Saturday, May 16, 2015

Corruption In High Places

Walter F. Starbuck, the narrator of Vonnegut's Jailbird, is supposed to have been one, a very minor one indeed, of the Watergate conspirators. It's a telling idea to use the sorry tale of Watergate as a backdrop for the novel's lacerating and despairing treatment of the inevitable corruption that capitalism inherently entails. The other tale exploited in this manner in this saga of exploitation is that of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti and their executions, a tawdry episode that politicises the young Starbuck.

I've only ever read of the Sacco and Vanzetti story and so I have to guess at the impact it had on the politically aware youth of the US circa the late 1920s, but I grew up with Watergate on television, the radio and all over the press and I know that its impact upon me was immense - or, at least, see that to have been the case in retrospect. Put simply, it made me intensely distrustful of all forms of political authority, as an object, abject lesson in how easily systems rot from the centre. I'm glad to have grown up with it.

By the way, Jailbird, though not exactly Vonnegut on top form, is at least a fully sustained real novel - unlike the two that came before it. But the signs of the writer's complete disillusionment with just about everything you can think of are still apparent and you get a feeling it took a real effort for him to bother to keep it going to the end. On the grounds that if KV can keep going then so can I, I've decided to move right into Deadeye Dick, the third novel in the LoA volume and aim to finish all four of the novels by the time fasting month begins. Sometimes you need to just get despair out of the way.

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