Items I Borrowed From the Library This Month
By Brian Polk
By Kurt Vonnegut
Sadly, in my pursuit to read all the Vonnegut books, I have come to the end. This was the only one of his novels that I had yet to read, and it was a most marvelous book on which to finish. Bluebeard tells the story of Rabo Karabekian, a one-eyed veteran of World War II, who as a youngster serves as an apprentice for a world-renowned artist named Dan Gregory, only to serve in said war where he lost said eye. When he returns to the states, he hobnobs with Abstract Expressionists, buying their paintings and eventually amassing a priceless art collection, which he displays in a mansion he inherits from his late wife. Eventually he meets Circe Berman, a pill-popping author of novels for young adults. Berman cajoles Karabekian into writing his autobiography, which serves as the prose for Bluebeard. Throughout his book, Karabekian constantly refers to his career as a failed painter—who was often on the receiving end of criticism because his paintings lacked soul, and because the paint he used, Sateen Dura-Luxe, eventually detached from all his works, leaving blank canvasses—and to his potato barn, where he kept his biggest secret under lock and key. What’s the secret, you may wonder? You’ll find the answer in Bluebeard, one of the author’s best novels, and an absolute pleasure to read at the end of my Vonnegut journey.
Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now—Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything
By David SirotaAbout halfway through Back to Our Future, I realized that I’ve heard of this David Sirota character. In fact, he hosts a liberal daily talk show on KKZN-AM760 and he is a resident of the Mile High City. How about that? And he reminds me of Matt Taibbi—who, incidentally enough, writes a blurb extolling the virtues of the book on the back cover—in that he’s just as smart, funny, and critical of injustice both on the right and left of the political spectrum. When I read a review in the Onion AV Club assuaging my suspicions that this book might be a bad nostalgia trip, I checked out a copy from the library. What I found in the text within affirmed what I assumed: The 1980s ruined America both culturally and politically. As Sirota explains, it was the decade that the yippies became the yuppies (cue Jerry Rubin), being a hippy was passé (the number-one sitcom was Family Ties, a show whose main attraction was a young Republican named Alex Keaton who constantly mocked his hippy parents because they weren’t self-centered, money-obsessed pricks), and the right blamed liberals and liberal politicians for the U.S. Military’s defeat in Vietnam (you’re forgetting one thing: Rambo). And then there was Reagan, the biggest asshole of all. The cultural shift was aided and abetted by a slew of propaganda, which included everything from movies (Red Dawn and Top Gun), television shows (The A-Team and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), and even sports (the deification of individual athletes like Michael Jordan, while de-emphasizing the team effort). Unlike the 1960s when the youth was obsessed with justice for all, the 1980s gave us one of the most self-centered, greedy, mean-spirited generations of all time. The result is weak-willed liberals (see Clinton) and the money uber alles/me first attitude that continues to pollute our culture. Back to Our Future offers compelling evidence for why our culture is in the toilet and how the decade of the 80s put us there.