Sunday, January 09, 2011


Silver sky, and a silver vehicle parked by the cafe window: some modern cross between a van and a station wagon, enormous, twice the size of the station wagons I grew up with. But precisely the color of the clouded sky, in this cold dawn. It gleams in the same way, its blankness full of light, every shadow hinting of tarnish. It is a dark morning, but full of light. Reflections of the lamps that hang from the ceilings of Tosi's march out across the sky, phantom lights against the phantom sky. Everything is gleam and reflection. The morning light pools and beads and skitters like drops of mercury; the tops of the firs are mixed up with the low clouds. Their heads are smoky and indistinct: maybe it's their breath fogging the cold air.

I'm reading a wonderful mystery novel aloud to Martha: Three Bags Full, by a young German named Leonie Swann. It's the story of sheep investigating the murder of their shepherd. They are sheep to the life: easily spooked, in constant need of the reassurance of the flock, given to the obscure impulses of communal remorse and shame that drive herd animals, and fitting everything else in around the central business of life, which is grazing. They are a bit muddled and out of their depth with human beings, but some things they have down cold. Voices suddenly drop, at one point, and the sheep nearby become attentive: “human beings rarely bothered to be quiet, and when they did it always meant something.”

On hearing the news of Pearl Harbor Hitler raced to tell it to Jodl and Keitel, exulting that 'Now it is impossible for us to lose the war: we now have an ally who has never been vanquished in three thousand years.' (Churchill, on hearing the same news, came to an identical but contrary conclusion: 'So we had won after all.')

Reading John Keegan's Second World War for the . . . third? fourth? time. Sometimes it's good to be reminded that fascists do eventually self-destruct. I have nothing to say about Giffords' assassination, which opens old wounds, except this: people have mistaken the fortitude and determination of American democracy before, and have paid dearly for it. If you want a fight, you'll get one.

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