Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Book Reviews: All the Major Constellations, by Pratima Cranse and Where Desert Rivers Die, by Michael Harris … AND, a Lesson from the Tea Party …

All the Major Constellations, by Pratima Cranse … it is 1995 and a trio of friends, Andrew, Marcia and Sara, are about to graduate and take big strides out of their homes into new social settings. Andrew has a crush on a member of a Christian sect, Laura. There’s a car accident that leaves Sara in a coma and Marcia, the class valedictorian, tending to her. Meanwhile, Andrew is consumed with feelings of guilt/resentment, and an overwhelming desire to be with the unobtainable Laura. At home, things aren’t cool; Andrew’s jock brother, Brian, seems to enjoy smacking Andrew around emotionally and physically, but when he’s accused of rape, their father, who is also a bit physical when drunk, can’t handle the embarrassment. Brian is clearly his favorite, and Andrew’s mother is a bit of a mess herself.
When Laura invites Andrew to join her evangelical group. Uh-oh … do the sparks fly? Is there more to it? Andrew befriends a guy who seems ashamed of his sexuality. Is he with the religious group to overcome it? Is he attempting to pray the gay away? No spoilers here, amici.
I’ll tell yous this much, you’ll want to keep turning the pages to find out how it all turns out for every wonderful character in this book. This terrific debut novel is definitely a must read.
Kirkus and Publishers Weekly both gave this novel *STARRED* reviews.

Where Desert Rivers Die, by Michael Harris … You punch out a guy at work and you pay the price by losing your job, but what if you already lost your job? What’s to stop you from pounding the S.O.B. then? It’s a question Warren Holt doesn’t bother to ask himself until it’s too late, and the punch has bigger consequences than he can imagine (although he does imagine a bunch of scenarios as he heads out of town toward the desert and ultimately Denver). Warren is a man down on his luck and on the wrong end of capitalism. He’s just bought his wife an American dream home but cutbacks at the paper lands him a ticket to the unemployment line. His stepson, Ray, is a good kid born to a Mexican mom. When Warren escapes to a small town, he takes Ray with him (yes, it’s kind of kidnaping when you think about it), and they stay at a motel with a restaurant where Ray meets a waitress, a Mexican girl/woman, Maria. He experiences what he believes might be love at first sight. Overwhelmed by his feelings of a possible first love, Ray can’t ignore Maria. But there’s a story behind her situation, and it isn’t pretty. Things fly out of control fast, until Ray makes a decision to escape. There’s a manhunt on for Warren and Ray wants out, but he wants to take Maria with him. It’s a fast paced novel with different perspectives guiding the way. Difficult to put down and fulfilling at every turn. Michael Harris is one hall of an author.
A Lesson from the Tea Party … consider this MY answer to all those Democrats who can’t stand to read my Facebook posts calling for the left to abandon the Democratic Party in the 2016 Presidential election. First of all, let’s get a few things straight and in perspective.
With the exception of ONE candidate from either party (Sanders), all the candidates are currently playing to their base and NOT stating what they’ll actually be able to do if elected.
No, I don't think Bernie can get one-eighth of what he wants to do, but he isn't stating something new. He's been stating his case for 40+ years now, and more importantly, it isn't about what he can or can't do. It's about a political revolution that rejects the corruption our current system protects. So there's more to his campaign than meets the eye.
Meanwhile, the GOP candidates are trying to sound tougher than they can act once in office, saying crazy shit (as those of us on the left perceive them) … they’ll build walls, they’ll keep refugees out, they’ll engage ISIS with boots on the ground, they’ll increase defense spending, they’ll give even more tax breaks to the rich and everybody else (while balancing the budget?), etc. The recent string of attacks by ISIS on innocent populations (in the air and on the ground) have shifted the political winds to the far right. Even on the democratic side of the spectrum, Hillary Clinton, who one week claimed she was “moderate and proud of it,” then a few weeks later claimed she was a “progressive who wants to get things done” (translation: establishment politician who will do what the political winds and/or what the money that bought her tell her to do), is now talking tougher than her usual hawkish self. But let’s face it, amici, both the GOP and DNC candidates are mostly talking shit to garner support from their bases. The single exception is Bernie Sanders.
While the blowhard on the right (who has a more liberal background than Hillary Clinton and switches positions about as often), The Donald, is talking nonsense and gathering most (although not all) of his support from those proud to never have attended college (the flag waivers who can’t (or refuse) to see the hypocrisy of wanting to go to war again while being terrified to take in refugees), nobody else takes him seriously (certainly not enough to elect him president).

So it goes.
By now, most of Bernie’s supporters (myself included), kind of know it’s a fruitless attempt to win this election. A) the DNC would duke their diapers if a candidate who refused corporate coin ever won their nomination (they are EQUALLY as corrupt in that regard as the GOP), and B) the attacks by ISIS have fomented more than enough fear for America to jump back into yet another war it can’t possibly win.
So, what does this all have to do with lessons from the Tea Party, yous ask? I’ll tell yous … first of all, no matter how crazy the tea party may sound to me and most liberals, they have been an effective force regarding the GOP. They continue to sway the GOP platform. We liberals may think it’s insane, but there’s no denying their power.
Secondly, if you live in a mostly democratic state (i.e., a blue state), chances are more than likely your single vote for Jill Stein and/or decision to stay home and watch a hockey game are not going to change the outcome of an election in your blue state. I, for instance, can only hope that my single vote (or my wife’s vote), is/are the deciding votes in New Jersey, where I had to register as a Democrat this election (which pisses me off no end) because it is a closed primary and I want to vote for Bernie Sanders … I can only HOPE my vote is the one that costs the DNC and Hillary Clinton the presidential election, no matter who is challenging her from the GOP.
Thirdly, and most importantly in my opinion, is the fact that not only is our election process a complete and utter sham that has very little to do with the democracy we’re supposed to be, but voting for either major party’s candidates is a reward to the same corrupt system. I don’t know how (or why) most people can agree to vote the so-called “lesser of two” evils and continue to keep the corruption in place for another 4-8 years. It baffles me the way my not caring who wins the election under the current system baffles loyal Dems.

To get into the damage Democratic Presidents have done vs. Republican Presidents only thickens the quagmire. It was a democrat who started the war in Vietnam, and another who escalated it. It was taken over by a Republican who took it even further and involved us in bombing a neutral state, Cambodia, and thus helped bring to power another evil force, the Khmer Rouge (i.e., the killing fields, so make no mistake, they were at least as brutal as ISIS). It was also a democrat, Bill Clinton, who repealed Glass-Steagall and set the stage for the 2007-8 financial crisis on Wall Street. Clinton also enacted NAFTA, no matter how much Republicans began the process, it was Clinton who enacted it (so quit lying to yourselves about that fact). And we all know about Iraq and how progressive Hillary Clinton was with that disaster. What we don’t seem to care about is her role in the Libyan disaster deposing Muammar Gaddafi.
And is there anyone from either party more comfortable with Wall Street than the Democrat, Hillary Clinton?
Outside of war, Supreme Court appointees are the most influential political decisions a president can make, but does anyone in the Democratic Party really believe Hillary Clinton won’t opt for a moderate appointee? Will her appointee vote to overturn Citizens United? We know what she says, but since when can Hillary Clinton be trusted? And let’s not forget that it was a GOP appointed majority court that just ruled in favor of the ACA (Obama care) twice, and also ruled in favor of gay marriages.
Once again, more important than any of the above, is the reform in our election process that is an absolute requirement for us to return to democracy (if we ever really were one). We need a third and fourth, and even a fifth political party. For the left to continue to accept being ignored by a political machine (the DNC) changes absolutely nothing under the “lesser of two evils” justification.
So, please don’t ask me again how I can vote for Jill Stein, once Bernie is defeated by the machine. While both Noam Chomsky and Bernie Sanders himself say it is best to support the lesser of two evils once the lines have been drawn, I couldn’t disagree with either more. Chomsky is one of the most brilliant minds of our lifetime, and he fears the noble campaign Bernie is running will quickly fade once the election is over, no matter who wins (he also doesn’t believe the DNC would allow a Sanders candidacy). He’s for a ground game, the likes of which Bernie is running, but it needs to last (and he’s right about that). Most likely it won’t because our economy and the government it owns has us all way more involved in survival than political movements. The problem is, the longer the corruption continues, the more burdened with survival we all remain.
And please don’t ask me how I can accept a Trump or Cruz or Rubio or another Bush, while you vote for another Clinton and reward a process that spits in your face.
You know what I tell yous who swear by the lesser of two evils justification? I says to you, I says, “Grow a fucking pair.”

AJ+ rocks TK …