By the Book: Their ‘nonsense’ is well worth reading

04/25/2011 2:42 PM |

We are fortunate in having two female writers, Margaret Atwood and Barbara Kingsolver, who, with great regularity, turn out complex and beautifully written books.

Atwood has written more than 70 books. I have read several, and while there’s always excitement about starting another, there’s also trepidation. I’m leery about missing something, something subtle that goes right over my head, or even something basic that eludes me. She’s forever laying groundwork for a plot twist or a character flaw, some thread that I’m supposed to catch. She demands concentration as I cruise along admiring the wonderful flow of language.

The effort is worth it, though, when a passage like this appears, from ‘Moral Disorder,’ about a mid-20s girl questioning her life: “But what if I missed a turn somewhere — missed my own future? … I’d make one hesitation or one departure too many and then I’d have run out of choices; I’d be standing all alone, like the cheese in the children’s song about the farmer taking a wife. Hi-ho the derry-o, the cheese stands alone, they used to sing about this cheese, and everyone would … make fun of it.” Simple and poignant, the paralyzing self-doubt is vivid.

My wife and I were vacationing. I had brought a too-quickly finished murder book, she a paperback of Atwood’s ‘Cat’s Eye.’ Halfway through Wednesday my book ended. Now what? My wife promptly ripped off the first 100 pages of her book, handed them to me and continued reading. When I’d finished those she ripped off more. And so it went. We enjoyed the book so much we rubber-banded the pieces together and mailed it to her sister in Georgia.

In 1998 Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ made my 10 Best List. In this story of a fanatical American missionary, who hauls his wife and three daughters off to Africa, the author creates three entirely different young women and follows them through situations good, bad and worse, their strong personalities in play and often clashing. The story line is excellent, but the daughters’ intensity really carries the tale. I totally believed that I knew them, understood their points of view. I became involved with them, worrying, smiling, cringing, as though they were real people. I’ll never understand how authors pull this off, but here’s Ursula Le Guin on the subject: “In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it.”

These two authors create wonderful nonsense.

Mr. Case, of Southold, is retired from Oxford University Press. He can be reached at [email protected]

Comments

comments

176 Comment

  • I doubt everyone is here legally. This means an awful lot of illegal activity is going on. Almost impossible for American citizens to find Blue collar work on the East End of the island. What are our representatives that we pay for going to do about this? Keep rewarding illegals and there employers?

  • “..Riverhead is an especially popular destination because it has access to public transportation…”

    Public transportation? I don’t see any that’s actually useful. The LIRR is cutting service, and Suffolk County Transit is a joke.

  • you wanted those cockroaches, you got em!!! viva MexicoooO!!!

  • thats alotta legal citizens cut out of their jobs!!! not looking good for LI..

  • thats alotta legal citizens cut out of their jobs!!! not looking good for LI..

  • It also lowered wages for anyone who can get a job. Illegals live many to a house dividing up all bills amongst them. They just show up at the emergency room if they need any medical attention, we’ll pay the bill. It is a real mess created by our do nothing politicians!!!

  • I bet it is actually more than 14%–I’d be willing to put my life on it. What percentage of illegals do you think hid, avoided census workers, or lived in a house with 15 others, the last twelve being unaccounted for? What percentage of them pay taxes? Probably also 14%–sounds about right. Ever have an energency at PBMC? Get on line cause it’s where people without insurance get all of their health care needs. Thank you government you’re doing fine.

  • “Riverhead is the place where everybody wants to be,” he said. “It’s a great town.”

    OMG our supervisor lives in LaLa Land.

  • To answer part of your question, I would venture that 100% of the undocumented taxpayers you call illegals pay taxes. They purchase things and pay sales taxes that directly benefit you, when they own property they pay property tax to help educate your kids, and if their employer uses a false social security number they pay into that system with never a hope of collecting a single cent. Hope that helps clear up some of your misunderstanding……

  • “If” they own property they pay property taxes, but they also frequently rent to other illegals who have children who go to the school system. I’ve seen houses with 3 families with 2 children or more each family. Then you have the illegals who stop paying their mortgages because they owe more than the house is worth, but continue to collect rents from their tenants. Then they sell short and leave the banks holding the bag, too. It’s a fact I’ve seen it.

  • How about this. Let’s start asking our local landscapers, restaurants, construction contractors, car washes, delivery services, and grocery stores for proof their workers are legal.

    If they aren’t, then go elsewhere to buy these goods and services. It’s that easy. Hiring illegals allow these businesses to enjoy tremendous profits. They pay lower wages, pay no payroll deductions like social security, and no workers compensation insurance.

    Next time we complain about illegal aliens, take a look at our neigbors first. They are the ones benefiting and are the real source of the problem.

  • What you are describing – gasp – 6 kids in a house – used to be the norm with local farm families. As for the short sales, read the papers my friend, it is not just undocumented homeowners doing this. Oh and by the way, every person of Hispanic descent that you see is not automatically an undocumented taxpayer.

    One last question, where did your family come to America from?

  • That’s a tired argument. My family came from Europe, but did not get any handouts or expect all labels to be written in German for them. It was also legal, hence no hiding in the shadows. They also paid into the social security system f0r decades, and my father was in 3 wars for this country as a result. When these people can say the same, I’ll listen. They also suck the system for more than they contribute, and driver without insurance. Who pay for the damages they just walk away from??

  • That’s a tired argument. My family came from Europe, but did not get any handouts or expect all labels to be written in German for them. It was also legal, hence no hiding in the shadows. They also paid into the social security system f0r decades, and my father was in 3 wars for this country as a result. When these people can say the same, I’ll listen. They also suck the system for more than they contribute, and driver without insurance. Who pay for the damages they just walk away from??

  • My family legally immigrated from Ireland. I went to Catholic school, some families had 10 children. Your point?

    For your information I am also a bleeding heart liberal. However, I can’t pay any more taxes to school and support people who are here illegally. We have rules in this country. You try going to England, Ireland, or even Mexico and acting as entitled and OPEN about it as illegals.

    As for the short sales, I am also a real estate agent in Riverhead. So don’t educate me about what is happening in real estate in our town. I can give you the addresses of 5-10 houses owned by Hispanics that have been or are selling short. All have multiple families living in them, none are paying their mortgages but all are, or were prior to their sales, collecting rent. Whether the owners themselves are legal or illegal is irrelevant. It is bringing down Riverhead.

    I guess you like being choked by your taxes, you enjoy seeing hundreds drawn to our ghost town and lined up on weekends waiting for handouts, you believe many people should not pay taxes.

    You know the expression, a liberal is someone who hasn’t been mugged yet? I’m being mugged right now. It’s time to slap the hand that’s reaching into my pocket.

  • My family legally immigrated from Ireland. I went to Catholic school, some families had 10 children. Your point?

    For your information I am also a bleeding heart liberal. However, I can’t pay any more taxes to school and support people who are here illegally. We have rules in this country. You try going to England, Ireland, or even Mexico and acting as entitled and OPEN about it as illegals.

    As for the short sales, I am also a real estate agent in Riverhead. So don’t educate me about what is happening in real estate in our town. I can give you the addresses of 5-10 houses owned by Hispanics that have been or are selling short. All have multiple families living in them, none are paying their mortgages but all are, or were prior to their sales, collecting rent. Whether the owners themselves are legal or illegal is irrelevant. It is bringing down Riverhead.

    I guess you like being choked by your taxes, you enjoy seeing hundreds drawn to our ghost town and lined up on weekends waiting for handouts, you believe many people should not pay taxes.

    You know the expression, a liberal is someone who hasn’t been mugged yet? I’m being mugged right now. It’s time to slap the hand that’s reaching into my pocket.

  • What is it that triggers this antipathy towards the hispanic community.? Is it the same old phobia this country has had during any surge in new immigrants in our history? Bear in mind that our immigration policy is flawed. And if employers pay in cash or accept and encourage phony papers, this is their fault, they are setting the terms of employment, not the employees. The latinos want an opportunity to work and improve their lives. Though every group has it’s bad apples, most latinos are hardworking, honest, cheerful, and family-oriented. Look at the families that fill the churches today and tell me these people are threatening our way of life. I have attended graduation parties, weddings and christenings and have always been made welcome.
    I have an employee who is a legal immigrant( a status he was able to achieve when our policies were more tolerant) who is covered under my liability and workers comp insurance,covered under my health insurance, pays his taxes, pays his mortgage. Trust me that I am not getting rich on his labor, but he works hard and well along side me. I wish I could say as much for some other native born employees over the years.
    We should try to open our minds and accept this immigration and encourage our government to reevaluate its policy and quotas. We need to realize and accept that demographics change and that melting pot has been what has made this country great.

  • THe “antipathy” is not towards the “hispanic community”, it is towards the number of ILLEGAL immigrants. I speak Spanish, I teach English as a Second Language as a volunteer, I am a literacy volunteer. As long as they are improving their lives by becoming citizens, I have no problem. I have a problem with the number of illegals who live crammed in houses (driving down our values), hanging around, and needing our financial help.

  • First off, antipathy means not caring. I for one, do care. You say you have “ONE” legal immigrant of Hispanic origin. For your one, how many illegal immigrants do you think there are? I don’t agree with the 7th grade debate team argument “Where did your relatives come from?”, because MY relatives came here WITH THE INTENTION OF WORKING HARD AND INTEGRATING. They learned English. It is a slap in the face when there is no effort to learn English. And as for the person who said they pay “sales taxes” whoopdifreakindooda, my 7 year old niece pays sales tax on her ice cream. Maybe if you have a car accident and the person at fault happens to not have insurance (could be anyone) and who conveniently “disappeared” (not likely to happen with e LEGAL citizen), so that my insurance skyrocketed. Then, with a broken arm that the illegal immigant caused (I say that because he spoke no English…I guess that means I’m racist or can add 2 plus 2…), I went to PBMC. Did my broken arm get me in ASAP? Nope! had to wait for FIVE, yes, FIVE, families of Hispanic origin who brought there children to be treated at the ER (probably for a head cold, but why pay $5 for baby tylenol when us stupid Americans will foot a $1500 ER bill)….anyway, you let that scenario happen to you and see if your lenient attitude re. brotherly love and it just being a formality to be legal washes over.

  • I call them illegal….because they are here illegally. Hope that helps clear up some og your misunderstanding…..

  • I’ve read all the posts and I get some of it. I too have a heavy tax burden, and am living on pretty much a fixed income.
    What would happen if the folks who cut our grass, are employed in agriculture, work in the back of restaurants disappeared tomorrow? Who would fill these jobs? If you really think the unfortunate jobless, will be waiting on line in order to work from dusk till dawn for less money than we spend on a good dinner..Think again
    I agree with guest…who writes that these folks do pay their taxes one way or the other, and that if a false social security number is used, it goes into the system, however, they do not benefit.
    The problems surrounding immigration are enormous. We are a multicultural nation comprising of immigrants. We have he biggest heads in Washington trying to come up with a plan for reform….I admit I don’t know the solution, but I do know nothing is black or white. There are many shades of gray in between.
    Maybe, folks, between the shades of gray we can come to realize we are bound my our humanity.

  • YOur response is an emotional one. Lets be analytical for a moment. Lets say that an undocumented worker makes $ 30K. Fica is 6% , so he she pays $1800 . He / she spends all of the rest ( 28K) and sales tax is 8% so $ 2500. total tax paid is $ 4300. One child costs $ 15K per year in education!!! If undocumented had no kids i would agree with you… it might be grey . But, i think a look at the school demographics bears a different message. Then consider that demographic impact in schools effects school ratings and thereby real estate values in riverhead. Sorry, but the numbers dont favor illegal immigration, by my lights anyway.

  • They don’t spend all the rest, though. They send much of it to the wife and kids back home (as opposed to the wife and kids here).

  • Just remember the mass influx of illegal immigrants and the allowence of their employers criminal hiring has been done under the watch of congressmen Tim Bishop. He has allowed this to take place and this is what killed the local blue collar jobs for eastend residents.

  • Don’t hang it all on Bishop. No one has done anything about it. Including our locally elected officials who are Republicans. When is Riverhead going to crack down on the illegal rentals?

  • Just take a trip up to New Hampshire where they don’t have the massive influx of illegals and you will find EURO-AMERICANS working in food, residential carpentry and associated trades, landscaping and blue collar factory work. This is a fact, and what is also a LIE is the fact that EURO-AMERICANS won’t take these jobs. The liberal media wants you to believe this because they are the future voting block fot the socialist democratic party.

  • Here is why they come to Riverhead, the Slum Lords. Ever wonder why so many people who used to live in Riverhead, now live in Shirley / Mastic. The Riverhead Slum Lords found a better option than Section 8. Section 8 does an inspection before a tenant can move in, setting a standard of living conditions. The Slum Lords figured out that if they rent to the Undocumented, they have fewer headaches. One person is usually in charge of the residence and he collects the rent from the others and then pays the Slum Lords (CASH). They can’t complain about the living conditions, because their Undocumented. The slum Lords get their rent and don’t even have the decency to maintain the residence. A high number of rental property in Riverhead, owned by a select few, continues to destroy our town.

  • “They” are human beings, “they” have families, worries and feel pain just like you, except often “they” are separated from their families in a quest for better opportunities. It is not the failures that come thousands of miles in the quest for the so called American Dream. You might be disillusioned but often it is not until any immigrant arrives here that they fully understand exactly how hard we make it for them.

    It adds a touch of evil to the whole mix to dehumanize the PEOPLE involved in these problems. The first step to finding solutions to real problems is to stop dehumanizing those involved.

  • The problem you seem to be having is one of assumption. You are assuming that they have no legal right to be here because they are brown and English is not their native tongue. And that is fine, so long as you don’t mind me assuming that you are a racist bigot with a small prick.

    If you are offended by my assumption, please remember how others might feel about an entire society casting judgement on them without knowing anything about them and their life… Just as I know nothing about you.

  • Your conspiracy theory does not hold up to observation. My guess is that you may have shunned certain media outlets because you have deemed them too liberal so you are relying on information from third parties (Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc). In reality, there is nobody espousing such ideas. Also, it wouldn’t make much sense because I can’t see how this would expand the numbers of democratic voters… Can you?

  • The only thing I’m assuming is tht someone who doesn’t speak English is probably not American…you are right, it is a stupid assumption Clearly, my penis is small and that is why I made that unfounded assumption. And if I were in Mexico illegally, something (oh yes, fact-based evidence) tells me I wouldn’t have to look far to find someone chastising me..I’d probably be in a Mexican jail. And, if I were there illegally, I guess I couldn’t expect much either, could I? Why, I would never go to a ountry illegally and work under the table illegally…as to me that is unethical. If people were to judge me for my unethical actions, I can assure you it wouldn’t be while I was reaching into their pockets and expecting them to pay for my medical bills, dinner, and cab fare home. Wah-waah. Maybe if you actually knew the facts, and paid the price you would feel differently. The system is broken, brother, and America is the troth.

  • I’m not so sure about that. There are many illegal rentals owned by none of the usual suspects. I’ve seen bedbugs, filth etc, the owners were also Hispanic, by the way. They are selling short and they are foreclosures. They collect the rent but don’t pay on the mortgage, till the bank takes the house.

  • As long as “they ” are not illegal, I have no problem with them. I have no problem with those who come here for the American Dream LEGALLY. Sadly that is not usually the case here.

  • I’m glad to see you’re now using the phrase, “probably not American,” and refraining from making accusations of criminality against an entire segment of our population. The hypothetical argument of your experience of being in Mexico illegally is a fictitious rendition of what you imagine it to be like based on anecdotal accounts coupled with your imagination. This is the opposite of an evidence based conclusion. I understand that you’re displeased with your experience here in America, but many immigrants have sought out a life here because they love what we stand for and what we offer to our people. I love my country, and so do many others, regardless of where on the earth they happen to be born. I know many people, citizens and non-citizens, who would never dream of comparing our nation to a trough (troth?). If you don’t like it here, you are free to leave.

  • Actually though you use many words, some of them multisyllabic, your argument “The hypothetical argument of your experience of being in Mexico illegally is a fictitious rendition of what you imagine it to be like based on anecdotal accounts coupled with your imagination. This is the opposite of an evidence based conclusion:, is unfortunately, completely irrational and untrue. You state thit is my “imagination” which leads me to believe these things about MExico, when in actuality, it is from 1) first hand accounts 2) stories I have read in numerous newspapers, zines, blogs, travel magazines, and TV news…so try again. And “If you don’t like it here, you are free to leave.” Actually, I am happy here WITH THE LAWS AS THEY ARE. YOU are the one who doesn’t like the laws, and YOU who feels they should be selectively enforced…so how about YOU leave? K thanks…and guess what? Just becasue you sound semi-literate doesn’t mean you make sense. Just FYI with your blah blah blah that meant nothing.

  • Where did the prior poster give you the impression that they are not happy with their “experience here in America”? You are trying to come off as high and mighty and it isn’t working. I love my country also, and would like to see it not degenerate into another Mexico or Central America. Have you ever been to Mexico? I have. I’m sorry you have such contempt for this country that you would like it to become like that.

  • Did you feel that he views our nation positively by calling it to a trough? I have no intention of superiority, only offering a suggestion that by assuming we know things will routinely lead to inaccurate conclusions. For example, you assume that I’m high and mighty and I will assume that you are mighty high.

  • It may not be concise, or maybe I have used too many big words, but there is an important distinction I am making between anecdotal and evidence based conclusion. I don’t understand astrophysics, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. If you are interested in expanding your comprehension, then you must make an effort.

  • Emton, I can give you concrete facts right this second, in the form of addresses and names , of homes that have multiple families, owned by Hispanics who are under water and not paying their mortgages but are collecting rents.

  • I don’t understand astrophysics, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. So true, because the concept itself, and te principles tht follow mke sense–to someone at least–and that “sense” comes from the truths revealed in the science.your observations, the ones presented he at least, do not make sense, nor does your trite anaology. Your beliefs do not encompass an entire science as does astrophysics thererfor they cannot be compared equally, and the fact of astophysics “making sense” is based on its factual truths You do not offer anything of the sort, though!! I think you need to get a reality chekc–I told you some of my knowlefge came from first hand observations (NOT anecdotal) and the other comes fom READING SEVERAL publications—all of them non-fiction, which, eh hmmm is not anecdotal as you say/ Why don’t you d some real reaading, some real investigation, really use that brain insttead of acting superior and more informed when////lets be honest, when was the lst time you read anythingg of value??

  • This is not a contest of literary prowess. I originally commented to challenge you to self reflect and realize that maybe your original assumption is biased. It appears that you are not interested in the pursuit of dialogue and only wish to be defensive and eristic. Also, anecdotal doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  • This is not a contest of literary prowess. I originally commented to challenge you to self reflect and realize that maybe your original assumption is biased. It appears that you are not interested in the pursuit of dialogue and only wish to be defensive and eristic. Also, anecdotal doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  • Emton, I know exactly the meanings of anecdotal do you? I keep repeating the numerous sources from which I have dawn the conclusion which you claim is anrvfotal: That if I were in Mexico (or another native American were) and I were attempting to work under hte table, wuthout legal papers, I can be SURE the outcome would be wtose than it is for the vice versa case of which I’m bitching. Not enecdotal..it’s not hearsay when it’s a story told in untold publications, plus you offer no greater case above my supposedly “anecdotal” case–other than that you beliefs are right becsuse they are yours.)no facts there) I like how you said it’s not “a contest of literary prowess” and then drop “eristic”, I say it all the time myself. I Do pursue knoweldge, I still question whether you do I’d say you are a college-age person, studios, attends a good collefe..nevr wokred a day for what he has, except maybe a token summer job which funded your Banana Republic sprees. Just sayin.

  • To get the most out of this life you need to be open to all ideas from young to old, those with and without a formal education, rich and poor, citizen and non-citizen. Your arguments are regretfully proving the problem with the consequences of assuming. And, although I’m still just as handsome as I was in college, I happen to be a married, father of two. My wife and I work very hard to provide a life for us and our children on Long Island. Just sayin.

  • I don ‘t beleive you

  • Dude///this is the last time I’m responding. Do you even realize that ALL you do is criticize me and my beliefs. You do this without offering any concrete alternative. And then you have the nerve to try to “explain” to me the imprtance of gettin info from every source—condescending, because I already do. A junior argument. And–how dare you tell me to be open-minded, when ALL YOU Have DONE is say that I’m wrong, never why, just bashed me, how I formulate my thoughts..without offering a shred of evidence, any reason why I am wrong. Get off your high horse. You can make the statement “I am open minded” every second of every day, and still be closed-minded and argumentative, which YOU ARE. I at least offereed an opinion with a rationale, you DID NOT, ALL YOU OFFER is condescending remarks, and arguments DO YOU EVEN SEE THAT??? Re-read your posts, see if ther is anything of value offered other than the lame Dr. Phi l kumbaya BS. And I still stick with my comment about you being a spoiled collegem kid,….

  • Your assumptions reveal your ignorance. I don’t wish to embarrass you by correcting your fallacies word for word, but I do want to encourage you to become genuinely, intellectually curious in the hopes that you may see past your self imposed limitations. Good luck, I hope you can learn to appreciate others in this world.

  • (She acts like we never have met)
    Great tune.

  • Just so long as they’re concrete. I hate asphalt facts!

  • What is your point? You don’t make any valid points. all you do is make some acid-laced comments about finding enligtenment.or something I don’t even know. I don;t think yiu do eithe EMTPY. I eman Emton

  • Okay, Onemomentofpeace… I mean Guest.