Sunday, October 03, 2010

Stray Thoughts - I

1) I was listening this afternoon to Jonathan Franzen's interview on KQED's "City Arts & Lectures" series. His recent novel "Freedom" has received almost unprecedented literary attention a decade after the blockbuster success of "The Corrections". An audience member asked him what kind of people read serious fiction about unhappy people to which Franzen responded that literary research shows that fiction readers are typically "socially isolated" which doesn't imply that they don't have friends or semi-normal lives. It just means that these "readers" often feel a closer kinship to books and authors than they do to people around them.

2) Pankaj Mishra mentions in his op-ed piece in the New York Times today that the private wealth of 49 Indians on the Forbes list is nearly 31 percent of India’s gross domestic product. Most poor countries are likely to have similar statistics and the wealth gap is rising alarmingly even in the wealthy countries, particularly in the United Sates.When I see the images or read of the unending depredations of the wretched of the earth I often wonder how it is that the rich and the powerful are able to sustain such a patently unjust status quo. Why are the far more numerous poor and oppressed unable to mount any significant challenge to the ugly conditions they are doomed to endure because of unhappy accidents of birth?

Here's one answer via Lev Tolstoy in Tony Judt's brilliant last book "Ill Fares the Land":

"There are no conditions of life to which a man cannot get accustomed, especially if he sees them accepted by everyone around him." (Anna Karenina)