A PENT-UP HOUSE

To some, the spectacle of a clean-shaven thin boy, as he zoomed into parking lots in a new Alfa, stirred sensations that had shrunk to a certain distance in time, and that were now like the conventions of mirth which adults invent to accommodate the joyful ways of infants in their midst.  Yet whenever one of these fogeys, after a little thought, tried to indicate for a youngster what it all meant, the sense, rapt in a shawl of emotion, went mute: “Haven’t seen kids like him since the Allies captured Rome.  Twenty thousand Americans dead, let’s not forget!” Read more

CRIMSON BRASS IN POCKET

Until recently in the West, one of the most widely circulated artistic representations of everyday life in Lebanon was a German film entitled Circle of Deceit (Die Fälschung, 1981), set during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) and featuring Bruno Ganz—who went on to play Adolf Hitler in Downfall—in the role of a journalist on assignment in Beirut, a city which serves as a backdrop for the foreigners living in its midst, reflecting their tormented psyches. Read more

HACK OVER THE HILL

A talk radio piece on United States National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden’s extended layover at the Moscow Airport and subsequent temporary political asylum in Russia beguiled an hour of gridlock the other day, and called to mind several not-so-recent news stories that had seemed unrelated until that eternal moment; and these items in turn left a few unanswered questions behind, lingering under the enervated solitude of day’s end like strange faces floating past through crosstown traffic: so, on reaching my destination, I dusted off some notes left over from a previous foray into nowhere, and tried to make at least temporary sense of just two of the dark characters that populate our murky atmosphere. Read more

FADE TO NOW

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s only novel The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) came out in 1958, the year after he died.  The book is a work of historical fiction that takes place in 1860, offering an intimate view of a turning point in the fortunes of an aristocratic Sicilian family much like the author’s own, during the Risorgimento period, when a movement to unify the territories of the Italian Peninsula resulted in the centralization of political authority and the democratization of institutions, creating new liberty, but also causing autonomous states like Sicily to lose their self-rule.  Read more