Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Protectors of the known things

Every once in a while I am asked the question that Troy Claycamp asks me here.

“In response to your one person with proof challenge, I have one for you. Isabell Katz watched her sister and mother enter a building at Auschwitz and never return. If there were no mass exterminations, where are they? Please let me know. I am sure that Isabell would be ecstatic to learn of the whereabouts of her family members after all these years. See the burden of proof works both ways. Prove that just one reported holocaust victim is alive and well and I'll become your biggest supporter. I will anxiously await your proof. You don't even have to do Ms. Katz's family, just pick any victim listed by the Holocaust museum and prove they were not murdered by the Nazis. I anxiously await your proof.”

Aside from the fact that I have no idea who Isabell Katz is or what document/s Mr. Claycamp is referencing, and he does not think it necessary to tell me, the initial response is that one cannot prove a negative.

But the question does bring up an important moral issue. The charge that Germans used homicidal gassing chambers to kill hundreds of thousands if not millions of innocent victims is the basis of an immense Holocaust Marketing Industry that has raised billions of dollars, primarily benefiting Jewish interests, by forwarding the unique monstrosity of the Germans. If we are going to charge the Germans with such unique monstrosity, we should be willing to allow the examination of the history of that monstrosity in the routine way that all other historical issues are examined.

But no. Taboo, censorship, arrest and imprisonment are routinely used to prevent such a historical examination. And all of it supported, or ignored, by the professorial class.

***

This past Saturday when I was packing a small bag to go to the other side to the VA hospital in La Jolla for cat scans on Sunday and a chemo session Monday (yesterday) morning, I flipped through some books piled on my desk in the bedroom. I decided to take Morley Callaghan’s “That Summer in Paris.” It’s touted as “Memories of Tangled Friendships with Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, and Some Others.” In the beat-up Penguin paperback, published in 1963, I had noted on the first page that I had started reading the book in September 1998 but didn’t finish it. I had started reading it again in January 2003 without finishing it. I decided to give it another try. I don’t know why.

This time I read it straight through from start to finish. At the hospital Saturday evening, Sunday evening, finishing it Monday afternoon during the infusion itself before I fell asleep. It was about people who in the early 1950s, when I first began to read, were who you read. I was back from Korea living with my mother and father in South Central Los Angeles, sleeping in my childhood bedroom. I would oftentimes sit on the couch in the front room with my back to the big window and read. I remember Aldous Huxley, Phillip Wylie, William Saroyan, and Hemmingway. I don’t remember where I head about any of them. I remember reading “The Sun Also Rises” and knowing that for me it was a perfect book. I didn’t understand where he found the last line: “Isn’t it pretty to say so?” Who would ever think of such a line to end such a book as “The Sun Also Rises”? It wasn’t even English. Of course it wasn’t. A few years later I would realize it was something of a transliteration of a line that could be used in Spanish: “Que bonito decir eso.” Now I no longer remember if the word in English was “say,” or “think.” Either works in Spanish.

At one place in “That Summer” Callaghan was talking with Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald asked him: “How carefully do you read reviews?” As it turned out, Callaghan did not read reviews with the care that Fitzgerald did. It was Fitzgerald’s view that by reading every review with the greatest attention that one reviewer, even if missing the point, might make one helpful remark.

Callaghan writes: “I looked at him in wonder, the author of “The Great Gatsby,” pouring over some dumb, unsympathetic review, hoping for one little flash of insight that might touch his own imagination, make him aware of some flaw in his work, make him a better artist.”

Callaghan had a different point of view. “In all America how many critics were there who were capable of submitting themselves to the objective—the thing written—and judging it for what it was. … What was the whole academic training? I asked. A discipline in seeing a thing in terms of something else. Always the comparison. The poem, the story, had to be fitted into the familiar scheme of things, or it didn’t exist and the academic man was lost. A work had to be brushed off if the critic couldn’t comfortably make it look like something familiar to him. It had always seemed to me that most reviewers were simply protectors of the known things.”

“Protectors of the known things.” That’s where Callaghan caught my attention. Critics, academics, protectors of known things. The Holocaust. Holocaust revisionism. For thirty years “The Hoax of the Twentieth Century” has been condemned by academics without let, yet never once examined in one paper in one peer-reviewed journal anywhere in America. “Protectors of known things.” Historians and literary critics both deal with story. One perhaps imagined, but one that actually took place, in some form. An historical event. A story. All the academics can do is protect the Holocaust story as a “known thing.”

Callaghan was right. He agrees that Fitzgerald was right too. You can learn from a careless, even stupid review of a story. I’ve learned a lot from the “reviews” of “The Hoax of the Twentieth Century.” Professors. As a class. Protectors of the known things.

***

I should say that the cat scans on Sunday showed that the malignant nodes were diminishing in size everywhere from the neck on down, while those in the stomach had disappeared entirely. So, more good news. No bad news. I feel pretty good. Compared to how I felt a few weeks ago.

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