Sunday, January 25, 2009

W by Georges Perec

The chapters in W alternate between a fiction about an imaginary island called W., devoted entirely to sport, and chapters giving an autobiographical account of Perec's childhood during WWII.  Both stories are told in a very crisp, matter-of-fact tone, but the contrast between the two is striking.  Young Perec's shuffling about and hiding, the death of his parents, is described with an almost disturbing emotional distance.  All the emotion that's lacking in those chapters is poured into the ones about W, as it becomes increasingly evident that life on the island is a sort of filtered reflection of the concentration camps (it's a bit like Plato's Republic, too).  And because the actual details of life on W. are new, the horror and disgust they provoke is fresh.  The combination works like a chemical reaction - there is something unnerving and increasingly horrific that seems to hover between the stories.  It's very effective.

W is an experimental novel, but it's not cold or empty; the language is very simple and it was a pleasure to read, went very quickly.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve at the Happiest Place on Earth

I'd forgotten how crowded Disneyland can be on New Year's Eve - it was a bit of a nightmare. But we fought through the crowds to get on the rides and had a great time.

my friend just told me about this guy, Hitler?

I was talking to a tween girl a couple of days ago, the daughter of a handyman my parents work with frequently. We were talking about things she might be interested in doing in the area and that's what she said:

"My friend just told me about this guy, Hitler? He killed a lot of Jews."

I didn't really know what to do - I just froze - but it turns out the girl wanted to go to the Museum of Tolerance. Apparently her friend had just been, had told her it was fun, and now she wanted to go too.

So I guess the museum is doing its job by engaging children, and getting the word of mouth out where it's needed most, but it was a completely surreal experience. It was so strange to hear this girl say the name Hitler in a neutral way - just an insignificant historical character, not automatically weighed down with the worst crimes of the 20th century.

But frankly, I felt like I was getting a glimpse of the future - a future where people are not automatically expected to know who Hitler is - and that's not a comfortable thought.