Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

He lacks the words

From today's Observer, Richard Ford writes an elegy for New Orleans:

In America, even with our incommensurable memories of 9/11, we still do not have an exact human vocabulary for the loss of a city - our great, iconic city, so graceful, livable, insular, self-delighted, eccentric, the one Tennessee Williams believed care forgot and that sometimes - it might seem - forgot to care. Other peoples have experienced their cities' losses. Some bombed away (by us). Others gone in the flood. Here now is one more tragedy we thought, by some divinity's grace that didn't arrive, we'd missed. But not. Our inept attempts at words only run to lists, costs, to assessing blame. It's like Hiroshima a public official said. But, no. It's not like anything. It's what it is. That's the hard part. He, with all of us, lacked the words.

You know (for a moment) I thought he meant Fallujah.

4 comments:

  1. Rory O'Connor1:29 pm

    It must have been a very short moment. In what sense is, or, more to the point, was Fallujah a 'graceful, livable, insular, self-delighted, eccentric'? Well, to be fair, it was certainly eccentric. The war is a disaster, an absolute disaster. Western democracies, as superior societies, have a duty to behave responsibly towards those less evolved. Killing tens of thousands of them wasn't the way to do that. But there is no hope of ending the war if (let's be frank) lefties like yourself don't admit that our way of living is better: more 'graceful, livable' and so on, than the Islamic crazies.

    You're a very good, interesting blogger, if also at times a bit too gnomic for my tastes. But this kind of clever-clever post should only be made if it has the other benefit of being clever.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rory, before I address the other comments, I should point out that I was referring to his lines:

    "Other peoples have experienced their cities' losses. Some bombed away (by us)."

    Hence my use of the brackets in my comment. He meant Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rory O'Connor8:19 pm

    OK, a bit stupid of me, and I should have read the extract closer, but please do address the other comments. The kind of stuff I'm saying does have a long heritage in English literature: from Pope and Swift (who really despised the Irish and thought us barbarians), up to Larkin's (admittedly not-great) poem 'Homage to a Government'.

    ReplyDelete
  4. First Rory, like you I don't tend to read quotations very closely, so my 'gnomic' tendency worked against me there. I really don't like reading windy prose online. The shorter the better, I think.

    So, with that in mind I'll say this: Germany was the greatest product of a western democratic civilisation. That's why we all knew it was our duty to support the Nazis in their attempt to spread it to less evolved places. Invading Poland was a 'disaster', right?

    ReplyDelete

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