Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fred Waitzkin The Dream Merchant

Originally appeared in the 4/20/13
Fred Waitzkin The Dream Merchant

Early on in this irresistible novel, Jim, its main character, informs the narrator that: "The greatest thrill for a gambler. . . is losing a fortune and bottoming out." Bottoming out may be a strange way to get your kicks, definitely not everyone's idea of a good time, but Jim, over the course of his long life — we wave goodbye to him when he's eighty — makes a habit of it, nose-diving repeatedly, touching bottom and resurfacing. For him: "Having nothing, starting again, unhampered, is so much sweeter than standing pat and being mediocre."

There's no danger of Jim standing pat or being mediocre. He wouldn't know how, in his trajectory from impoverished boyhood on a farm in Canada, where he kept his family from hunger by learning the language of cows in order to track them and bring them home, to his career in the Brazilian Amazon, where he amasses a fortune, neither his first nor his last, heading up a gold rush.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Gatekeepers: A Documentary

Originally appeared in the 4/13/13

Saw the Israeli documentary, The Gatekeepers, finally. Had put off doing so because I thought I knew what to expect. But the movie was better, richer, than expected.

My views have long since been that Israel's occupation of the West Bank is not just bad for the occupied but also for the occupiers. How nice, but how facile, for me, in the United States, to hold to such a fine and principled conclusion. It's another thing entirely when four pillars of the Israeli defense establishment, four ex-chiefs of the Shin Bet, Israel's major security organization, affirm the same thing, as they do, in this film.