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A CREDIBLE CLAIM

I read the New York Times article of April 12 (updated April 29), “Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden”. The writers did not express an ultimate opinion about the truth or falsity of Ms. Reade’s accusation, but the overall weight of the article seemed to raise serious questions about the veracity of her claim. The article had a link to the podcast of Ms. Reade’s interview by Katie Halper in March. So I listened to the podcast of the full interview, more than one hour. She is totally credible. I was spellbound. She describes the incident so well that I can see it in my mind’s eye as if I had been there watching. I can say that about very few of the witnesses I have questioned over the years. I can see Joe Biden saying and doing exactly what Ms. Reade describes.

There are people in the media attempting to find inconsistencies but they focus mainly on outlying and second hand facts that are largely immaterial to the alleged incident itself. And Ms. Reade herself explained why it took so many years for this allegation to evolve, and why Joe Biden still triggers self-doubt and ambivalence for her. Well, there is no doubt in my mind that the incident happened and that it happened exactly or very nearly as she describes it.

The podcast interview is not testimony, in the legal sense. It is a statement, in a loose question and answer format. Ms. Reade is a victim/witness. Because people vary so much in so many ways, witness statements can range from extremely poor to unsatisfactory to average to good to great. In her interview by Katie Halper, Ms. Reade is a great witness. She is not merely credible or plausible, she is just about as good a witness as you could ask for. That’s based on forty years spent mostly in court. To use a well-worn descriptive formula, if I’ve seen one witness I’ve seen fifty thousand. Tara Reade is perceptive and articulate. She has depth and sensibility. She reminds me of my daughter. There are details and nuances in Ms. Reade’s statement. She puts everything in the real-life context of her own personal situation and the atmosphere of Senator Biden’s office. She has insight. Insight into her reactions, as well as Senator Biden’s actions and reactions. She is responsive, she is direct. Her reluctance to answer one of the particular questions is completely appropriate, it’s understandable. It hurts. There are things that she remembers and things she doesn’t. That is also appropriate. She does not try to make up answers for what she doesn’t remember. She is testifying from real memories, for better or for worse.

So, what does Joe Biden do? I will still vote for him either way. But I hope he does what Brett Kavanaugh didn’t do. I hope Joe Biden does what he did last year and admits that he’s not a saint, that he used to take liberties with women and their bodies, that he did something in 1993 that he is very ashamed of and that caused Tara Reade a lot of pain, and that he hopes he has begun to atone by becoming a better person and a champion of women and all the other segments of humanity who really need a champion in the White House right now.

SOAR’s new album

I like the review, from theowlmag.com, of SOAR’s new album. I adopt his conclusions wholeheartedly. I don’t have much to add. Like I’ve said before about SOAR, I’m in love with their four-part harmonies, and also the times that they all take their voices off into separate melodies that blend like a cool fruit smoothie. Their guitars, bass and drums are voices, too. They sing with a whole range of near-human thoughts and impressions.

SOAR image

Soft Dial Tone is an enigmatic title, and there is much to ponder in the lyrics of the album. There are meanings in those words that I may never resolve, but we can try, can’t we? That’s what counts. Isn’t it? There is some overall feeling of transience, impermanence throughout the album. How timely. I was particularly struck with the eerie foreshadowing of the pandemic that has become our new reality. The second track, “Corner of a Room”, says “wash your hands” and feels like there’s no turning back from the choice between staying home and leaving home. We are all cornered, in a sense. Until we aren’t. And so the unsettling, disconnected nature of our lives today is echoed, like a Soft Dial Tone, in this album that is sometimes slow and contemplative, sometimes upbeat, and always ambivalent about whether there is any lasting difference between the two.

Go to Bandcamp at https://soartheband.bandcamp.com/album/soft-dial-tone

Truth is “Stranger” than . . .

Albert Camus, gagnant de prix Nobel, portrait en buste, posé au bureau, faisant face à gauche, cigarette de tabagisme.jpg

It may sound like the LAST thing you’d want to read right now, but in a weird way it could be the feel-good novel of the year. The Plague, by Albert Camus, is the story of a major city under siege by a deadly virus. Set in Oran, Algeria, in the 1940’s, it’s a graphic portrayal of a city suddenly infested with Bubonic Plague, strictly quarantined and cut off from the rest of the world. With little outside help, the city and its stunned residents must cope with the unreality of their situation alongside its very real threat to their lives. With contagion and corpses around every corner, the moral fiber of the populace is tested to its limits.

La Peste book cover.jpg

As in all his major writings, Camus questions the fundamental nature of life and death. As hard as it is to define those questions, the answers are even more elusive. But The Plague is a beautiful, yes beautiful, frightening and inspiring study of human nature in all its imperfection. And while we all want to escape, somehow, from the sadness and fear that right now bombard us from every direction, perhaps a deep dark look into the mirror of literary fiction is a truer escape, one that might comfort us longer and reflect a bit of light upon our path.

“TWO-BIT REVIEW” . . . The Plutocrat, by Booth Tarkington

” Upon the wine list the General discovered a red Beaune, a dear lost love of his, he said—and not only said, but copiously proved by wearing his lost love’s colours, ere long, as his own complexion.”

BOOK? . . . The Plutocrat, by Booth Tarkington (1927)

WHAT KIND? . . . Novel

BE MORE SPECIFIC . . . Romance, but tempered somewhat by a jaded irony

ABOUT WHAT? . . . A 1920’s Atlantic Ocean voyage and North Africa land tour embarked upon by a young playwright named Laurence Ogle (I had a high school math teacher named Miss Ogle. Probably doesn’t mean anything). Well, for Laurence Ogle, this is a case of first love. They are barely out of U.S. waters before he is unwittingly smitten by a co-voyager, a Frenchwoman roughly a decade beyond his years, but what young man cannot relate to Ogle’s puppy-like helplessness, to the torment, the humiliation, the splendor of his infatuation? Ogle is not a simple character but, seeing only her loveliness, he discovers much more complexity in Madame Momoro’s nature than he is equipped to understand. The most obvious obstacle for Ogle is the gregarious Mr. Tinker, who seems to be everywhere that he, and Madame Momoro, happen to be. A ship can be like a prison when there is a ruggedly-handsome Midwestern plutocrat on board who can’t be avoided. Even North Africa can feel pretty small.

SIGNIFICANCE? . . . This book illustrates the difference between realism and romance. Not in literature. In life. Guess which one wins in the end. And guess what the book is really saying about class distinctions in America. And guess how many reversals of fortune you will encounter in its pages. And guess what mysteries will be presented and puzzled over. And guess how many other things you will see in the characters and the plot that I did not see.

SO SHOULD I READ IT OR WHAT? . . . Uh-huh. Very funny, in parts, but that’s just the icing on the cake. There is sophistication, artistry and astuteness. The Plutocrat is a mislaid American gem of a novel, obscured and overshadowed by Tarkington’s other books only because it is not of very epic proportions. But you don’t find writing like this every day. Hardly ever, nowadays.

YOU GOT ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD? . . . I’m gonna get me some more books by this fella Tarkington because I probably shouldn’t even be writing little Two-bit reviews until I make sure I know what I’m talking about.

New CAVE BABIES album

Some I’d heard before, others I’m hearing for the first time. Free-wheeling and original. Okay, some of it is a little crazy.

The words and music are co-equal. There’s a lot of pain in those words and notes, but, encouragingly, even more of hopefulness. And a consistent thread of humor. Love the humor. I’ll guarantee you, there’s nothing like this on the Grammys.

https://cavebabies.bandcamp.com/album/emotional-intimacy

Puzzling over “The Four Quartets”

This is a re-blog from THE ARGUMENTATIVE OLD GIT, my favorite literary blog. . .

The Argumentative Old Git

I have spent the first few days of this new year puzzling over T. S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets.

But when have I not puzzled over these endlessly mysterious and elusive works? And will there ever be a time when I won’t be puzzling over them? As Eliot put it himself, we shall not cease from exploration. He continued:

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Looked at logically, this does not make sense. Having declared categorically that our explorations will not end, Eliot immediately goes on to speak of the condition that will characterise the end that he has already declared will never happen.

The four poems, the “quartets”, as Eliot calls them, are full of such contradictions:

                      Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the…

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