The odd thing is, I do address the issue of Columbine, but it just does not strike me as nearly as important as, for example, abstinence campaigns or institutional homophobia and date rape. Saying, as he does, that I neglect the social context of themes which occur in teen films actually means that he has a particular take on what is the important part of that social context which differs from mine.
Also, I don't think he understood what I said to him about the American high school movie being a version of pastoral. Heyho!
My copies of 'Teen Dreams' came, and I had that moment of ecstatic bliss where you open a package and there is a book and you wrote it, and it looks good and it smells good and these are the most pristine copies of the book you will ever see. And you sit down and read it again, and are surprised by how smart you were a few months ago when you wrote it, as opposed to the slow stupid grinder out of not very interesting thoughts you have become when working on the new book.
I think, I really think, that that couple of hours after I open the package is why I do this, mostly.
Oh, and here is the cover.Isn't this shiny!
The Guardian had a headline today in its profile of Moussaui - Islamist Warrior or Paranoid Schizophrenic with Troubled Childhood - which strikes me as a> the best example of a false dichotomy I have every come across, inasmuch as leaders of terrorist conspiracies who find totally sane well-adjusted people prepared to give their lives for the cause are not neccessarily going to squander them, whereas people with problems are very expendable and b> a set of words which demonstrates that people have an attitude to mental illness which stinks. The phrase is 'diminished responsibility', not no responsibility at all, for one thing. And for another the idea that, if you have a mental disorder, that invalidates all your political and moral convictions and makes the madness the only important thing, is sort of highly offensive.
I am glad he is not going to be executed. Partly because he wants it so much that it is hard to tell whether or not he is as guilty as he says he is, and partly because I don't want people out in the world glamourizing the idiot. And there is also my objection to the death penalty, of course, which does still apply and would apply to worse cases still.
Would I execute Pinochet, say? The answer has to be no, though I would not be especially upset if he fell under a bus.
One thing that does worry me is the growing idea that victims, or victims's surviving relatives, should have an input into sentencing and broader policy. This worries me partly because private vengeance has no place in a court of law, and the next logical step is that relatives can be persuaded with compensation to back off. Given that in some parts of the world this leads to small girls being bartered as part of that compensation, I think this is a really bad idea.
Also, if the relatives of the victims of 9.11 get a say in penal matters, do they also get to decide how long the war lasts? And on what prospectus of lies about WMDs do they get to make that decision?
Lastly, a review I forgot to put in last week.
THE BURNING by Thomas Legendre
(Little Brown 406 pp. £14.99)
reviewed by Roz Kaveney
Many of us, much of the time, are motivated by more than lust, envy and the search for comfort. Ideas and a search for righteousness that goes beyond immediate family are also an important part of what makes us human and as such are materials that are sometimes neglected as the driving forces of that examination of human drives that is an important part of the novel. There are stories that can be told, and in some degree need to be told, that cannot be constructed without the characters' intellectual and political lives.
Thomas Legendre's impressive first novel derives much of its strength from traditional matters - adultery, divorce, betrayal, theft, academic rivalry - but much also from a sense that what is at stake goes beyond the merely personal. His protagonist Logan is an economist in his first academic job, who has fallen out of love with his trade as generally practiced only to redicover it as a way of discussing prudent human behaviour in a world of limited resources and maximum greed. For much of the novel, he is coping with an imprending sense of doom both for humanity's life on this planet and for his own position in a faculty dominated by Friedmanite advocates of greed, consumption and the illusions of the free market.
We are betrayed by what is false within. Logan has taken a colossal chance in his emotional life, as has his wife Dallas, whom he met when she was dealing blackjack in Las Vegas. They have goodwill and sexual passion on their side, but this was never going to be one of those stories that end happily, simply because Dallas suffers the professional deformation of her trade. She is a gambler, and she does not know to quit when she is ahead.
In this, of course, she has much in common with the patterns of human behaviour which Logan finds himself describing. Their progressive alienation from each other is almost inevitable, and deeply tragic. Both Dallas and Logan's rival and former friend Deck make choices in the course of their stories that will almost certainly make them unhappy; Legendre is not an optimist.
Yet Logan, by accepting a life of limits, may yet have a chance. His growing love for the company of astrophysicist Keris, and their intellectual collaboration, is chastened and realistic. Logan's replacement of his garden with plants more appropriate to the Arizona desert they inhabit both makes Legendre's point about how we must change our lives and works as a symbol.
This is a book steeped in dualities; the chill of the desert at night is placed against the air- conditioned rooms in which Deck and his mentor Novak promulgate theories that ignore realities, and Dallas betrayes her lover and her better self for that momentary but convincingly thrilling rush of sensation that gives the novel its title. The world is burning in the same fire, Legendre is telling us; things are falling apart - the asphalt of roads is softening into 'limprwristed' mulch - and civility and compassion are all that will save us.