Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Reporter - Part 6: November 3, 1955

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The banner on the cover of this issue alludes to the fact that in November 1955 the nation stood one year prior to a presidential election. Max Ascoli, the editorialist of the corresponding piece, in noting that “Presidential Campaigns normally start at least one year before the election”, cites Eisenhower’s hinky ticker and the resultant uncertainty regarding Ike’s ability to run for a second term, as contributing to the “alarmingly wide-open” onset of the campaign season. He closes his piece by stating that “At this stage, The Reporter has only moderate interest in candidates.” I hear you, Max.

The cover art, a nice depiction of Egypt’s sun-drenched sphinx, tell us that there is more to-do with the Middle East in this issue. The related article is entitled “Egypt’s Liberation Province, The Beginning of a Beginning”. According to paragraph one, a project “with which the Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser is occupied is Liberation Province, a reclamation project on the Libyan desert bordering the delta of the Nile between Cairo and Alexandria.” How’d that deserty, reclamationy thing work out fer ya, Gamal?

The next article, sticking with the Middle East theme, is “Paris: Revolt in the ‘Casbahs’”. It concerns rumbles in the French urban ghettoes housing hoardes of North African immigrants who have recently rioted over a housing shortage combined with a lack of jobs. We are treated to the contemplation of 20th century colonialism in a paroxysm characteristic of its overall death throes. Pretty. And not over yet.

At home, the Red Scare is not over yet, either. Henry Steele Commager gives us an article entitled “The Perilous Delusion of Security”. The gist of the piece can be seen in Commager’s observation that “the security system…has not brought security but insecurity. It has not enhanced administrative or political competence but destroyed it. It has demolished much of governmental operations abroad. It has set department against department within the government”…etc. He concludes: “If we have lost that faith [“in the virtue and integrity of our fellow citizens”], we have lost everything. No program will save us, and we don’t even deserve to be saved.” Glenn Beck, call your office.

Our common thread, Sidney Alexander, disappoints in this issue. He writes a review of the kind of novel in which I have the least possible interest—the family saga—The Tree of Man by Patrick White. Patrick White? Never heard of him. The name sounds like a declarative sentence, as spoken by Chris Rock.

I’ll wrap up my spotty survey of this issue by noting a piece entitled “A Lion in the Garden” by French reporter, Madeleine Chapsal. It concerns a trip made by American novelist, William Faulkner “to Paris on a State Department mission” and his appearance at a cocktail party held in his honor at the powerful French publishing house, Gallimard. It is the tale of a discomfort and futility that not even repeated doses of bourbon could ameliorate: “There is no use looking at Faulkner. You must read him. To someone who has read him, Faulkner has given all that he has, and he knows it. Then one can understand that when he keeps saying ‘I am a farmer,’ or ‘I wrote that book so that I could buy a good horse,’ it is only another way of putting first things first—what Faulkner wants one to be interested in are his books.” That makes perfect sense to me.
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