Monday, March 11, 2013

Social decay at home and abroad

I hopped into a cab in Montreal this morning, and the driver immediately turned down the volume on his radio. Such unbidden courtesy would be unimaginable in Philadelphia or New York, I thought, and I was grateful for the civility of a fellow Canadian.

Alas, when I arrived at the airport, I was reminded I was flying to the United States. United Airlines charged me $28.75 for my one checked bag. At 7:20 on a Monday morning, the dense, snaking lines for security and U.S. Customs were more typical of a holiday weekend "Due to the current budget situation limiting the number of border agents at the airport," as several signs informed me.

The one-two-three punch of private-sector cupidity, governmental paralysis, and bad grammar (the adjectival due to misused for the adverbial because of) should have prepared me for the overzealous inspection agent who had me hauled aside for an interview that left me worried I'd miss my plane. But I got to the gate in plenty of time to find out that the United Airlines fight would be delayed by mechanical problems long enough to make me miss my connecting flight. As of this writing, I hope the American social fabric holds together long enough to get both me and my luggage to Philadelphia by this evening.

Speaking of social fabric, two Irish crime novels I'm reading show sharp awareness of Ireland's financial troubles. Alan Glynn's Graveland has a pair of bankers being murdered and, though the novel is set in New York, I suspect strongly that Glynn, a Dubliner, had his own country's problems and the impunity of those responsible for them very much in mind.

Gene Kerrigan's The Rage, winner of the 2012 CWA Gold Dagger for best novel, meanwhile, includes bits such as these:
"Not bad enough the pay's shit — he's just had a wage cut, he's paying shitty levies the government takes to bail out the fucking banks."
and
"Trade unions are out of fashion now, but everything we ever got we had to fight for it —money, hours, conditions. Today, it's like everyone's grateful to be a unit of labour."
and
"My father was a die operator in a plastic extrusion factory — small place, non-union. Only time you got to open your mouth was to say `yes, sir.' What he said to me — you get there habit of bowing and scraping, it becomes part of your nature. Don't get the habit, he said."
Now, off for some coffee so I don't sleep through announcements of the next delays or cancellation.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read The Rage, by Kerrigan, a phenomenal masterpiece! Matteo Strukul

March 11, 2013  
Blogger verymessi said...

The Rage is next on my reading list when I get back to mysteries.

Kerrigan seems to have an accurate understanding how social change happens. It has to be fought for and won through direct action.. All positive change has come about through working and struggling for such. Be it the antiwar movement, the labor movement, the environmental movement, the civil rights movement and,the feminist movement and so on. They are not gifts from above. The are hard fought for and constantly under attack, as in the current "austerity" budget cutting nonsense. It's just an attack on the social contract.

Glad to see Kerrigan understands this.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Matteo, we may agree that the world best crime fiction comes from Ireland, and I hope Italian readers will be able to read even more of it.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

VM, it may help that Gene Kerrigan is also a journalist. Being a reporter decidedly does not always translate into being a good crime novelist, but Kerrigan does a good job in this book of making his case in a no-nonsense way without condescending to his readers. That is more difficult than you might think.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger seana graham said...

Did you write this from some airport or from home?

I am very excited to read The Rage, although I feel that I should dig out that copy of Little Criminals I have here somewhere and read that first.

And people don't understand why I have no time to read Scandinavian crime fiction!

March 11, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and it looks as if our man Matteo is high on Irish crime writing, too. This is good.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wrote that from Montreal's airport. Newark International, on the other hand, had no available connection, a subject upon which I shall touch in my next post.

Gene Kerrigan made splash from the start with Midnight Choir, but that book annoyed me with its forced laugh lines and other climactic endings to its opening chapters. That's not a problem here, and I would not rule out going back to the earlier book for another try.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger seana graham said...

Oddly, the humor of Midnight Choir doesn't stand out in memory. I may have to revisit it as well, but not before I catch up on the others.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My memory could be worse than yours. But perhaps the humor does not stand out because it was not a humorous book, which made the kickers seem forced.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger seana graham said...

It may also be that I've read funnier Irish crime fiction since.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My amateur's guess was that Kerrigan was still figuring out how to be a novelist then and may have tried too hard to end every chapter with a bang.

March 11, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

Your airport troubles cause me to wonder even more about the targeting of budget cuts, especially when so many of the cuts seem designed to inconvenience a lot of people.

Perhaps your reading of crime novels while you are being inconvenienced is more ironic than you at first imagine. After all, crass political shenanigans are indeed seedy crimes.

In any case, I hope your odyssey has been completed without you being further victimized by the federal government.

March 12, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! My inconveniences were a true public-private-sector partnership.

March 12, 2013  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Good points, Verymessi. I find the ways these attacks on the social contract change over time. Recently I've been reading a lot about the 1970s and the "end of the working class" and one book pointed out that, "When class consciousness declines people perceive their social position as a reflection of their own abilities and blame themselves for the injustices inflicted upon them. Politics degenerates into a struggle not for social change but for self-realization."

So, the "me decade." And the "Wall Street" 80s.

I wonder if we're actually entering a new phase and how it will be challenged.

March 12, 2013  
Blogger Solea said...

I read Midnight Choir about a month ago and I didn't love it. Currently I'm reading my first Maurizio De Giovanni. I have to say, the beginning reminds me a bit of the Bruce Willis movie where he sees dead people.

March 12, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John: It's interesting to read opinions like that from someone who has lived in Canada for so many years. From my vantage point in the U.S., Canada looks pretty damn good. But yes, that's a good point about self-realization, I think. But what about all the self-realization that came to the fore in the '60s?

March 12, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solea, you might do what I did and give one of Gene Kerrigan's later books a try. I had read some of his nonfiction, to which he brings a nice novelistic touch, and liked it. And after I posted my comment The Midnight Choir, I read a similar bang-up ending to a chapter in The Rage. That sort of thing is more effective when done sparingly. I like The Rage more the more of it I read.

March 12, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I should read Maurizio De Giovanni. I like both his English-language pubishers. Any recommendations where to start?

March 12, 2013  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Peter, some people feel that the movements to individuality in the 70s (look at all those self-help books and seminars - Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a huge seller, sheesh) were a reaction to the organizing and demanding of rights in the 60s.

But, you know, divide and conquer.

It's interesting that Irish crime fiction today has so much... soul.

March 13, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm not sure there's anything in Jonathan Livingston Seagull (the very title makes me cringe) that could not be got from a good book. I'm a middle-class guy all the way, but I wonder what the readership of books like that and I'm OK, You're OK was among working-class people.

March 13, 2013  
Blogger verymessi said...

John,

I dont know what book you read, but to trace the attack of the business class on the social contract back to the 1970's is correct. This is an old story.

It started under the Carter administration who was quite the reactionary despite popular mythology. Reagan basically expanded on policies started under Carter as far as cutting taxes on the rich and expanding the military budget. Those cuts and Reagan's huge spending lead to a budget deficit which was then used as a justification to cut social spending. Its been pretty much the same since even when the govt has had a surplus which existed under Clinton! So deficit or surplus does not matter. Cut social programs because thats what the business community is in favor of. As I said, an old story.

As far as what to do, thats a matter of choice. I gave up along time ago on political parties since both are beholden to corporate power since that is where they get their money from to run election and so forth. you dont do what they want and the money dries up!

One can wait for the savior from above to show up-the so called "great man of history." Well you will be waiting a long time since he does not exist and never has.

Some people work toward trying to form an third political party. Fine if that's what you want to do. It would be a second party actually!!

A rebirth of the labor movement is essential in my view but does not seem likely in the near future.

The world wide phenomenon of the "occupy movement" in all its forms and with all of its short falls is a real sign of hope to me...We need something like that to continue and grow and become so large that it will have to be acknowledged and its demands will have to be accepted by the powers that be. A vast social movement for change is where i place my chips!

Here are some of the results of the class war launched by the business class in one handy dandy little video that someone sent me on wealth distribution in the US. What people think it is and what it actually is really quite fascinating.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QPKKQnijnsM

March 13, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder what will happen when multinational corporations run out of cheaper countries to which they can ship their work. Already, I have read of com

In the meantime, Jimmy Carter came to mind this week as I experienced the inconveniences that led to my two most recent posts. Carter is the president who deregulated airlines.

I also recalled a Doonsebury cartoon that pokes fun at his reputation for above-the-fray saintliness. The cartoon had a Vietnamese infant speaking in Carter's voice saying something like: "I've never been to Washington ... except to pick up a few peanut subsidies, and I kept my eyes closed."

March 13, 2013  
Blogger Simona said...

I just finished reading my first novel by Maurizio De Giovanni: Per mano mia (unfortunately not yet translated into English). I loved it. Commissario Ricciardi is an interesting character, though in this novel he is not as important as Briagadiere Maione and also Ricciardi's housekeeper, Rosa. I thoroughly enjoyed De Giovanni's writing and the way he weaves his story using the tradition of the nativity scene as background and metaphor. I wish I had bought at least another one.

September 14, 2013  

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