Sunday, August 20, 2006

when politics and literature collide

There was much ado this week in response to Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass's admission that he served in the SS as a teenager. The general consensus seems to be that the problem is not his association with the Nazis, but his smug hypocrisy for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, the family of Wizard of Oz creator L. Frank Baum has apologized this week for racist op-eds he wrote in South Dakota that may have catalyzed the Wounded Knee massacre (via bookslut). Finally, there has been much commentary on Bush's choice of vacation reading: Albert Camus's The Stranger. (Cue The Cure.) Slate tries to get to the bottom of Bush's selection...

Whatever the reasons, Camus' story line is ripe for geopolitical literary misinterpretation. The main character, Meursault, spends much of his life as the young George Bush did, engaging in escapades that demonstrate little drive or motivation. On a visit to the beach with friends, he gets into a fight with some Arabs. Later, he finds one of the Arabs and without much further provocation shoots him repeatedly. During the circus-trial that follows, and the long hours Meursault spends in jail, he is remorseless and unable to engage in contemplation. On the day of his execution, he has a flickering thought that he might have lived another life. But mostly he's excited about the day and hopes that everyone will cheer for his death.

...and Salon publishes Bush's book report. As usual, however, Jon Stewart cuts to the heart of the matter.