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America, Where Great Literature Kicked the Bucket

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Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
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Once in a while, people ask me: "Why did you accept the US citizenship, many years ago?" "After all," they say, "now you are one of the most vocal critics of the United States, and of the West in general."

Perhaps I never explained, or I did, some time ago, and now it is forgotten. So, let me try again, now that the world is facing destruction, and an unpronounced but real "new cold war" is ruining millions of lives.

First of all, let me clarify: I am a novelist. That's what I am, essentially, no matter what other stuff of mine you are reading, and no matter what films of mine you are watching.

Really, seriously, you did not know? Of course, you did! Journalists do not write like this.

As a novelist, since my childhood, I was in love with the literature that used to be written in the United States. I am talking about North America about which people hardly know much, now.

The America of Huckleberry Finn, of Captain John Yossarian from "Catch 22", or Robert Jordan from "For Whom the Bell Tolls".

Commercialism, Western propaganda and so-called political correctness, made that country of daring, rebellion, dreams, and yes - depth - almost disappear from the 'cultural radar', all over the world. Selfishness, narcissism and lately, the inability to even listen to others, has made American culture basically ruin itself, and in the process, to ruin its literature, its society and what was positive about its very essence.

Also, it has managed to destroy the image of itself, all over the world.

***

"My America" was actually a country which we knew, loved and cherished in Leningrad and Prague, perhaps even much more than in Chicago or Atlanta. A country of giants such as Faulkner and Hemingway, Nathanael West, Steinbeck, Dreiser, Heller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O'Neill.

This America is now thoroughly unknown in the neo-colonies, from Jakarta to Guatemala, and from Nairobi to Riyadh.

The America that is renowned nowadays is that of the cheapest pop, of Hollywood blockbusters, sitcoms, junk food and junk clothing. An America of a pathetic narrative, of dumb slang, predictable humor and feel-good rubbish.

Yet, it was that deep, unknown, and mysterious America full of powerful and often dark narratives, as well as of brave voices, with which I fell, decades ago, deeply in love.

I fell in love with it, got enormously inspired by it, but when it changed and lost most of its strength, when it gained the excessive amount of aggressiveness and ignorance, I had no choice but to leave it behind.

I always loved Faulkner, but suddenly there was no figure of his magnitude.

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4 people are discussing this page, with 8 comments


Ramani K V

Become a Fan (Member since Mar 8, 2012), 32 fans, 6 articles, 18 quicklinks, 2776 comments (How many times has this commenter been recommended?)
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This great article was missing due to an OEN publishing glitch, so I restored it from another source where Andre had published it.

Andre speaks for many of us young at heart old timers who grew up in another era. It is not just the nostalgia of different times. The world itself was different then. Spatially, culturally, intellectually and morally. A world in which America gave others powerful reasons to look up to it, even if they came with just as powerful reasons to be wary of it.

For the intellectually restless in other nations, it was the legion of outstanding American writers which painted a picture of America that could last a lifetime. Hollywood, hippies and Coca-Cola were a part of the branding, no doubt. But one experienced them as casually as they were offered. The classics that American novelists produced reflected the soul of a nation.

A vibrant nation of intellectually bold, audacious, courageous rebels has been reduced to a pathetic jumble of shallow money grabbers who churn out whatever sells in the market. They no longer challenge the zeitgeist of present day America which evokes fear rather than admiration. They are content to be a part of it. No matter it is led by a super rich and ultra corrupt elite whose intellectual development stopped at the age of ten.

On a land across which towering minds could shift the landscape itself with thundering volleys, the America of today is traversed by timid writers speaking to stunted dwarfs hunched over digital screens filled with a grotesque parody of the English language and infantile emojis. The intellectual devastation of a nation that inspired readers and authors across the English-speaking world is an inconsolable loss for millions like me.

The passage of its great writers has also taken away the needle from America's moral compass. It has meant the abject surrender of its people to the largesse of the very elite whom they rail against. It has meant the sissification of a people who stood up to the powerful with fierce pride and strength of conviction.

Andre leaves out many outstanding minds of that bygone era. I don't blame him. He had a treasure trove of authors and works to pick from. Other stalwarts who come to my mind include that quintessential rebel, Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe, James Michener, Saul Bellow, Owen Wister... Am stuck like Andre, the list is endless! But I must at least redress the gender imbalance with Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell, Pearl S Buck and Ayn Rand. Stripped of her political colors, Rand was one of the finest novelists America produced.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 4, 2020 at 3:43:17 AM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

Thanks for bringing this terrific article to our attention, Ramani. Vitchek is a rare bird. He illuminates subjects that often go unrealized. Like this one. Hadn't thought about his premise much in a long time...probably not since an American Lit class at Columbia way, way back when. Maybe not even then. But he's right, sadly.

Submitted on Tuesday, Jan 7, 2020 at 3:41:30 AM

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nelswight

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

Wonderful concatenation, Ramani. In youth I kept collecting those authors of classics, like Plato, et al. which I stored in my library to 'read when I got more time' (thinking 'retirement'), Now that I'm not yet caught up, I find more and more unread authors. think 'Goodreads' that I latch onto - David Icke's 'Trigger', Laurent Guyenot(sp),Ed Jewett.Pat Pason,Andrei Martyanov and on. Then there all the poets, I thrilled at Poe's...the tintinabulation of The Bells, Maine's own Longfellow from whose writing Hiawatha, Evangeline we named our two daughters, our #2 son, Geoffrey, after Chaucer. And I'm catching up today with James H Kunstler, Dmitri Orlov....

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 8, 2020 at 1:21:13 AM

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nelswight

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God Bless Andre Vltchek. In Italyand Africa he would already have achieved Saint-hood. Aren't you glad that you're not an "American", Ramani, after reading?

Submitted on Tuesday, Jan 7, 2020 at 10:20:05 PM

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Ramani K V

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I am glad I am not a 21st century American, Nels. The 20th, especially its Roaring 70s, was exhilarating.

Submitted on Tuesday, Jan 7, 2020 at 11:16:41 PM

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Michael Dewey

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Nothing like be a teen 10 mile walk to North Bridge in 1976, hoping we were all back in sixties. Music was great. Still recurring morning dreams of there still a month left of 12th grade at 20 in 78. Electrical teacher from IBEW took me right back after a year off.

Things are worse here then thought from Belgium 2011-17. Feeling people understand the sixties rock in roll on the juke boxes around strong city pool leagues, where got in at end of 14.1 city round robins of 100 ball runners. There is a connection many are starting to get.

Sad it took Maire dying 2017 May to get me back here. Friends great with rides transit service. Talking city council beautiful pool player to study turning Cable into Public Utility run through city bank at Post Office, until COPD takes me too. Am doing good for the pain the girls can thank Fonda for the butt.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 8, 2020 at 1:40:13 AM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Nope, not me.

First of all, if we count the atrocities and body counts brought about by US imperialism, no other period equals the years from the early 60s to the early 80s: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Chile, Indonesia, Brazil, El Salvador, on and on.

Personally, I had a great time. In the mid-70s I had a horse farm 40 mins from Manhattan on which I threw mammoth two day long parites with rock bands and performers like David Peel. Even though I eventually made a doc on the 1965-75 decade that was featured on Cinemax and PBS click here, I think the period - apart from jazz - was crap. In the US in particular and with few exceptions, everything was of lesser quality...epecially in fashion and design - from clothing to cars (ugh!!), from boats to food. Ugly, ugly period of excess and piss poor aesthetics.

Not to mention the downward cultural trajectory brought about by the sanctioned distribution swap of coke for pot. After the Hudson think tankers proclaimed pot to be one reason for the political blowback of the "60s," Richard Nixon moved the White House to Key Biscayne and brought along his degenerate pals Vesco and Rebozo to open up, with Panama strongman Omar Torrijos, a cocaine corridor that turned the counterculture in america from laid back hippies who ruminated on peace into brain dead disco trolls who fantasized they were Gatsby. Cultural icons like VW vans became Bentleys. Leather braids became gold chains. Materialism made its re-emergence. By the mid-80s, pyramid scammer Jerry Rubin replaced Abbie Hoffman in the MSM. I was on my way to Hoffman's Bucks County house the day he killed himself. After ten years of despondency, he could no longer withstand the transition that had taken place in America a decade before. In retrospect, the 70s was the official flushing of US culture down a toilet already stuffed with two centuries of sh*t.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 8, 2020 at 5:05:12 AM

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Michael Dewey

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Think had first heard Lennon say "communication" is the miracle today, lets use it. Thoughts like that have me figuring now communication helped unite dreams in the sixties that people always felt, but no real kind of voice, except Jack Kerouac comes to mind. Just got his book at evil socialized Library. Pool player here called "Almighty Chris" says his Grand Father was Jack's 2rd cousin, spelt different.

There was a bar talk last month with lady who does Native Pow Wows in R.I. All love the Native pool overs. She told me the Natives had a prophecy 500 years ago about the Cyberspace, called "The Mouse & the Web." Have not sourced it yet to see what else it says.

Things had to be allowed to happen on this boiling melting pot, where trash at top is exposing themselves. I can normally see who throw stones as both sides now do at each other.

Here a great cover on youtube of Arlo's Prologue song of what he saw from 95-79.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 8, 2020 at 11:10:35 PM

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