Hillary Clinton’s Emails

The controversy about Hillary Clinton’s emails is a self-licking ice cream cone that ought to disappear but doesn’t because her Republican adversaries and the story-starved media don’t want it to.

I write with some experience: I read classified material every day during 25 years in the Foreign Service.

Here are some points to consider:

I heard a CNN reporter say on the air yesterday that sometimes classified material is not marked as classified. This is not true; it would be like the New York Times arriving at your door without the banner “New York Times” at the top of the front page.

Beyond that, it is impossible to transmit classified material to unclassified addresses. If you could, it would be possible for hundreds of thousands of people to send classified material to mom and dad.  And that would happen, people being people. (Edward Snowden would have had a much easier time pillaging the government’s secrets, too.)

Ergo, if Hillary Clinton received material that ought to have been classified, it was not marked as classified and it arrived via an unclassified system.

That would be a security breech, the fault of the sender, not the Secretary.

Should Hillary Clinton or anyone else receiving classified information that was not properly marked know that said information should be classified? In a given instance, yes, that’s possible. But what is more likely is that ex post facto an Inspector General would comb through materials and exclaim, “Aha! This needs to be classified.”  What would Secretary Clinton have been guilty of?  Nothing. She didn’t originate the material or somehow extract it from a classified system and convey it in improper form.

How often does a Secretary of State ever classify anything personally? I would venture to say almost never. Secretaries of State seldom write anything that is official except notes of congratulation or condolence, and frequently staffers write those, which can be signed quite nicely with an old-fashioned autopen or some newer technology.

In passing a document along or responding to it,  a Secretary might note, “I disagree,” or “Check with Tom,” or “Circulate to the group,” or “D/W President.”  To help a Secretary avoid making even that much effort, there is a 24/7 operations center and a well-staffed Executive Secretariat ready to dress up her oral instructions—passed along by another layer of staff—more formally, adding “Please” and “Thank you” and “If you would be so kind . . .”

I understand Secretary Clinton’s interest in efficiency and privacy; this led to her unique way of handling emails. Would I do the same? Nope. In government, it’s best to stick with the system. Washington is gotcha-city. Short cuts are never worth it.

That said, it seems to me that Mrs. Clinton may be content to let this non-issue rumble along now because it will be the oldest of old news when the primaries begin.  By then, the Republicans will still be railing, but the facts will have come out. A few of those facts may sting her, but not many. Dessert will be over. Self-licking ice cream cones can’t last forever, even in Washington.

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Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth:Michel Foucault

This thematically-focused compendium of lectures, essays, and interviews is too disparate to be reviewed systematically, but its variety is one of its chief attractions.  I’ll focus on a few elements that intrigued me most.

Foucault, like Nietzsche, was a profound student of the classical world. His scope of knowledge is breathtaking. As he said in one of his interviews, this was attributable to the fact that he worked like a dog. (Others, like Solzhenitsyn and Kant, were just as assiduous in researching and analyzing things that intrigued them; all they did was work. And so, too, almost, Foucault.) I found his observations on the care of the self in the classical world most compelling. He argued convincingly that from Socrates to Seneca to Marcus Aurelius various forms of self-contemplation were disciplines like sitting zazen. Seneca, for instance, would devote hours to the solitary contemplation of his death. He also carried on epistolary relations in which he regarded understanding his own ethics and motivations as crucial to his existence.  The Socrates we receive from Plato did the same thing but right out on the streets of Athens, challenging acquaintances with the question: What are you doing to know yourself?

What’s intriguing here is that self-preoccupation, narcissistic behavior, is both commonplace and criticized today. We think we ought to think about others, not ourselves. This may be a Christian corruption of human possibility, for how can we think about others if we do not first think about ourselves?  Ethics, Foucault contended, are the foundation of freedom, or its prerequisite, and ethics in the classical world meant self-knowledge, self-mastery, a refined sense of judgment about what one ought to do to play one’s responsible role in one’s home and city. Without perfecting oneself (an impossible task) one could not be free (an impossible condition), one would always be hostage to the darker corners of one’s soul.

Foucault’s interest in homosexuality has proven prophetic. He argued that real progress for homosexuals, like himself, would be to move beyond the chance, passionate encounter to more enduring forms of friendship energized by the erotic but not chattel to it. This year in America we have fully entered the realm of gay marriage. Foucault understood that that was where gays really wanted to go, deeply wanted and needed to go–perhaps not to marriage, per se, but to unchallenged lasting relationships, not subject to unjust laws and social opprobrium. And here we are, with so many homosexuals coming not out of the closet as homosexuals but as pairs and partners who have been hidden away sometimes for decades.

Foucault’s mode of thought is difficult to grasp unless one accepts it as interested in the dynamic and the relational. In other words, he was an historian/philosopher of transformations, not truths. Thus, there is no fixed point in his work; in fact, he rejected fixed points. To Foucault knowledge was not static. All knowledge was relative but within  hard won frameworks of understanding.  This was not “anything goes.” Far from it: it hinged on assiduous examination and deep reflection. Truth might be mutable–had to be mutable–but it was not accidental or capricious.

I realize this comment is exceedingly abstract, but so was Foucault, who warrants continuing attention.

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The Innocent Man by John Grisham

John Grisham’s nonfiction book, The Innocent Man, is a straightforward account of not a single innocent man wronged by justice in Oklahoma in the 1980s-90s but of several men. But the focus is on Ronnie Williamson, convicted of a murder he did not commit.

We know this from the title and blurb matter on the covers of the book, so this is not a “thriller,” as advertised, nor is it a “true-crime story” because the central crime in question is narrowly focused by the local district attorney, in a town called Ada, on Ronnie, who was innocent. And this is apparent from the outset.

So this is a narrative of a gross miscarriage of justice. It is a tale of a prosecutor and a police force prepared to use coerced confessions, paid-off jailhouse snitches, irrelevant witnesses, and unscientific evidence to “get someone convicted” and settle Ada down after two brutal murders of young women.

Beyond that, it is a study of appalling legal defense, judges who are not current with Supreme Court decisions (or don’t care), and correctional officials indifferent to Ronnie’s mental and physical condition.

Once a fabulous high school baseball player and major league prospect, Ronnie injures himself, underperforms, and is cut from the A’s and the Yankees. He turns to drinking, drugs, and chasing women, but a key development that Grisham doesn’t highlight at the right moment in the story is that he develops schizophrenia—a mental condition that often suddenly appears in a victim’s early twenties (or a bit later).

Along with schizophrenia Ronnie develops bipolar disorder, paranoia, mania, and a range of associated disorders. When the first young girl is brutally murdered, he already has made a mess of his life in Ada and appears to be a likely suspect, fingered most heavily by the actual killer.

Interestingly, the fact that Grisham makes this clear does not damage the forward momentum of the narrative. There’s no suspense, in a sense, just wonderment at the concatenation of mishaps that are inflicted upon Ronnie (and a buddy, also convicted of murdering Debbie Carter) and brought upon himself by himself.

Grisham writes in a succinct, realist style with short sentences, short passages within chapters, and short chapters. Occasionally he intrudes in editorial wonderment at the wretched mistakes of the police, prosecutor, judges, and correctional authorities who ruin twelve years of Ronnie’s life, fail to admit that he is mentally incompetent to defend himself or cooperate with a lawyer, and simply watch as his mind and body deteriorate.

Oklahoma’s forensic science establishment skewers itself with unjustified arrogance (along with spending years on getting around to reporting erroneous results). Meanwhile Ronnie languishes in jails and then on Death Row, which is modernized to make it an even worse place to hold prisoners (in underground cells with no windows and no ventilation.)

Grisham’s research appears solid. He captures and renders details, especially of life on Death Row, succinctly and efficiently. He never overwrites (perhaps because he does not have to), but in a sense this book is a report that lacks novelistic depth. We really don’t know much about the prosecutor’s motivations, the judges’ incompetence, the pliability of the police. What we have are facts, information, sequences that sum up how things went for Ronnie or his mother or his alleged accomplice, at given points over the years.

Comparable books would be The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Both are much more powerfully written, but both go further into crimes really committed by the actual killers. Ronnie, not having killed anyone and not being of sound mind, becomes a screeching machine of “I’m innocent! I didn’t kill anyone! I didn’t even know Debbie Carter!”

Ultimately Ronnie is given 30 days before his execution (here we have some actual suspense) and then a public service lawyer aiding the indigent heroically files an appeal so powerful that a federal judge orders a retrial. This offers valuable insight into a judge’s chambers at that level. As always, Grisham shines in recounting legal procedures, ethically driven reconsideration, and biases.The judge in question doesn’t like these last minute appeals. He turns Ronnie’s over to an assistant who turns it over to an assistant who can’t believe what she’s reading and gets the whole office involved in persuading the judge to overcome his bias. Good stuff. Here we have the real heroes of the story, about whom we might like to know more (or I would).

Then comes the famous Innocence Project and the development of effective and conclusive use of DNA analysis. Neither Ronnie nor his buddy have left any of their DNA on the victim or in her apartment. In fact, the relevant DNA sample comes from the individual who fingered Ronnie in the first place.

This account of a brutal miscarriage of justice is powerful and painful. Its low-key, factual tone probably helps it more than a higher-register, more eloquent rendering would. The story is an emblem of the vagaries of our system of justice that persist in 2015. In a sense, we are reading about the relative value of ethics versus success in America. Ethics should be but are often not more important than getting a conviction, wrapping things up, and moving on. As the federal judge observes in his call for a retrial, Woe betide us if men and women are condemned to die in this country without a fair trial, safeguarded by the Constitution.

So The Innocent Man is a tale more of hypocrisy and indifference to the law on the part of the justice system than on the part of falsely accused and railroaded so-called criminals. We are informed more than thrilled or held in suspense. The facts chastise us. Again, Grisham doesn’t explore the realm of human depravity and frailty as deeply as Mailer or Capote; he’s a good writer if not a superb writer; but he knows how to capture a reader far, far from Ada, Oklahoma, and take her there to witness not what might have happened but what actually happened.

The Innocent Man raises the question of the death penalty—and Oklahoma’s distinctive enthusiasm for it—in different ways. It turns out some criminals on Death Row even believe in it and not all of them insist they’re innocent. We go back to the federal judge’s concern, however. Who are we if we make a mistake executing an innocent man?

In a global context, the United States’ practice of the death penalty is almost always number one in surveys of other peoples’ negative views of us. The death penalty is administered in some other countries, but generally countries that are comparable to the U.S. in terms of political, economic and social development abhor the practice.

The Innocent Man illustrates the horrors of the death penalty as well as any book I have read. Once it is in play, from the jury box forward, it engenders a poisonous and callous contempt for individuals who are still human beings and often are still innocent despite being “proven” guilty.

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The Republic and the Laws by Cicero

In high school I read Cicero in third year Latin. My teacher, like most classics teachers, found him indispensable. The proposition he put was twofold:Cicero was a master of Latin prose (very difficult to translate because of his long, complex sentences) and Cicero was a defender of a republic that was more than worth saving–for after Cicero, the republic became an empty, corrupt dictatorship that only went through the motions of giving all citizens a voice and protecting their rights.

My impressions many years later are twofold: Cicero was one of the earliest political actors/philosophers who defined what we still understand as conservatism, and Cicero, like many Roman writers, worked in the shadow of the genius of Greece.

Cicero’s conservatism rested on two pillars as well: respect for Rome’s religious practices and respect for Rome’s system of government, wherein the aristocracy held the upper hand, the plebeians had some protections, and the general administration of state — through the Republic and the first emperor /dictator Augustus –was efficient and effective.

If we look at Cicero’s take on religion in these two tracts (especially the laws) what we see is the conservatism of ritual, not belief. Most people interested in the classical world ask themselves at some point whether sophisticated men and women could have believed in the myths and legends of Olympus or Romulus being suckled by a wolf. I think it’s safe to say that few aristocrats did believe. Instead, they promoted ritual observances and religious law as a means of stabilizing a society where the vast majority were subordinate to a tiny minority. At best Cicero held up religion as William James ultimately did: if it works for you, fine; no one can disprove it. So Cicero employed religion as a means of preserving a social structures that had been hollowed out.

On the political front, Cicero deeply honored history and believed in its great figures more than he believed in the gods. What he feared was that he was a minority, and that the greatness of Rome, having learned to govern itself without a king, was in free fall. His optimum form of government, therefore, happened to be Rome’s history. He was not a Platonist, proposing what never was and never could be. But he was every bit as conservative and elitist as Plato. The wisdom of Rome, for him, was how it used various offices to reflect what he termed the highest justice, i.e., the justice of the natural order. This is a backward looking posture, hingeing on the notion that the one thing divine about humanity is reason, a spark from the gods. Untethered reason, of course, can lead anywhere, but not if it is linked to the wisdom of Zeus, or Jupiter. Then it must come up with a balanced approach to human existence that fends off chaos, accumulates power, wealth and land, and preserves the necessary prerogatives of, in Cicero’s case, the Roman Senate.

From our perspective 2000 years later we can see that Rome was astonishingly great, even majestic, and that at the height of its powers, it used its power in appalling ways, conquering the Mediterranean and much of western Europe to feed its insatiable appetite so that the rich could become richer and the powerful, ultimately, could become lunatic. The descent from Tiberius through Caligula, Claudius, and Nero was nauseating. Cicero was right back in the days of Pompey and Julius Caesar. Rome was on a precipice, and the free fall was about to begin.

Today, in America, conservatism clings hard to God as a living reality and it clings equally hard to history, notably the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution, which has Biblical sanctity that should be read as it was written, not reinvented to accommodate later circumstances. Here we have the Judeo-Christian / Roman approach to standing pat in yesterday. A third element, the market, has been brought in to deal with America’s immense complexity, but it functions, as we have seen, more in the interests of the conservative rich — keeping their wealth–than in the interests of the more liberal poor (although not all poor folk in America are liberal; many are so traditionally religious that they cannot help being conservative in the broadest sense.)

Rome was a formal empire in its ultimate decline. America has been an informal empire since the Monroe Doctrine. Does this mean America will decay, too? I tend to think not necessarily, but as I write, the polarization between conservatives and liberals is breathtaking. Conservatives tend to be the anti-scientific party (as in global warming isn’t real and maybe evolution isn’t real and research with stem cells is sinful.) Liberals tend to be more forward-looking but less well-endowed and more unfocused, lacking the conservatives’ deep faith in the constitution and the Bible. They fear the future less and cherish the past less. There is unlikely to be a sweeping, final win by one of these forces over the other, but that is good. It keeps us fighting on the cliff rather than falling to our demise.

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A Woman in Charge (Hillary Clinton) by Carl Bernstein

A political junkie friend of mine gave me this thick biography of Hillary Clinton published in 2007, telling me it was a good book. I was skeptical, but he was right. It’s well-written, well-researched, balanced and yet painful to read because of its detailed account of Hillary Clinton’s grim experiences married to Bill Clinton.

Hillary Rodham was a smart, take-charge girl who grew up under the heavy thumb of a brutish boor of a father and seemed determined–was determined, I should say–to prove that neither he nor life nor anything could keep her down. She excelled in school, in volunteer political work, in college and law school, and in the early phases of her post-education life, pursing matters of policy that mattered to her: social justice, children’s rights, gender equality, civil rights, and opposing the war in Vietnam.  She was not a radical feminist or leftist or anything of the kind. She believed in principles, but she also believed in reason, problem-solving, and dialogue.

Along came Bill Clinton and she fell, as we know, madly in love with him, but she hesitated to marry him for a long time. She already knew, everyone knew, that Bill had a thing about fooling around. But he persisted in courting her, and he was brilliant and they agreed on the need for progressive political change. So they got hitched.

In a way, Hillary locked herself into an emotionally abusive marriage very similar to her emotionally abusive upbringing. Bernstein doesn’t quite say it this way, but there it is. Bill was a test as her father was a test, and no matter how long it took, Hillary was going to pass that test.

As Bernstein presents it, the Clintons’ cohort considered Hillary as likely to succeed on a national scale as Bill when they were starting out. In some ways, she was better known, and in some ways, she had more political experience, including an intense Washington experience as a staffer on the Senate committee investigating Watergate. But she married Bill, went to Arkansas and passed up a lot of personal opportunities that a more assertive feminist would have seized. Meanwhile, Bill ascended the political ladder from state attorney general to governor, and Hillary had Chelsea and succeeded as an attorney in Little Rock.  All the time, however, Bill was wandering, skirmishing with skirts, presenting her with the kinds of challenges she’d been born into: the double bind of loving your father  and knowing he is contemptible and loving your husband and knowing he is contemptible, too.

Real agony began toward the end of Bill’s governorship and intensified in The White House, where Hillary started out making an incredible series of missteps,most significantly bungling national health care even though, smart as she was, she understood the needs and issues as well as or better than anyone.

I spent a few decades in Washington and had a few personal encounters with Bill and Hillary that are not really relevant to this review. What is relevant is that Hillary struck people as bossy, arrogant, and insensitive to the cultural norms of Washington. She assumed she had been elected right along with Bill (Bill thought so, too), but that’s not the way it works. There can only be one president at a time even though several hundred people in Washington think that president ought to be him or her . . . and they didn’t think it ought to be Hillary. I frankly cringed as I read the things she said to senior White House staff and Cabinet members, but she apparently said them, and she flamed out in the biggest failure of her life–her national health care proposal was, as they say on Capitol Hill, d.o.a. (dead on arrival.)

But that humiliation was just the beginning. There really was (and still is) a vast right wing conspiracy gunning for the Clintons. Whitewater led to Vince Foster’s suicide led to Paula Jones led to Monica Lewinsky. Each stop along the way was brutal for Hillary (and Bill, too, but this book is about Hillary).

She didn’t give in completely because, I think, she had that determination forged in her as a child, a commitment to the same kind of policies as Bill, and a degree of religious faith that might be news to people who have not read this book. Christianity, in fact, is something she has thought about as much as she has thought about health care or education or social justice. It has given her the strength to endure having her privacy and family ripped asunder.

Hillary would despair but not give in. She would consider giving in a gift to enemies who did not deserve that gift, so she would rebound, strategize, and re-engage her excellent mind in the eight year battle that was Bill’s presidency.

Why anyone would sacrifice as much as she did is a good question. In fact, why anyone would want to be president is a good question. A life led at that level does not have to be sordid, but it is fraught with constant pressure, demands, uncertainties, and tests of one’s moral compass.

Bernstein’s book ends with a kind of coda. Hillary escaped Bill’s shadow to a certain extent when she ran for and won a senate seat while still First Lady. The degree to which he incinerated himself freed her. She became a thoughtful, courteous, deferential junior senator, but of course, she still had that national standing, which set her apart no matter what she did to observe the senate’s written and unwritten rules. And she also had the drive and determination and intelligence that made people think, back in the 60s and 70s, that she would be even more likely to succeed than Bill.

Going beyond Bernstein’s book, we know Hillary ran for president, wouldn’t give in to Obama’s obvious victory in the campaign for the Democratic nomination for the longest time (she just isn’t built to give in), and then served as a reasonably effective Secretary of State.

When she left State (where I worked, too), I thought she was beat, flat-out exhausted, and I was right about that, but I was wrong when I said that she wouldn’t have an appetite to campaign for president again. Persisting, unable to yield to her frailties or her foes, Hillary is on the trail again.

Fortunately for her, she has learned a lot since her disastrous time as First Lady. She is incomparably prepared to assume the presidency. No competing aspirant knows more about America or the world. Indeed, she may return to The White House, where she will try to run a progressive administration, a problem-solving administration, though probably not an elevating, eloquent, visionary administration because she is a pragmatist and might realize that simply being the first woman elected as president is inspirational enough.

Back to Bernstein: Though well-written, this is such a painful and detailed tale that it probably is a book for political junkies, not folks who like light reads. Its relevance today is the account it offers of someone who may be the next president.  At times, Bernstein’s editor should have insisted on smoothing out the narrative flow, but that’s a quibble. I’ll give it four stars. He’s a dogged reporter and a fine writer.

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The First Man by Albert Camus

I thought I had read all of Albert Camus’s novels–turns out I was right and I was wrong.  The First Man is an unfinished manuscript Camus was working on at the time of his death. It’s fairly long for a book by Camus, but based on his notes, it would have been much longer in the final version.

Here we have a bildungsroman that is told from Jacques’s perspective as a boy and, intermittently, as a 40-year-old man. The novel is written in great detail, all the peculiarities of being French in Algeria–and poor–and all the solemn facts of being poor and fatherless, growing up with a demanding grandmother, a slow-witted uncle, and a half-deaf mother, whom Jacques adores.

Algiers is depicted as rough, sun-blasted and coastal. The French are surrounded, naturally, by Arabs, and they are living a shadow life– a life shadowed by the presence of a France many of them never have seen, although that is where Jacques’s father died in WWI.

Jacques wins a scholarship to the lycée, which totally changes his life, but from the extant manuscript we can only guess how much since the 40-year-old is a sophisticated fellow with a penetrating moral vision that encompasses not only the contradictions of France and Algeria but also the contradictions of men and women, rich and poor, and war and peace.

From the remaining notes, also published in this edition, one can see that Jacques would have lived a complicated life, half on one side of the Mediterranean and half on the other. He would have been accomplished, thoughtful, a devout lover of certain women, and always mindful that the woman he loved the most, his mother, was beyond his reach, as he, on entering the lycée is beyond hers.

My thought is that this long manuscript is somewhat like Stephen Hero, Joyce’s first version of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  That manuscript, too, was ultimately highly compressed, as I would expect Camus to have compressed this one.

This partial book is compassionate in the sense that all the characters are given their due; Jacques is aware of all their sacrifices, as well as their shortcomings.  And yet he loves them all, and that accounts for the detailed rendering of his family life and his life as a boy among comrades, racing about the streets, exploring the beach, and having, before the lycée, essentially no knowledge of anything beyond his immediate sense perceptions.

The concept of “The First Man” is a way of conceptualizing everyone as the first person in his or her life, in his or her world.  Here we have the essence of the bildungsroman, the awakening to cause and effect, consequences, economic differences, and the nature of relationships between human beings.

Oddly, the synthetic notes appended to this manuscript are more eloquent than the extremely well-written manuscript itself. They sum things up. They point to the conflicts that will emerge between the French and the Arabs, and they also suggest ways in which a second or third generation Frenchman born in Algeria is an Algerian, not a Frenchman, a person who must accept the duality of the self and others as the French, in their Cartesian way, tend not to, emphasizing the unity of France (where all students study the same school lessons at the same time all over the country.)

I would recommend this book to almost anyone for the graphic quality of its writing and for the insights it offers into a writer’s process.  What cannot be seen here, which can only be imagined, is the aesthetic choices Camus ultimately would have made in rendering Jacques’s tale more compact and comprehensible.

As in The Stranger, the sun is a constant companion here, but Jacques is no morally insensible, anesthetized protagonist.  He is sweetly real, vulnerable, intelligent, and sensitive.  He wants to see the sun, to be in the sun, so he can see more and more of what the sun, light, reveals about life.  Some mysteries are enfolded in the embrace of his father’s grave (he never knew him), but others, with the glittering intensity of the North African sun’s help, come clear: a man can be aware of everything, but he cannot be everything. Writers torture themselves over this  point. They want to write faster than they can live so that they can have it all before they die.

Unfortunately for us, Camus died young, and here we have only a portion of his final thoughts about what it means to be alive.

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Mensonge by Malcolm Bradbury

Here’s another odd gem from the shelves of a used book shop, Malcolm Bradbury’s satirical novel about a fictional French theorist named Henri Mensonge who allegedly took the Structuralists and the Deconstructionists one step further–by proving that the sex act (in his book, La Fornication) is the essence of being about nothing and  might as well be a long narrow street leading to a fountain as human copulation.

Bradbury himself was a British literary figure who specialized in American literature and wrote a number of novels but found time to skewer fashions of French thought in the latter half of the 20th century.  In this book, he writes about a figure, Mensonge, who was elusively not present, almost never spotted, and yet allegedly produced the greatest philosophical tract of the century…if in fact he did produce it … if in fact anything written can be termed great.

Mensonge reads like witty, erudite, academic stand-up comedy. For reasons that remain difficult to grasp Structuralism and Deconstructionism tended to replace traditional “philosophy,” particularly the branch known as epistemology with  indefiniteness and uncertainty, including uncertainty about whether authors wrote texts or texts wrote authors and whether authors (and others) were the subjects of their own lives (or the toys of crushing powers that had mastered the art of preserving their powers.)

There’s a weird lucidity to this full-scale, tongue-in-cheek attack on the French and their postulates designed to liberate the powerless from the powerful (by denying subjective authority to everyone).  It is very well written and blessedly brief.  Think of the notes to Lolita (Nabokov) or any number of puzzling fictions by Borges and you will have a sense of the approach Bradbury takes.

Not a major novel and somewhat dated (1987), Mensonge retains a dry British bite. But as La Fornication was only glimpsed in incomplete fragments, Mensonge also is a book you probably won’t encounter unless I happen to sell it to a used book store near you. And I might, if I find any takers.

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