The Feast of the Goat

[Amazon Link]

People who haunt the "Books" view on Pun Salad know that my fiction tastes tend toward the low-middlebrow. I'm even being self-charitable with that. But I came across a Jay Nordlinger column at NRO that raved about The Feast of the Goat by Nobel Prizewinner Mario Vargas Llosa. With praise like this:

And let me tell you: I don’t know of a book that captures more precisely — more searchingly, more deeply, more perfectly — what a dictatorship is, and what a country in the thrall of a dictator is, than this novel, The Feast of the Goat. It is a masterpiece of thought, understanding, and writing.

OK, I can break down and read some highfalutin literature once in a great while. And, of course, Mr. Nordlinger is on-target. The book is only semi-fiction: many of the characters were real, and many of the described events actually happened. I'm nowhere near the expert Mr. Nordlinger is on dictatorships, but Llosa masterfully describes the terror, sycophancy, and horrific arbitrariness involved in despotism, whether in Russia, Germany, China, or some dinky half-island nation.

It's set in the Dominican Republic, and it's centered around the rule and demise of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, dictator and an all-around corrupt, vain, and murderous asshole. Through much of the book, three plot threads are intertwined.

In the first (entirely fictional), middle-aged Urania Cabral returns from her 35-year self-exile to see her decrepit father. She's now a successful globe-trotting World Bank executive, but she hasn't communicated with anyone on the island since leaving in 1961. Gradually, we learn her story.

The second thread follows Trujillo on the last day of his evil life. (Sorry, I guess that might be a spoiler.)

And finally, the anti-Trujillo plotters are followed, concentrating on the assassins waiting to ambush the dictator as his car travels a predictable path on a country highway. Lesson to would-be tyrants: don't be predictable. Lesson to would-be tyrannicides (also a slight spoiler): have a solid backup plan just in case one of your co-conspirators gets cold feet after the assassination.

The book jumps around in time, so you have to pay attention. Disconcertingly, flashbacks occur with no typographical clues whatsoever other than a paragraph break, so you really have to pay attention. A little disconcerting, but I got used to it. Sensitive readers might be triggered by graphic descriptions of torture, murder, and rape. These are meant to be revolting, and are.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-09

Proverbs 19:22 looks like a non sequitur:

22 What a person desires is unfailing love;
    better to be poor than a liar.

That's the New International Version translation, our default. I believe a paraphrase might be: you're better off getting your unfailing love from a poor man; you won't get it from a liar. That makes a certain amount of sense.


■ John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has some bad news: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Still Endanger U.S. Economy.

Nearly a decade since the housing bust of 2008 sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin, much legislation has been enacted and regulation promulgated in the name of “financial reform”—to little effect. Many of the problems that precipitated the financial crisis continue to threaten the American financial system.

Fannie and Freddie haven't been reformed so much as they've been transformed into 100% socialist enterprises. Which means Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer will be on the hook if when things go south, a direction in which socialist enterprises invariably go.


■ At NRO, David French invites us to Lo and Behold the Free-Speech Hypocrisy of the Corporate Left. Working off Apple CEO Tim Cook's acceptance speech of the Newseum's "Free Expression Award"…

Late last month, Cook’s company joined 36 other corporate hypocrites (such heavyweights as Yelp, Amazon, American Airlines, and Citigroup) to urge the Supreme Court to rule against the free-speech rights of a small business, Masterpiece Cakeshop. This tiny Colorado bakery did nothing more and nothing less than exercise the very same rights that Cook proclaimed in April: It used its voice to defend its corporate values. Just as Apple was unwilling to use its App Store to express ideas it found offensive, Masterpiece Cakeshop chose not to create a rainbow wedding cake to celebrate a gay wedding. Just as Apple claims that it engages in expression, not discrimination, Masterpiece Cakeshop says it serves all comers, without regard to race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

I believe the current Apple et. al. ideology is: free expression is just fine, unless we disagree with it.

French's bottom line, with which I agree: "Tim Cook, give back your award."


■ Rand Paul was My Guy in the 2016 election, until he dropped out. Now, thanks to an attack by a friendly neighbor, he's laid up with…

A pleural effusion, it says here, is a buildup of fluid in the cavity around the lungs, making breathing difficult.

Matt Welch notes the outpouring of sympathy deranged ideology-based sneering from our "compassionate" friends on the left: Rand Paul Getting Attacked Is What’s Wrong with Libertarianism. Wait, What?

But if you think a seemingly non-political man-fight would escape the relentless Politicization of Everything, you haven't been paying attention. By dint of his unusual ideology, Rand Paul suffers from the Weird Man's Burden, which means sustaining an unprovoked assault is a splendid occasion to call him an asshole.

Welch has a dispiriting number of examples. It doesn't take any imagination at all to think how the responses would differ if the Rs and Ds were reversed.


■ It's been alleged the attack had nothing to do with politics, instead was over Sen. Paul's insistence on growing pumpkins and maintaining a compost pile. That's now disputed, for example in the Washington Examiner: Rand Paul's neighbors rip media 'landscaping dispute' reports.

But seven neighbors in the Rivergreen gated community told Secrets Wednesday that the Pauls are friendly homeowners who kept their property tidy.

“The Paul’s landscaping looks just like everyone’s place in Rivergreen. Wish I could get him to cut my lawn,” said neighbor Robert Warner. “As a friend, neighbor and senator, Rand has been first class in every way. What I find amazing is the fact that he cuts his own grass. Our neighborhood is fortunate that the Paul’s live here,” he added.

Something smells, and it's not compost.