Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack – Granville Sentinel, July 2008
Jeff Gill

“Had We But World Enough, and Time”

Andrew Marvell was speaking “To His Coy Mistress,” not to the 2008 election season, but there is a fair sense of urgency in the presentations on both sides of the ballot.

(Pace to all Nader, Paul, and Barr supporters.)

Marvell goes on to hearken to “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” and to consider the reams of print material available online, in magazines, and from street corner fliers stuffed into your unwilling hands even a speed reader might sense “Deserts of vast eternity” before them.

May I recommend books? Seriously, if you want to get up to speed with the full range of opinion on both sides, you might find that the old fashioned print volume does you more good than a stack of magazines. You check the table of contents and index for guideposts and benchmarks where your particular interests are addressed, and flipping back and forth is still an area where the technology of printed and bound pages has no peer. (These are all available in the libraries of Granville, Newark, or Denison, too.)

This is all presuming that there are some who haven’t entirely made up their minds, McCainiacs with qualms and Obamacans with hesitations, plus us mushy middle slow thinkers.

Start with their own books: Obama has famously penned his own two, well worth the time to read right through, “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.” McCain works with Mark Salter of his staff to write “Worth the Fighting For” and “Faith of My Fathers.”

On the current war, whatever you call it, to get a good diversity of views: “Fiasco” by Tom Ricks of the Washington Post, along with “The End of History” by Francis Fukuyama from the distant past of 1992 to see part of the basis for said leap into the heart of darkness (yeah, and read that, too, in a collected Joseph Conrad). Douglas Feith’s “War and Decision” gives the view from inside of the choices that led into Iraq.

“The Assassin’s Gate” by George Packer is the wide view of the Middle East today, and a contrasting but well-reasoned complement is Bernard Lewis’ “The Crisis of Islam.”

Climate change and biotech are intertwined but crucial areas where science and politics intersect with public awareness, and we need to be thinking more clearly than we are about those areas: “Panic in Level 4” is new and excellent, by Richard Preston, author of “The Hot Zone,” and “Cell of Cells” is accessible to the general reader as well thanks to the careful work of Cynthia Fox.

Try the older “Earth In the Balance” from 1992, which reads better than “An Inconvenient Truth” does as a book, both of course by Al Gore; compare to Bjorn Lomborg’s “Cool It.”

And wrap it all up by getting out some Wendell Berry, specifically “The Art of the Commonplace” and “Citizenship Papers.” You might want to read the poetry of “A Timbered Choir” or “The Country of Marriage” just to wash away the taste of politics.

(Psst: Tues., Aug. 12, No Child Left Inside Day!)

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about a good read or tale or idea at knapsack77@gmail.com.

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