who is not revealed to the very end. The twists and turns of Chris Bohjalian’s prose and plot make for a taut, scary read.

You might enjoy it.

 

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Unraveling the girl she was

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

A GIRL’S STORY. By Annie Ernaux. Seven Stories Press. 160 pages. $18.95

Annie Ernaux

Shame and humiliation. She spent two nights with a man, then fixated on him, in 1958, earning the name “whore around the edges” from her colleagues. She carried that shame with her for 58 years, until she decided to write a book about how that girl’s life was “… endowed by shame’s vast memory.”

The result is this marvelous autofiction, in which an accomplished, prize-winning novelist considers an 18-year old petit bourgeois provincial girl. She does not fictionalize the girl, but deconstructs “…the girl I was.” She approaches the girl as “…a stranger who imparts her memory” to her. When she has merged with the girl, she steps into the “terrain” of her past —“socially, familial and sexual.”  Once there, she “…writes to unearth something that emerges from the creases when a story is unfolded.”

A flood of “somethings” emerges — poems, movies, pieces of clothing, looks on peoples’ faces, denial. She covers things rarely mentioned in literature, like the “muddle” that occurs when one tries to find “…a way to earn a living,” as she stumbles into and out of a teaching career. With an immediacy to her prose, captured aptly by the translation here, she writes  “endangered, as when one is writing about the living.” Her immersion into that girl’s life takes her to a park bench in England, totally unexpected, where she recognizes the moment “… I started to make a literary being of myself.”

Few writers can match Annie Ernaux’s concision, as she strives to “…make one feel the immense breadth and depth of a summer of youth in the two hours it takes to read one hundred pages.” And her stark images stand out in memory; nowhere else will you find Kant and the phrase “sperm in the mouth” in the same paragraph (if you do, let me know).

Her remarkable journey to realization and resolution comes to us as if A Girl’s Story were told by “… people we hear talking about her through a door.”  It is both revealing, and riveting.

 

 

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Has crime fighting ever been so enchanting?

What could be better than to be transported to the Perigord in France at a time not so long ago when no one had heard of COVID-19 and spend a little time with Bruno, chief of police and chef extraordinaire as he solves crimes, prepares delicacies and lives the good life? Bob Moyer suggests that you let Martin Walker take you there.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

THE SHOOTING AT CHATEAU ROCK: A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel. By Martin Walker. Knopf. 305 pages. $25.95

Things are popping in pre-pandemic Perigord. Ivan is back in St. Denis with his new girl friend/chef from Japan, and the restaurant menu changed again. Bruno is adjusting to supervision of the entire police region, although the increased salary doesn’t really compensate for the increased responsibility. Pamela has taken Bruno back into her bed, but she’s been a bit chilly lately. Old man Driant, that  “chaud lapin” or hot rabbit, was found dead, an apparent heart attack, with a bottle of Viagra on his bedstand and a black hair on his pillow. Bruno suspects something is awry; the old man disinherited his children, and deeded his house and insurance over to a fancy retirement home just opened down the road. Balzac the dog has a big day coming up, his first time at stud Bruno’s ex, Isobel, will come down from Paris, and she and Bruno will help him along. Gilles, who came from Paris to marry Fabiola the doctor, is writing a book about the unrest in Ukraine.

But the big news – the Chateau Rock is up for sale. Purchased years ago by a famous rock ’n’ roller named Mcrae, the estate has been a minor tourist attraction, and his family’s home. The kids grew up there, they’re off to college, and his wife wants to find the rest of her life. The kids bring a passel of their pals to spend the summer, pilling out of a van to gorge on a gazpacho made by Bruno in one of Walker’s usual painstaking recipes. The group includes the son’s girlfriend, the daughter of a Russian pal of Putin.

The shooting, you say? Don’t hold your breath. It happens late in the book. Rest assured, however, that it will make St. Denis an international center involving finance, participants from France, Russia, Ukraine and Cypros, helicopters, swat teams, a sniper and Bruno.

Not as much food porn this time, although there is a lengthy preparation for lamb shanks that will send some readers slobbering. Martin Walker puts a lot of detail into the construction of a chicken coop for the animals left behind by Monsieur Driant. Pamela’s going to keep them. As for myself, I’m off to make Bruno’s ouef mimosa. Does any one know where I can get some alumettes?

 

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Not Bosch, but a determined reporter

If you need a good detective story to read, Bob Moyer can help you out. Here he takes a look at the latest from Michael Connelly.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

FAIR WARNING. By Michael Connelly. Little, Brown and Company. 417 pages. $29.

He’s not Harry Bosch.

Poor Jack McEvoy. He has appeared in only three Michael Connelly novels, and Harry has been in umpteen. A comparison is inevitable, and Jack doesn’t come out too well. Harry is a principled detective who stays the course and comes up with a killer. Jack is a reporter who will kill for a story, and even throw his girl friend under the bus to get one — which he has done. Harry has taken a dismissal and retirement from the force with dignity and a certain stoic grace. The last time we saw Jack, he was a star reporter with a bestseller, a new car and fancy digs. Now, a few years later, he’s driving the same car, living in a smaller apartment, and working for an online news agency called Fair Warning, desperate for another big story. He’s not Harry Bosch.

He’s more interesting.

When a pair of detectives braces him about the death of a woman he dated once a year ago, he senses a bigger story. As he dives in, he discovers a deeper pattern of murders, involving a DNA ancestry website. The cops don’t want him interfering, his editor doesn’t want him wasting time on something that won’t bring in money, but here’s where Harry and Jack have something in common — they’re relentless when they get a whiff of the truth.

Jack’s investigation takes him closer to the serial killer and into the unregulated world of DNA samples. The further Jack goes, the more people die, the more he is endangered. The plot here is classic Connelly, with twists right up to the very end.

The book is a testament to real journalism, and a textbook example of how to research and write a story. Connelly was an investigative reporter in another life, and Jack feels like an alter ego to that reporter. Harry Bosch is not Jack — but Michael Connelly might just be.

 

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A dangerous trap

Bob Moyer reviews the latest John Sandford Prey novel starring Lucas Davenport. If you like what he’s describing, and haven’t yet encountered this series, you have some reading to do. Enjoy.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

MASKED PREY. By John Sandford. G.P. Putnam. 416 pages. $29.

Over the course of 29 previous Prey novels, John Sandford has revealed a few things about Marshall Lucas Davenport. He operates outside of most federal agencies, at the discretion of a few powerful men. He can be collaborative and witty, especially with his cohorts Bob and Rae. He has a panoply of polo shirts, all varying colors, and at least a couple of handmade suits. He collects guns, both legal and illegal. Most of all, however, he is a hunter. “I hunt,” he tells a colleague. “That’s what I do.”

In this case, his Prey is a group or person who has put up a website called 1919, neo-Nazi code for SS. It’s pictures of high-profile politicians’ children, accompanied by rightwing screeds. It’s an offering, daring someone to take action. No crime has been committed, the FBI can’t do anything — here comes Lucas.

He investigates a series of rightwing groups that could have been copied and pasted from the latest Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, most of them “anti-whatever.”  To the author’s credit, he does not make these straw men to be blown down, but fleshed-out characters, giving body to some far-right thinking. His creations are characters, not caricatures. Davenport’s instincts finally lead him to the source of the website. Next, he has to find out if anyone, a “lone wolf,” has taken up the challenge.

Of course they have, early on. That is part of the tension here, as Davenport turns his attention to his next Prey —a Jason Bourne fan who thinks “The country was being invaded by people of inferior cultures and inferior races. The real, vital white America was being submerged.”  He’s out there, but Davenport has no idea where. Proving once again how relentless and ruthless he can be, he baits a dangerous trap all by himself. Of course.

Sandford is a master of taking the plot on unexpected turns, and Davenport is just the one to follow them. Be assured that he will be back to hunt another Prey.

 

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Striking out

What’s wrong with Major League Baseball? Paul O’Connor, a longtime fan, takes a look at two books published decades ago that warn us about the problems facing the sport now – and no, it’s not all about the pandemic.

Reviewed by Paul T. O’Connor

BALL FOUR: THE FINAL PITCH. By Jim Bouton. Audible Studios. 1970. 20 hours. Free to Audible customers.

CAN’T ANYBODY HERE PLAY THIS GAME: THE IMPROBABLE SAGA OF THE NEW YORK METS’ FIRST YEAR. By Jimmy Breslin. Ivan R. Dee Publishing (reprint edition). 1963. Softcover. 126 pages $12.95.

Major League Baseball is a mess, and COVID-19 is only minutely responsible.

In the past half-century, baseball has gone from the National Pastime to an athletic afterthought. The game is too slow. Ticket prices are too high. Too many Americans no longer care.

Jackie Robinson might have broken the color barrier and given the Civil Rights Movement momentum, but African Americans today can’t be coaxed into the game, a game that every year is increasingly staffed with foreign players.

The owners are greedy. The players are greedy. In the middle of a national public health crisis, with the season on hold, the two sides could not agree on how to play a few games and give us an athletic diversion. Instead, an abbreviated season will proceed by ownership fiat.

If Jimmy Breslin and Jim Bouton could be brought back to life, they might both say, “Of course. We warned you a half century ago that the game was headed for trouble.”

While neither of their books is best remembered as prophecies on the future of the game, the criticisms both made, Breslin in 1963 and Bouton in 1970, stand out today.

Breslin, in his 126-page history of the first year of the New York Mets’ existence, repeatedly speaks to the greed that drove National League owners to first fleece Joan Payson, owner of the Mets, for the right to own a team and then left her with a collection of players unmatched for ineptitude in the sport’s history.

Bouton, in his memoir of the 1969 season, spoke of the same greed on the part of owners regarding players. This greed eventually led to the strengthening of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the end of the reserve clauses that tied players to one team and, therefore, to the escalation of salaries and ticket prices.

In one of the epilogues included in the 20-hour recording, one written years after the book was published, Bouton speculates that had owners simply been fairer to players in earlier years they wouldn’t be paying multi-million dollar salaries in the present.

When the two authors aren’t speaking to the greed of the owners, they retell the kind of stories that made us love baseball in previous lifetimes. Breslin, who was probably the funniest columnist working in New York at the time, goes into hilarious detail regarding the Mets and their ineptitude. They managed to lose games on bone-headed plays that, honestly, my Little League teammates knew better than to make when I was 12. Bouton, who wrote one of the first inside-the-locker-room tell-all books, has stories that are so funny that he, in reading his own book for Audible Studios, can’t help but laugh out loud more than 40 years later. It is one of the charms of the audiobook.

But Bouton, in 1970, noticed one of the biggest flaws baseball faces on the field today – pace. The game was too slow, he said, and that was before managers changed pitchers three times per inning and batters retightened their batting gloves between every pitch. He said that young people were too accustomed to a faster pace of life, and baseball needed to speed it up.

Breslin’s talents were widely known, but it took everyone by surprise that a broken-down starting pitcher, struggling to make it back into the big leagues as a knuckleball-throwing reliever, could master the art of sentence construction as well as Bouton did. His short diary entries rarely run more than a paragraph or two. The result is a narrative that possesses the very thing baseball needs today – a quickened pace of play.

Bouton was a master of characterization through the anecdote. His tales of such fellow players and coaches as Sal Maglie and Frank Crosetti are the embodiment of the writer’s directive to “show, don’t tell.”

Breslin, who may have been handed the best anti-hero material of all time, need only retell the baseball mistakes of such players as Marvelous Marv Throneberry and Choo Choo Coleman to get his readers laughing out loud. Add Breslin’s talent, and it is almost an unhealthy read, one that threatens bodily harm from too vigorous laughter.

Both writers have almost perfect timing in the telling of their stories, also. A daily newspaper column in New York and a season in a bullpen are great incubators for wise guys and their wisecracks.

While both writers clearly love baseball, their books tell of baseball dystopia, Breslin’s on the field and in the boardroom, Bouton’s in the locker room and on road trips. While Breslin’s book was well received at the time, Bouton’s earned him a lifetime of animosity from other players and the baseball establishment. But Time magazine listed it as one of the 100 most important books of nonfiction, and the New York Public Library included it on its list of books of the century.

I doubt Ball Four would find a publisher today. It is horribly sexist. This is Mad Men without the suits and ties. It makes the central argument of the Me Too movement.

But while Bouton may have been behind the times with regard to gender, he was way ahead with regard to race. It is astounding to listen to Bouton’s 50-year-old words about racial injustice during our current national reckoning over race relations. Almost everything we’re discussing now Bouton said in his book.

God, I miss baseball, but each year I see a game played more for corporate interests and less for the fan. Breslin and Bouton warned us. The owners didn’t listen.

 

 

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Watch out, Chicago…

Bob Moyer is my hero. Undeterred by all that’s going on in the world around us, he keeps  reviewing books so the rest of us will have some idea of what to read when we want some respite.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

DEAD LAND. By Sara Paretsky. William Morrow. 405 pages. $28.99

Private eye V.I. Warshawski has certain triggers that set her off:  Don’t mess with her family, don’t mess with the downtrodden and vulnerable, and, especially, don’t mess with Chicago.

Author Sara Paretsky has provided Vic, as she is known, that perfect trifecta. Attending a community meeting with her goddaughter Bernie, she witnesses an altercation between two committee members, one of them Bernie’s nerdy boyfriend. On the way home, they stop by to check on a once-famous singer, now down on her luck, out on the street. Within hours, the boyfriend is dead, and the singer has disappeared. Vic can’t help herself; she immediately looks into the murder, and tries to find the singer. Before long, she knows something bigger is behind the cases  —her neighbor starts being nice to her.

The woman, a lawyer, has been trying to evict Vic for years. Her law firm wants to find the singer, so she has been instructed to play nice. It seems they represented the murderer of the singer’s boyfriend, the event that sent the woman into a downward spiral. And somehow their interest involves a toy piano the singer plays.

The path Vic follows leads all the way from a proposed development on the Chicago lakeshore to the days of the “disappeared” in Pinochet’s Chile. In her search, she falls down a cliff face, is shot at and is threatened by the head of a city agency. At the bottom of it all is the simple truth behind much of Chicago politics:  “Pay to Play.”

Inexorably steely in spite of her wounds and threats, Vic exposes the rotten underbelly of Chicago’s politics. She gets help from her colleague, journalist Murray Ryerson, and, of course, her neighbor Mr. Contreras. Along the way, she  (and the reader) gets to spend time with Bear, a key character’s dog. Somehow, her commitment to that dog brings more depth to the story than one would expect. This time around, Vic shows a vulnerability greater than before, complementing her stellar capacities as a detective. Dead Land is a highlight in this venerable series.

 

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A storm brewing…

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

WEATHER. By Jenny Offill. Alfred A.  Knopf. 224 pages. $23.95.

Lucy toggles.

“Toggles” is the word author Jenny Offill used in a recent interview to describe the interior switching in the life of her narrator. In this remarkable exploration of the effect of climate change on a woman’s life, Lucy moves back and forth between two worlds. On one hand, she does the stuff we all have to do to stay alive. She’s a wife and mother who plays with her child, fixes meals for the family, works as a librarian at the college where she didn’t finish her dissertation. She assists her mentor, a “prepper” guru, with her correspondence, takes a car service to work, even though she can’t afford it, and she meets a man on the bus, flirts with him, but doesn’t go any further. She counsels her mother, tries to help her addictive brother, and gives the woman outside her library money

On the other hand, she has a preoccupation – Weather. The dilemma of living ethically in a damaged world consumes her from time to time, even moment to moment. The guy she meets on the bus asks her what she’s afraid of; she answers “… dentistry, humiliation, scarcity. ”  She overhears someone on the bus say it’s important to be on the alert for ”the decisive moment. ” He’s talking about 20th century photography, but she’s “… talking bout twenty-first century everything. ” When asked what she’s good at, she rattles off a full page of survival skills. 

These thoughts surface, in what passes for a narrative here, as fragments. A signature of Offill’s style, used to great effect in her previous novel Dept.  Of Speculation, these fragments can be as short as a random fact about the weather, or as lengthy as an entire domestic scene. Quotes from her mentor’s lectures, questions from correspondence, even a joke surface in Lucy’s consciousness. 

 The sometimes heavy, sometimes humorous episodes produce a sense of urgency contrasting with a normalcy of inaction, and, ultimately, a disintegrating narrative. The flicking back and forth builds to an unresolved tension at the end of the book, an anxiety not just for Lucy, but also for the reader – how responsible are we for the whole world?

Weather is a book of our time, for our time.  

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