Today is October 3, 2016, and we have a special edition. I’ll only point out one historic event: Thomas Wolfe, one of my favorite authors, was born on this day in 1900. He died in 1938 at the age of 37, succumbing to tuberculosis of the brain. Many literature critics I’ve spoken (you’d recognize their names) disdain him for overwriting, and yes, he did at times, but when he was “on” there was no American writer that could so effectively capture the look and spirit of America. Even William Faulkner, in an interview at Washington & Lee University in 1958, gave Wolfe substantial plaudits:
Unidentified participant: Sir, you mentioned Thomas Wolfe [as being of your generation. Would you comment on his place in American] […]?
William Faulkner: It’s too soon to—to say, I think. It takes—takes a little time before the—the dross evaporates from anyone’s work, until there’s a distance for a true perspective. At one time, I was asked to—what I thought of my contemporaries. I said, “It’s too soon to tell.” The questioner said, “Well, haven’t you got any opinion of them at all.” I—I said, “Opinion of who?” He named Wolfe, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Caldwell, and me. I rated them then Wolfe first, me second, Dos Passos, Caldwell, and Hemingway. [audience laughter] Not on—on what we’d accomplished, but only on the single general ground I could find, which was the—the attempt to do more than we could do, on the failure. I rated Wolfe because his was the most splendid failure. He had tried hardest to take all the experience that he was capable of observing and imagining and put it down in one book, on the head of a pin. He had the courage to experiment, to be—to write nonsense, to be foolish, to be sentimental, in the attempt to get down the—that single moving and passionate instance of man’s struggle. I rated myself next because I had tried next hardest to get everything on one page. I rated the others down to Hemingway, not on the value of his work, which I thought was, per se, the best because it was intact and complete. But his was—showed less desire to try to get all of man’s heart onto the pinhead. So I think it’s too soon for anyone to have a—have an opinion about Wolfe. Maybe the only opinion to have about anybody is, “Do I like to read him or don’t I?” And if I like to read him, he’s all right. If I don’t like to read him, then he may be all right for somebody else, but he ain’t my cup of tea. [audience laughter]
If you want the very best of Wolfe without the fluff that many critics dislike, read the story “The Child by Tiger” (1937; free access online), about the lynching of a black man who could no longer bear his menial job and the oppression of the segregationist South. The story was later included in his postmortem novel The Web and the Rock.
Now the big news: it’s “Black Monday,” and the women of Poland are on strike today, not working but marching in protest of the draconian abortion laws being considered by the national parliament. Women throughout Europe (below) also protested in solidarity with their Polish sisters. As the Independent reports, the Polish government is actually considering going backwards on abortion, banning all of them:
Terminations are currently permitted in Poland, where 87 per cent of the population identify as Catholic, only when the life of the foetus is under threat, when there is a grave threat to the health of the mother, or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
If the proposed ban were enacted, all terminations would be criminalised and women who had abortions could be sent to prison for up to five years. Doctors found to have assisted with a termination would also be liable for prosecution and a prison sentence.
Critics say the new law could mean woman suffering miscarriages would be suspected and investigated, and doctors might be put off conducting even routine procedures on pregnant women for fear of being accused of facilitating an abortion.
The new Polish government is extremely right wing, and of course the Catholic Church, which has an iron fist in that country, is behind all this. Malgorzata thinks the abortion law will pass, even though it’s in violation of EEU stipulations (as are the restrictive abortion laws of Ireland, but that hasn’t stopped them from being enforced). Thank you, Vatican!
Malgorazata and Andrzej are homebodies, loath to leave their computers, but this issue was sufficiently important that they made a protest sign and joined the men and women protesting in Wloclawek, 45 minutes away. I asked how the protest went and Malgorzata reported this:
For a town like Wloclawek and for the awful weather (after months and months without one drop from the sky it was pouring down today) it was quite a lot of people. I think 150-200, all clad in black – the whole action is called “Black Monday”. There were young women and old women, young men and old men – I think it was a success. After some speeches by young, wonderful women they were going to march through the streets to the municipal authority.
Wearing black as was requested, Malgorzata and Andrzej carried a sign they made; it says “Women are human beings. Embryos are embryos.”
Even Hili added her plaintive meows to the protest:
Hili: What a pity that I can’t go with you for the demonstration.A: Why?Hili: I would tell the government that we girls need liberation theology to free us from their stupidity.
Hili: Szkoda, że nie mogę pojechać z wami na demonstrację.
Hili: Powiedziałabym im, że my, dziewuchy, potrzebujemy teologii wyzwolenia od głupoty.
And here are some tw**ts, provide by Grania, showing solidarity from the women of other countries. Ireland:
Solidarity from the women of Iceland. As one woman says, “Any limits to women’s rights are limits to women’s rights around the world.”
And news from The Guardian, with a photo of a protestor in Warsaw: