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E.L._Doctorow.jpgThis week's New York Times online book review featured a video, in which Sam Tanenhaus interviewed E.L. Doctorow about his new book, Homer & Langley.  Doctorow - whose gentle, mellifluous voice matches his deft touch with political agendas - admits in the interview that the political dimension to Homer & Langley is about "entropy."  Now, in the aftermath of the reign of Bush and Cheney, Doctorow says, "I hope we're living a little better, trying to recover our identity or our illusions of our noble identity as a country.  The last best hope for mankind and so on."  (5:25-5:44)

Whether "recover[ing] . . . our illusions of our noble identity . . . . [as t]he last best hope for mankind" is "living better" is an interesting question.  While I'm inclined to think that Americans will probably be happier, living under the illusion that the United States is the last best hope for humanity, I don't believe that such deluded happiness is either advisable or sustainable.  (Simply based on our carbon emissions, America is not only not the last best hope for mankind, but unquestionably the chief agent of its demise.)

I am surprised to hear Doctorow advocating a return to illusions - however seemingly nurturing.  My own expectation of a novelist of Doctorow's stature (and with Doctorow's penchant for political activism - literary or otherwise) is that he'd recommend embracing a national identity based on reality: we can't go back again.  At a minimum, writing a novel about entropy seems wasted effort if retreat into illusion - an approach no less entropic than the Bush/Cheney administration - is the recommendation. 

I have no basis for speculating about the reasons for Doctorow's position, and - disappointingly - Tanenhaus didn't pursue that line of inquiry.  Perhaps I'm simply misunderstanding him; of course, in a 5-minute video, complex ideas will inevitably be oversimplified.  But, as a default, Doctorow dispelling my illusions is as unremarkable as is America undermining his. 

(Photo courtesy of Find Target Reference)  

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