Saturday, November 22, 2008

On The Slogan-Independence For Kosovo


Last month as part of my commemoration piece on the anniversary of the great Chinese Revolution of October 1949 (See The Heroic Age Of The Chinese Revolution, October 26, 2008.) I mentioned that the thorny question of militants supporting and raising the call for the right of national self-determination in the pre-revolutionary period in China before 1949 was filled with potholes. Clearly up until 1941 this question was fairly simple in the fight against Japanese imperialism that had been waged for most of the 1930’s. That situation got much dicier once the Chinese fight became a part of the inter-imperialist war in the Pacific between American and Japan. More so when Chiang Kai-shek (old style) and his KMT forces subordinated themselves under American military command. (The question of the Chinese Red Army organized as the Fourth and Eight Route Armies that did not do so is a separate question).

I also mentioned in that commentary that I believed, and still believe, that in light of my readings on the Chinese application of the right to national self-determination under conditions of military subordination to imperialist policy the question of whether we should have raised the slogan of independence for Kosovo earlier this year, given its still virtual position as a UN protectorate, has to be reevaluated. I repost that part of my commentary here believing this to be a still open question although I am more inclined today to say, at this preliminary point, that militants should not have raised nor today should raise this call. Comments, please.

From “The Heroic Age Of The Chinese Revolution, October 26, 2008.”

“Finally, while we are discussing the question of the national right to self-determination in its Chinese application I should mention that our support for, or call for that right is not absolute. The right to national self-determination is one of the more important rights associated with the bourgeois revolutions. Thus it is a democratic rather than an explicitly socialist demand. Our approach, as least as I have come to look at it in going over the checkered history of this question in the international working class movement, is to take the national question off the table and put the class question to the fore. Sometimes that axis does not come into play. In the Chinese context the early self-contained struggle against Japanese imperialism made it applicable.

Once the war in the Pacific turned into an inter-imperialist rivalry with the entry of the United States into the equation as de facto leader of Chinese military forces (through the personal agency of General Stilwell as symbolic figure of that transference) then for socialist purposes the national question was off the agenda. At that point one gets into a choice of which imperialist camp one wants to support. No thank you. In a further twist to the Chinese situation revolutionaries COULD support the CCP’s New Fourth Route and Eight Route Armies (essentially red armies) which were independently fighting the Japanese despite the formal arrangements with the KMT government.

All of this is by way of saying that this thorny question of the national right to self-determination is, with the delays and defeats of the socialist revolution, still with us. Case in point- Kosovo. Earlier this year I called fro independence for Kosovo as a reflection of that right to self-determination. After thinking about that situation in light of my recent reading of the Chinese situation in 1941, I am not at all sure that that was a correct call under the circumstances. In the abstract Kosovo certainly qualifies as a nation. Certainly, unless it separated from Serbia, the national question would trump the class question (and that does not exclude the national rights of those Serbians still in Kosovo). Thus, while it is not out of the question for revolutionaries to support the same national rights as the Western imperialists do (as is clearly the case here) the NATO factor as the de fact guarantor of Kosovar independence makes me extremely uneasy about that earlier call for independence. I think the better course is right now to support the “real” right to national self-determination in combination with a call for ALL NATO troops out of Kosovo now!”

Friday, November 21, 2008

***Big Bill Broonzy Is In The House

CD Reviews

Big Bill Broonzy, Chicago, 1937-1940 (four CD set), Big Bill Broonzy, ISP Records, 2005

I am in the process of reading and re-reading many of the books of oral history interviews collected by the recently departed Studs Terkel. As part of that process I have read his last work (published in 2007), a memoir of sorts but really a series of connected vignettes, that goes a long way to putting the pieces of Studs’ eclectic life together. A fact that I did not know is that Studs’ had radio and television music shows in the Chicago of the 1950’s. On one of those shows he performed with the blues/jazz folk artist under review here, Big Bill Broonzy. That long ago reference was enough for this reviewer to scamper back to give a listen to the melodious voice of one of the best in these traditions. But that begs the question where to start?

That is not merely a rhetorical question here. My first exposure to Big Bill, back in the mists of times, was as a performer on a Sunday night folk program here in Boston. In that format he was presented as a folk singer in the style of a black Pete Seeger, including singing many leftist political songs dealing with the pressing questions of race and class. Later I found some more jazzy works by him and some more raucous material in the old country blues tradition. So I hope you can see my dilemma.

The hard fact is that certain musicians, certain very talented musicians, can work more than one milieu or can transform themselves (for commercial or other reasons) into more than one genre. Moreover, in Big Bill’s case, the confluence of folk, blues and jazz at some points is fairly close. That surely is the case here on this CD compilation. So give a listen to that voice, that guitar and those wonderful songs. I might add that, although it seemed to be a given at the time, some of Big Bill lyrics are on point on racial segregation and other social issues. Think of the songs like “Brown, Black and White” or his version of “This Train” (that whipsaws Jim Crow very nicely). That is the real connection with old Studs, that is for sure.

Do That Guitar Rag 1928-1935, Big Bill Broonzy, Yazoo, 1991

The hard fact is that certain musicians, certain very talented musicians, can work more than one milieu or can transform themselves (for commercial or other reasons) into more than one genre. Moreover, in Big Bill's case, the confluence of folk, blues and jazz at some points is fairly close. That surely is the case here on this CD compilation. So give a listen to that voice, that guitar and those wonderful songs. At this time Big Bill was influenced by (and in turn influenced) the country blues mania then sweeping the black enclaves of the South (and not just those enclaves either- think about Jimmy Rodgers) and the songs here reflect that origin. What's good? "Guitar Rag", of course. "Down in the Basement" and "Bull Cow Blues" deserve a listen but for my money "Operation Blues" is tops here.

Added note: I "forgot" to add that on many of these tracks Big Bill has company. On some tracks that company is none other than the legendary Tom Dorsey (who also played behind Blind Willie McTell and many others in those days before going on to a gospel music career). On other tracks, in addition to Dorsey, the very, very bluesy voice of Jane Lucas is heard. Listen to "Leave My Man Alone". Nice, indeed.

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- Full Democratic Rights For Gays- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a "Workers Vanguard" article, dated November 21, 2008, concerning the current struggle to obtain full democratic rights for gays, including the right to marry (and divorce).

Markin comment:

This one is a "no-brainer"- down with restrictions against the right of gays and lesbians to marry (and divorce). Even in sunny California, or maybe, especially in that state.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

*From The Archives- The Struggle Against The Iraq War

Click on the title to link to the Lenin Internet Archive for an article from 1914 (the start of World War I), "The Tasks Of The Revolutionary Social-Democracy [The future Communists] In The European War".


This is a leaflet that a group of us put out locally here in Boston prior to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is on the one hand of historical interest, on the other a possible harbinger of things to come in Afghanistan if President-elect Obama has his way.






As the United Nations Security Council vote on November 8, 2002 graphically points out the war-crazed Bush-led United States government is leading the world to war. Tens of thousands of American and British troops are getting positioned for a full-scale attack on Iraq, while other powers from Australia to Turkey elbow each other for a role in the slaughter and share of the loot. The White House has already revealed plans for a post-Saddam military occupation of Iraq. One look at the war chest of nuclear weapons that the United States has and threatens to use today and it is clear that the fate of life on this planet is threatened by the continued existence of this American led “ world disorder”. We must act.

In the coming war against Iraq working people and anti-imperialist youth in the United States and elsewhere we must stand for the military defense of Iraq without giving any political support to the Hussein regime. Hussein is a bloody oppressor of Iraqi workers, leftists, Shiite Muslims, the Kurdish people and others. As such he was in the past a close ally and client of the American government for a full two decades before he made a grab for Kuwait in 1990. Now the American government wants a more pliant regime and tighter control of the oil spigot, not the least to put economic rivals like Japan and Germany, who are more dependent on Near East oil, on rations. However, every victory for the American government and its allies in their predatory wars encourages further military adventures, every setback serves to assist the struggles of the working peoples and the oppressed of the world.

Historically, in wars between the imperialist predators and plunderers and their colonial and semicolonial victims anti-imperialists have a side. As Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution of October 1917 which stands as one the greatest antiwar movements ever, stressed in his 1915 pamphlet SOCIALISM AND WAR: “If tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Tsarist Russia, and so on, these would be ‘just,’ and ‘defensive’ wars irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory ‘Great Powers.” We must continue that tradition.

The tremendous military advantages of the United States against neocolonial Iraq- a country that has already been bled white through 12 years of United Nations sanctions which have killed more than one and one half million civilians- underscores the importance of class struggle in the imperialist centers as the chief means to give content to the call to defend Iraq. Every strike, every labor mobilization against war plans, every mass protest against attacks on workers and minorities, every struggle against domestic repression and against attacks on civil liberties represents a dent in the imperialist war drive. To put an end to war once and for all, the capitalist system that breeds war must be swept away. However, our immediate task is to stop the imperialist war drive.

The American ruling class manipulated the grief and horror felt by millions at the criminal and demented attack on the World Trade Center to wage war on Afghanistan. But the patriotic consensus in the United States is wearing thin and elsewhere there is massive opposition to a war against Iraq. War demands civil peace and from Los Angeles to London the imperialist war makers are revealed as vicious union-busters and strikebreakers. Declaring that a strike could “threaten national security,” the Bush administration has brought down the force of the capitalist state to coerce the powerful American dockers union, the ILWU, to work under the dictates of the union-busting employers association. Across the seas, British firefighters are threatened with strikebreaking by the army. Plunging stock markets rob millions of workers of their pensions while public scandals expose insatiable corporate greed. Tens of thousands of working people, including the entire workforce at a number of Fiat auto plants in Italy, face a future of crisis. Civil liberties have been shredded and the capitalists have intensified their assault on social welfare and other gains wrested through decades of workers struggles.

In the United States, not even the dizzying flag-waving or the heavy fist of state repression has induced the masses to embrace war with Iraq. In Europe, hundreds of thousands of workers and anti-imperialist youth have demonstrated their opposition to this war. The problem is that the anti-war protests in Europe have generally l been channeled into a national-chauvinist direction of getting one’s “own” rulers to stand up to the Americans. In America, many antiwar liberals and leftists plead, “Money for jobs, not for war” and so fuel the notion that fundamental priorities of the capitalist rulers can be altered to serve the interests of working people. The time for such illusions ran out long ago.

The truth is that this whole capitalist system is based on the extraction of profit for the owners of the means of production through the exploitation and subjugation of the workers who produce the wealth of society. War is a concentrated expression of this, as competing capitalist ruling classes scramble to steal natural resources and to carve out new markets for export of capital and fresh sources of cheap labor. Therefore, it is necessary to draw a distinction between bourgeois pacifism, which lulls the masses into passivity and embellishes capitalist democracy, and the yearning for peace of the masses.

Over the past period there have been opportunities to organize class struggle in opposition to imperialist war and for the international workers movement to break out of narrow nationalist and economist limits. During the 1999 U.S./NATO war against Serbia, Italian COBAS unions organized a one-million-strong political general strike against that war. Fiat workers, who today battle plant closings in Italy, organized a campaign of material aid- a campaign supported by all partisans of the international working class- for the workers of the Yugoslav Zastava auto plant, which had been bombed by the imperialists. In 2001, Japanese dockworkers at Sasebo pointed the way forward by “hot-cargoing” (refusing to handle) Japanese military goods for the war in Afghanistan. These types of actions here can concretize our opposition to this war.

Moreover, U.S. military bases across Europe and Asia, as well as high-tech spy installations such as Australia’s Pine Gap, have become deserving targets of antiwar protests by leftists and trade unions. It would be a good thing if the U.S. were deprived of its international launching pads for war against Iraq. For all of German chancellor Schroder’s electioneering against war in Iraq, it is highly unlikely that he will interfere in any way with the key American air bases and military installations across Germany which house some 70, 000 American troops. What we need is not an “antiwar movement” of social-chauvinist support to one’s own ruling class but an internationalist working class opposition to U.S./NATO bases

What is essential is to draw the class line and unshackle the working people and anti-imperialist youth from capitalist politicians, their agents in the trade unions and others who channel their justified hatred of war into illusory calls for parliamentary reforms of the profit-driven system that breeds war and, in West Europe, into support for their own ruling classes against the Americans. Here, in the heart of the beast the workers and anti-imperialist youth united front can point the way forward building an internationalist perspective in the antiwar protests. Our demands should be: Struggle against the bosses and their government here at home- “the main enemy is at home”! Defend Iraq against imperialist attack! Down with the United Nations starvation blockade! All U.S./ UN and allied troops out of the Persian Gulf and Near East!





Labor Donated

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

*The Great Divide-The Class Struggle in America, Part I- The Studs Terkel Interview Series

Click On Title To Link To Studs Terkel’s Web Page.

Book Review

The Great Divide: Second Thoughts On The American Dream, Studs Terkel, Pantheon Books, New York, 1988

As I have done on other occasions when I am reviewing more than one work by an author I am using some of the same comments, where they are pertinent, here as I did in earlier reviews. In this series the first Studs Terkel book reviewed was that of his "The Good War": an Oral History of World War II.

Strangely, as I found out about the recent death of long time pro-working class journalist and general truth-teller "Studs" Terkel I was just beginning to read his "The Good War", about the lives and experiences of, mainly, ordinary people during World War II in America and elsewhere, for review in this space. As with other authors once I get started I tend to like to review several works that are relevant to see where their work goes. In the present case the review of The Great Divide serves a dual purpose because not only is the book a rather remarkable work of oral history but also serves as political prognosis about the emergence of a trend in the American working class in the late 1980's toward downward mobility and the abandonment of the "American Dream" as a harbinger of things that have come to pass today, twenty years on. In short, with the exception of the then already decimated family farmer who is, sadly, not a factor today and the then rampant deindustrialization of Middle America that continues unabated, many of the interviews could have been done today, twenty years later.

Once again Studs Terkel is the master interviewer but I am still put off by the fact, as I was in "The Good War", of his rather bland and inadequate old New Deal political perspective, as much as a working class partisan as he might have been. Notwithstanding that shortcoming his reportage is, as usual, centered on ordinary working people, or those who came from that milieu. These are my kind of people. This is where I come from. These are people I want to know about, especially the Midwesterners and Chicagoans who dominate this book. Being from the East, although some of their life stories, to use the current favored term, "resonate" with me other values like ardent heartland-derived patriotism, admiration for the late President Ronald Reagan, strong religious values and inordinate respect for law and order do not. Terkel, to his credit, heard the particular musical cadence of their lives and wrote with some verve on the subject, especially that old Chicago melody he has embraced that I also noticed from my reading of "The Good War" (Musically, Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home, Chicago" fits the bill here, right?).

One thing that became apparent to me immediately after reading this book, and as is also true of the majority of Terkel's interview books, is that he is not the dominant presence but is a rather light, if intensely interested, interloper in these stories. For better or worse the interviewees get to tell their stories, unchained. In this age of 24/7 media coverage with every half-baked journalist or wannabe interjecting his or her personality into somebody else's story this was, and is, rather refreshing. Of course this journalistic virtue does not mean that Studs did not have control over who got to tell their stories and who didn't to fit his preoccupations and sense of order. But, so be it.

What were Stud's preoccupations in this book? He clearly wanted to contrast the old Midwestern industrial blue collar values with the then emergence Yuppie values that were eroding that old sense of neighborly social solidarity. Moreover, he wanted to contrast various approaches to, let us call it, the need for spirituality as various religious experiments started to flourish (mainly, but not exclusively, varieties of Protestant fundamentalism) from the mega-mall churches to the lonely vigils of the Central American Sanctuary movement. Terkel gives full expression to the ambiguities of the Reagan years from the lassiz faire governmental deregulation (that we are now forced to cope with) to the various foreign policy initiatives, especially in Central America and against the Soviet Union. Also full expression to the failures of the 1960's to bring about dramatic progressive social change (a problem we still have to live down) leaving many participants bewitched and bewildered.

And what stories are being told here? Well, certainly this book is filled with interviews of the lives, struggles and fate of the rank and file blue collar workers displaced by "globalization" and the deindustrialization of America. A few stories of conflict between pro-union and anti-union forces (most dramatically in a husband and wife interview where they were on opposite sides of the class line in a long labor dispute, the husband being a "scab"). Several stories concern the quest for religious fulfillment in a world that has left more than its fair share of people isolated and bewildered by the rapid advances of technology without a commensurate sense of ownership. Many stories tell of the hard, hard life of the city, especially in "the projects", black and white. A few of the same kind of problems in the countryside, especially concerning the fate of the 'hillbillies', the people that I come from (on my father's side). All in all most stories will not seem alien to those who are struggling today to make sense of a world that they, after a quick look at their assets, surely do not own. Once again kudos to Studs for hitting the mother lode. Thanks, Brother Terkel.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Walk On The Wild Side with Nelson Algren


The Neon Wilderness, Nelson Algren, Seven Stories Books, 2002

Parts of this review were used in a review of Algren’s classic Man With The Golden Arm. These short stories reflect the same milieu, that hard-hearted place where the lumpen proletariat and the working poor meet, that Algren worked in that novel. Algren throughout his literary career was working that same small vein- but what a mother lode he produced.


Growing up in a post World War II built housing project this reviewer knew first hand the so-called ‘romance’ of drugs, the gun and the ne’er do well hustler. And also the mechanisms one needed to develop to survive at that place where the urban working poor meet and mix with the lumpen proletariat- the con men, dopesters, grifters drifters and gamblers who feed on the downtrodden. This is definitely not the mix that Damon Runyon celebrated in his Guys and Dolls-type stories. Far from it. Just read “A Bottle of Milk For Mother”.

Nelson Algren has gotten, through hanging around Chicago police stations and the sheer ability to observe, that sense of foreboding, despair and of the abyss of America’s mean streets down pat in a number of works, including this collection of his better stories. Along the way we meet an array of stoolies, cranks, crackpots and nasty brutish people who are more than willing to put obstacles in the way of anyone who gets in their way. Read “A Face On The Barroom Floor”- that will put you straight. But to what end. They lose in the end, and drag others down with them.

We, of late, have become rather inured to lumpen stories either of the 'death and destruction' type or of the 'rehabilitative' kind but at the time that these stories were put together in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s this was something of an eye-opener for those who were not familiar with the seamy side of urban life. The dead end jobs, the constant run-ins with the ‘authorities’ in the person of the police, many times corrupt as well. The dread of going to work, the dread of not going to work, the fear of being victimized and the glee of victimizing. The whole jumbled mix of people with few prospects and fewer dreams.

Algren has put it down in writing for all that care to read. These are not pretty stories. And he has centered his stories on the trials and tribulations of gimps, prostitutes and other hustlers. Damn, as much as I knew about the kind of things that Algren was describing these are still gripping stories. And, if the truth were told, you know as well as I do that unfortunately these stories could still be written today. Read Algren if you want to 'walk on the wild side'.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You- The Work Of Larry McMurtry


As mentioned previously I have developed a strong interest in the literary works of Larry McMurtry the Texas bibliophile, Western aficionado and pack rat. At the time I had only read The Last Picture Show part of his trilogy on small town oil boom (or bust)Texas. In the interest of completeness I have in included that first review along with the two other volumes that make up this work.


The Last Picture Show, Larry McMurtry, Orion Mass Market Publications, 2000

There has been no shortage of coming of age stories in modern American literature. J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is merely the most famous and probably widely known of the genre. Here Larry McMurtry, the Texas bibliophile, Old West aficionado and pack rat gives us his take on growing up absurd in a faded semi- boom town Texas during the Korean War era of the early 1950's.

Although the locale is different from Catcher in the Rye the issues raised by the teenagers who drive the story and those of their perplexed and clueless parents are the same. And what do those issues entail? Sex, the meaning of existence, sex, what to do on Friday night, sex, what to do on Saturday night, sex- well you get the drift. And those dilemmas of youth and its fight for recognition as presented through the main characters Sonny and Duane are in McMurtry's hands well thought out and, at times, poignant. The attention to detail that McMurtry is noted for is on full display in the interplay between the 'jock' students, the nerds and the 'in' crowd. High school football, the whys and wherefores of the high school classroom and the shear fight to find one's own identity in this mix all contribute to a very strong trip down memory lane for this reader.

From my own personal experience I know how tough it was to grow up in the 1950's and it is good to see that there are indeed some universal ailments that are common to the 'tribal community' called youth in America. Moreover, read this book because it also has a few things to say about the adults, especially Sonny's lover the older woman and the football coach's wife Ruth, and their dilemmas as well. Damn, McMurtry is singing my song.

The film version of this book strongly evokes visually the points that McMurtry tries to make in the book. It helps that he was the screenwriter in this effort. Fine performances were turned in by the young Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges and Cybil Sheppard as the object of Sonny and Duane's attentions . Also by Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman, as Sonny's older woman lover.

Boom or Bust?

Texasville, Larry McMurtry, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1987

In the blink of an eye it seems we can go from a coming of age story to a mid-life crisis story. Or maybe it is just changing from one book to another. Ya, right? There may be a space of thirty years between the action in The Last Picture Show and Texasville but it hardly a blink of the eye. It takes effort to build up to the mid-life crisis (or better crises) that form the central idea of this novel as those of the generation of '68 and older are painfully aware. But so be it.

The last time we saw the characters who people these novels was Duane getting on the bus in Thalia to go off to basic training in 1954 and ultimately, he thinks, to Korea after a fight with his best friend Sonny over, who else, the flirty local femme fatale Jacy. They are both bewitched by her. The result of that fight was that Sonny lost the sight in one eye. That, however, after a thirty year interval was not the worst of it as a read of this book will confirm. Here, in any case, we have the old gang Duane, Sonny, the sultry Jacy and some new arrivals- Karla, Duane's wife, a slew of kids, a beloved dog Shorty and a cast of a score of locals some who have been resurrected from The Last Picture Show, others who have drifted in with the oil boom that is ready to bust in the 1980's. In any case, for those who are interested, if you read the whole book, you will find out what happened to every character from the Last Picture Show. That is the good part.

The bad part is that this thing is just too long. Duane's, Karla's, Jacy's, and the whole host of 40-somethings who are going through the storms of mid-life crisis stories are not enough to warrant a five hundred plus page book. Hell, this book took longer to read that some mid-life crises, especially Duane's. Even if you add in celebration of a town centennial to `liven' things up the thread is not there. The marital problems and infidelities of small town Texas, the bust up of a man's life work due to the international oil glut and assorted other problems from the 1980's when oil was only about fifteen dollars a barrel pale in comparison with $100 a barrel oil now. Those are `real' problems. That little difficulty of length aside, which keeps this from being a five-star review, McMurtry cannot write a bad novel, at least to these eyes thus far. Larry, just make this kind of story 400 pages or so, you know as long as it would take to tell of your own mid-life crisis. Okay?

In Search Of Lost Time

Duane’s Depressed, Larry McMurtry, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1999

In the blink of an eye it seems we can go in this The Last Picture Show trilogy from a coming of age story in the Last Picture Show to a mid-life crisis story in Texasville to the struggle against mortality during old age story here. Or maybe it is just changing from one book to another. Ya, right? There may be a space of thirty years between the action in The Last Picture Show and Texasville and another fourteen between Texasville and Duane's Depressed but it hardly a blink of the eye. It takes effort to build up to the mid-life crisis (or better crises) and then apply those lessons to the struggle against mortality that form the central idea of this novel as those of the generation of '68 and older are painfully aware. But so be it.

By one of life's little quirks this reviewer is the same age as Duane in this phase of his life's story, 62. Therefore the reviewer can sympathize, understand and relate to the struggle against the vicissitudes of mortality that, in the final analysis, Duane is struggling against. Duane's whole life has been consumed by the notion of duty, doing the right thing and keeping his own counsel to the exclusion of having any close personal relationships, including with his wife Karla. One day he decides, rightly by this reviewer's lights, to chuck his old life, at least the symbols of it. The tale told here revolves around that break out, the effect on his marriage and the subsequent lost of his dear wife Karla in a fatal automobile accident and his struggle to find a new place in his world without her. Along the way Jacy and Sonny, the companions of his youth in what seems like an eternity ago in the Last Picture Show also pass from the scene. In an odd sense Duane is the last one standing.

Needless to say all of this introspection is going to take a lot out of a very stoic man like Duane. Moreover, a review of his whole life means a look at lots of things that are not obvious. Probably the best little literary trick that McMurtry uses here is to link Duane up with a sexually unattainable woman psychiatrist who recommends reading Marcel Proust's Remembrances of Things Past as a form of discovery. This, as some readers may know, is a monumental work that has baffled more than one intellectual as to its meaning. Hell, on reflection, it probably baffled Proust. The trick is that uneducated but intrepid Duane actually struggled to read it over the course of a year. I suggest that the alternate translation of Proust's book is more appropriate to what Duane was looking for in this novel-In Search Of Lost Time. That, my friends, is what we all face as we face mortality. If you are going to read anything by Larry McMurtry read this trilogy. That's the ticket.

Duane’s World, Part IV

When The Lights Go Out: A Novel, Larry McMurtry, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2007

I have recently fulsomely praised Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show trilogy (The Last Picture Show; Texasville: Duane’s Depressed) a saga centered on the coming of age, mid-life crisis and struggle with mortality of one small town Texas oilman and good old boy Duane Moore. Frankly, I thought with the review of Duane’s Depressed concerning Duane’s struggle to find relevance in his life as he hovers around old age and faces the grim reaper that I was done with this series. Needless to say that was not the case. Although I wish it were so.

I mentioned in my review of The Last Picture Show that the coming of age story described there boiled down to what to do on high school Friday night-the search for sexual companionship. What to do on high school Saturday night-the search for sex- you get the drift. Apparently in his dotage Duane is hung up on that same aspect of the tragedy behind that human drive except he has included weekdays. That, however, is not enough to sustain this slim novel. Moreover, I believe that Mr. McMurtry knows that as he has tried to spruce up his plot and characters with every current sociological trend known to the American scene- the search for a trophy wife, daughter Nellie’s gayness, daughter Julie’s nunnery prospects, his lesbian psychiatrist’s off-hand desire to throw away all her profession ethics for a chance to go to bed with Duane and the South Asian invasion of the mom and pop business marketplace, reliance on sexual aids, etc. Come on now, Larry this is not even Austin.

I once commented in a review of Howard Fast’s Immigrant series set in California over a couple of generations that during the course of the work his characters intersected every possible leftist political impulse in pursue of filling out the story line. I mentioned, at some point well before the last book, that the series had run out of steam. That, sad to say, has happened to Mr. McMurtry here. His story has run out of steam. What is left? Duane as the “stud” at his Thalia (or Wichita Falls) assisted living facility. He deserves better. Larry, put out the light. Please.