Sunday, October 21, 2007

Disjointed again (a bit of Bruen and Joseph Brodsky)

I promised you eccentric, disjointed posting, and now, by God, I'll deliver.

First, I would not want readers to think that Ken Bruen and Jason Starr's Slide is all self-reference. The self-reference, in fact, is in keeping with a larger spirit of mischief and fun that pervades the book, as in the following:

"Angela. Max wished he could strike that name from his brain, like they did in that Schwarzenegger movie, Total ... what the fuck was the name of it?"


I've read some non-crime this week, notably a commencement address by Joseph Brodsky called "A Commencement Address" that has not a whiff of Pomp and Circumstance about it. Brodsky warns his audience of the deadly consequences of misinterpreting the Sermon on the Mount as a text in passive resistance, of misremembering its most famous passage as ending with that bit about turning the other cheek. The verse, he reminds us, "continues without either period or comma" thus:

"And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. / And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."

"Quoted in full," he says – or said to those lucky graduates of Williams College in 1984 – "these verses have in fact very little to do with nonviolent or passive resistance, with the principles of not responding in kind and returning good for evil. The meaning of these lines is anything but passive, for it suggests that evil can be made absurd through excess; it suggests rendering evil absurd through dwarfing its demands with the volume of your compliance, which devalues the harm. This sort of thing puts a victim into a very active position, into the position of a mental aggressor. The victory that is possible here is not a moral but an existential one."


"In this situation, there is very little room for tactical maneuver. So turning the other cheek should be be your conscious, cold deliberate decision. Your chances of winning, however dismal they are, depend on whether or not you know what you are doing."

Turning the other cheek as a strategy of aggression could be an intriguing basis for a crime story. What kind of a story do you think it would be?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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