Friday, March 08, 2019

Golden State -- a book that could only have been written during the Trump presidency

It’s March, yet I feel like a kid on Christmas morning.

Two terrific books — Golden State by Ben H. Winters and Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton by Philip Norman.

Golden State is a book that could have only been written during the Trump Presidency. It is a deeply disturbing book with echoes of Bradbury and Orwell.

The novel is set in the near future.  Golden State was — clearly —once the State of California, but society as we know it no longer exists. In a phrase the reader will encounter on numerous occasions, the past is “unknown and unknowable.”

In this new future, citizens embrace the Objectively So.  Lying is illegal and punishable by imprisonment or exile. Citizens greet each other by reciting objective truths — “A cow is a mammal,” one might say. The response, “So is a dog, but not a bee.” Or, “There are seven days in a week.” To which the response might be, “And twelve months in a year.”

Cameras and recording devices are everywhere, allowing the state to stitch together events into a single, accepted truth.  At the end of each day, citizens complete a record of the events of their day.  The record includes receipts from meals and a list of people met in the course of the day, duly stamped by each individual on the list. 

Everything, everything, is put into the record. 

There’s much more that could be said about society in this strange new world, but such discoveries are best left to the reader.  

Golden State revolves around Laszlo Ratesic, a veteran of the Speculative Service. Ratesic can detect lies, and is rigorous in his pursuit of threats to the Objectively So.  After being summoned by police to what appears to be the accidental death of a roofer, he stumbles upon a plot to undermine the state.

We live in a time when the appeal of a shared truth, a shared reality, has its appeal. Truth today is an elusive commodity 

In January it was reported that since taking office, President Trump has made 7,645 false or misleading claims.  “Since taking office, the president has lied about everything from immigration figures to the number of burgers he served to the Clemson football team at the White House last week,” reports The Guardian.  

Of course, the President is unlikely to agree with that news article by The Guardian and is more than likely to label it fake news. A charge he has brought against such exemplars of journalism as The New York Times and Washington Post. 

It’s intriguing to ponder what Trump would make of a Golden State.  Would he embrace a society without television or radio? Where there is no Internet? No newspapers, except that operated by the state? What would he make of a world where citizens share a belief in objective truth and challenges to the Objectively So are met with imprisonment and exile?

I believe he’d embrace such a world with undue haste.  Or to couch my argument in terms Winters and his readers would understand: Stipulated.

& & & & &

Philip Norman has been a prolific chronicler of the mop tops from Liverpool. He’s written eponymous biographies of Paul McCartney and John Lennon as well as a  biography of the Beatles, Shout!

He’s also written biographies of Elton John, Buddy Holly, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.

Which is to suggest that Norman is supremely equipped for his newest endeavor, Slowhand, in which he turns his attention to rock giant Eric Clapton.  

Norman explores Clapton’s rocky relationship with his mother.  For years, Clapton believed his grandmother was his mother and his mother was his sister.   (Take your time. Read that once more, I’ll wait.)

Norman duly charts Clapton’s the rise of Clapton’s music career, his battle with the demons of heroin and alcohol and his incessant philandering.  Clapton’s relationship with women seems to parallel his relationship with the bands he joined.  An ardent pursuer of women, he quickly lost interest in them once they yielded to his importuning.

As for bands, there were many — the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Blind Faith, Cream,  Derek and the Dominoes, and, finally, a solo career of stunning scope and virtuosity.  

The man’s has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times and, in 1992, took home Grammy awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal,(“Tears In Heaven”); Album of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal, (Unplugged); and Best Rock Song, (“Layla” from Unplugged.)

Slowhand is an even-handed and entertaining look into the stormy life of a gifted musician. 

Books read -- January
1.   Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2.   Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3.   Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4.   Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5.   A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6.   Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7.   Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8.   Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9.   The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor

Books read -- February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker
17. Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift
18. The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
19. School Days, Robert B. Parker
20. The Boats of the Glen Carrig, William Hope Hodgson
21. The Professional, Robert B. Parker
22. Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
23. Flannery O'Connor, The Cartoons, ed. Kelly Gerald
24. Comics & Sequential Art, Will Eisner
25. Sharpe's Escape, Bernard Cornwell
26. Thirteen Ways Of Looking, Colum McCann
27. Late In The Day, Tessa Hadley

Books read -- March
28. Still Life, Louise Penny
29. Golden State, Ben H. Winters
30. Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman

Currently  Reading --
Dreyer's English, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer
The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg
The Border, Don Winslow 

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