THE COUNTRY UNDER MY SKIN

Gioconda Belli

In a store the cover says this book costs $16.00. Imagine my delight when I found a copy in new condition at a library sale for a quarter. Having read a bit, I want my two-bits back. I’ll explain.

The book’s cover states, “A Memoir of Love and War.” It is a memoir, not an autobiography, a more serious effort to convey one’s life and put it into context. A memoir might include overly described incidences. Either autobiography or memoir, there is a beginning, a middle and an end, all advanced chronologically so the reader can easily understand the progress of the tale and the life. 

There are no memoirs with flashbacks or advances in time of twenty years. That sort of book comes from from science fantasy, or are by alcoholics and other drug users.

Chapter One announces, Cuba, 1979 – arriving at a shooting range, although the author is 30 years old and the describes the trip like a elementary school outing to see animals at the zoo. 

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“I see you liked the .50, didn’t you?” Fidel mused with a malicious grin when I saw him a few days later. He had come to visit the Sandinista delegation and we had been summoned to the Presidential Suite. I said nothing. I smiled at him. He turned back and continued talking to Tito and the other companros who had been invited to Havana for the Cuban Revolution’s twentieth-anniversary.

I sat back and watched them. It was inevitable that the sight of Fidel would stir a collage of memories in my mind. Fidel was the first revolutionary I had ever heard of….

Reader to author: You are writing a memoir. You are not telling of the memories of your mind. Tell what happened. The author is to put those thoughts and related actions into a cogent form, not as a distracting interruption to the text.

And what about extra words, which undoubtedly clutter the author’s mind and her text? It is, “ I watched,” not “I sat back and watched them,” like you are a princess where her view of the open room allows her to spy on everyone – Revolutionary Number Uno meets Revolutionary Number Quinto. Plus if an author is sitting back, watching, she is describing the scene and the people, not recalling Fidel from her earlier memories. Finally, does the author have an impression of Fidel in the room other than her prosaic memories? Is Fidel there truly because he likes the clapping of the 50?” “Does he ask anyone for a match to light his cigar?” “Is he there trolling for babes?”

Not once does the author mention Fidel is Fidel Castro. She should do a little name dropping, after all she married someone named Castro but afterward dumped that hubby for another. 

The description of Fidel reminds me of Fidel Gonzales from Paraguay. I always suspected that Fidel had Leftist tendencies, so being in Cuba in 1979 would not be out-of-sorts. Fidel Gonzales is a good guy. The blackmarket is his business – electronics, leather goods (South American are the best; don’t buy Chinese) and garments. Fidel is thinking about opening his own fashion house. I don’t believe all the trademarks and labels are legit, but if a gown survives a season, then falls apart and the price is right, who cares? Fidel makes a lot of money on fake clothes.

About 1000 words later at the beginning of Chapter Two the author flips to Santa Monica, California, 1998. So much for chronology; so much for Fidel; so much for love and war. There is much to be said about muddleness. The subtitle of Chapter Two is, Where I tell of certain bizarre connections between California, interoceanic canals, and my life. 

Can anyone tell me how I can get my twenty-five cents returned?

HONESTY AND TRUTH FOR ONCE

This blog is both promotion of my own novel, Bitch., of which I’ll write more in other posts, and criticism of Radical Son by David Horowitz. Bitch. ($10) is published on the iBookstore. It is about events in Berkeley during the Nixon years (1968-1974) from the standpoint of five first year students.

Horowitz attempts to soft-pedal those years in Berkeley; he lives on Northside, the safest part of town. He is reasonable; he did everything reasonably; he made rational decisions; he understood everything; he was noteworthy enough to write a memoir. Reading his book, Horowitz sounds so plausible and sometimes reasonable, 30 years old, innocent, working for good against evil, using the purest motives while striving for justice and never being critical or judgmental of a thought, an act or plan. Everyone liked David Horowitz. He’s oblivious to dates, short on details, unaware of events, and unwilling to be honest. Horowitz and others of his ilk were phonies, or perhaps they were mentally ill.

Horowitz was part of the Berkeley radical circus, in a coterie of radicalness, a radical party cadre – the people who were responsible for ripping up Berkeley for five years. How do I know this? Bitch., 215,000 words, reading more than 3,000 books including Horowitz’s, years of writing, and having lived through it.

After reading Horowitz’s book, Radical Son, the public will understand why I entitled my book, Bitch., a period not a dot, a verb not a noun. Other than running a magazine called, Ramparts, Horowitz and his buddies colluded with “people” in Berkeley. Throughout Bitch.I call Horowitz and his pals “white radical shits.” The public can understand that term, too – mentally deranged dumb shits who constructed idiot scenarios for “street people” to perform street theater [riots].

Horowitz returns to Berkeley in January 1968 and tells of his Road to Damascus Conversion to the radical cause and its revolutionary ways. He took his son to a local elementary school, where they heard a rock band (Purple Earthquake) perform. Horowitz “felt: A new world is possible.”

Why is that is bull shit and an outright lie? Horowitz has told the reader how smart he is, and that he is well-connected with the left-people in Berkeley. He has come from London, where there is no shortage of electronic instruments and excellent rock music; he has undoubtedly heard the best rock music there. Has anyone ever hear of the Purple Earthquake ever again? [They didn’t become Creedence Clearwater, did they?] Did the band play so loudly that Horowitz broke a blood vessel in his head? Horowitz’s son, a youngster, did not have the same epiphany as his father. Horowitz did not say that he was sober or straight at the performance.

There is another explanation, somewhat goofy but with Horowitz one never knows. It comes from Charles Reich, The Greening of America, p. 260: “Music has become the deepest means of communication…When someone puts a dime in the jukebox…there is a moment of community. [P]eople begin to move, some nod heads, some drum fingers, others tap feet, others move their whole bodies…many sing…” This explanation is improbable because it suggests creativity and art, yet there is nothing in Radical Son which is creative or artistic.

Horowitz was well-connected with the left-people in Berkeley. His manner was agreeable; he was calm and voluble. Throughout Radical Son Horowitz tells about meeting wealthy people, outsiders to Berkeley, and getting money. Horowitz was the “money guy,” for that Berkeley clique as well as for Ramparts. In another book (The Destructive Generation), Horowitz tells about picking up Jane Fonda at the San Francisco Airport and getting her to Alcatraz Island. Why did Horowitz drive? Money beyond taxi fare.

Horowitz rightly criticizes Todd Gitlin’s book, The Sixties, but at least Gitlin tried. He observed the pervasive, on-coming influences from the street and hippie, youth culture including drugs. The Leftists, New Left, Weathermen and others couldn’t manage all that, and Gitlin couldn’t describe it. Horowitz avoided those agency-setting effects completely and disregarded the influences: He lived a normal middle class family life, doing middle class stuff in an upper class neighborhood. His job was a plaything; his ideals and principles – did one need ideals and principles? He was so remote and detached he never understood revolution was not possible and one could not write about it well, if loaded on drugs, blasted by iron-rock, trashed by women and among people whose business acumen didn’t extend beyond the street mantra: “grass, speed, acid.”

But if an author recognizes “a new world is possible,” shouldn’t the author develop the point – observe, do, influence, watch? On which bases was “a new world possible?” Horowitz raised the point and let it rot, in intellectual venality. He didn’t bother to wonder how people, culture and society were divorced from the narrow confines of selective, opportunist Leftist politics whose financial supporters were deceived with every check. Toward the end of his “radical” days, Horowitz met a backer who asked, “Is the revolution possible?” Radical Son proves that Horowitz is the last person in the world to know whether the revolution was possible. Strangely enough, Horowitz does not have the self-reflection and the wherewithal to phrase the setting of that meeting and the question as a joke.

Supposedly, Horowitz had a defining moment in his life when a friend with a job at a Black Panther run school in Oakland was murdered. Throughout the first half of the book Horowitz was chummy with the Panthers, visiting the Party big-wigs. He accepted Huey Newton’s statement that Eldridge Cleaver was too violent for the Party. Horowitz lied about Bobby Seale fleeing Oakland to get away from Huey Newton. Before and after the murder Horowitz casts allegations and theories about who did what, when, where and how. When he tries to talk to the pigs [police], they don’t believe him.

Horowitz was the money man. He liked talking to the top people, but everyone else wasn’t worth a shit and was a trifle. Horowitz initially recommended his murdered friend work at the Panther school. Why? He doesn’t say, but probably so he could have input, influence and control over things there, and the money. The Panthers didn’t need him; they didn’t need the woman who could have been fired and sent packing, not murdered. There is no answer, but it is a scenario which arises from circumstances. It is entirely possible that Horowitz pressed his case too hard, revealed too much and made threats. Horowitz didn’t say this in the book, but he may as well have written he was responsible for the woman’s murder, a personal message to him. [This assumes the Panthers were as irrational as Horowitz claims. They knew if he broke with them, there would be no more money, but they also knew he couldn’t prove anything. Why murder the woman?]

The murder and Horowitz’s role in pre-killing activities were a final revelation for Horowitz after being deaf, blind and mute for a decade. The Panthers had an unsavory side, and everyone but Horowitz knew it. The cops saw the street activities, gang style. Indeed the son of the murdered woman, not a cop, warned his mother. Apparently Horowitz had greater influence, and she worked for the Panthers. In books Black leaders wrote with distrust about the Panthers; Horowitz was illiterate. Black student groups kept their distance from the Panthers who were so entwined with white radical shits to become self-destructive. While Chancellor at San Francisco State, S.I. Hayakawa said, publicly, “The black radicals want a better America. And they may use revolutionary methods at moments, but they are willing to give them up as soon as it’s clear that the administration is willing to do something to improve the quality of their education and their opportunities within the system. White radicals, like the SDS, don’t want to improve America. They just want to destroy it and louse it up in every way possible. So I have nothing to offer them.” (Orrick, William, Shut It Down! A College in Crisis, Washington DC, 1969, p. 147.)

It is obvious that Horowitz would not change from his Mommy-and-Daddy brainwashing to get away from white radical shitism. And he wouldn’t support Black organizations which were trying to improve circumstances in 1968-1969. Instead, he liked the Panthers, isolated friends so long as they could be useful. He liked and likely laughed at their jiving – Martin Luther King was Martin Luther Coon. Radical Son, p. 161.

Essentially, Radical Son, is about Horowitz’s retarded progression from Pinko-Commie to Fascist. He was raised by educated Communist parents, and he believed their crap like it was Gospel. The book does not admit whether he kept his Communist rooting from parental love, or whether he was just an idiot. I’ll go with the latter. Unlike many kids of the Sixties, Horowitz never told his parents they were full of shit, which they were. A reviewer’s comment on the outside of the book says, “A courageous book, full of self-revelation.” That is erroneous. It is more accurate to say, A cowardly book, full of slow-revelation. More accurately, the book should be entitled, Memoirs of a Moron. Horowitz chooses not to be honest, to tell the truth and give a fair portrayal of himself. Instead, he displays an imbecilic rigor, revealing a lack of intellectual discipline and an idleness when seeking the truth.

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