It’s over, then. Not the post-Sandy clear-up, which will take a few weeks, months, years yet. I mean the election. No delays for major recounts, disputes or mechanical failures this time. When I went to bed last night the polls were beginning to close, and when I woke this morning the right guy had won.
What’s that you say? I’m four thousand miles away so it’s nothing to do with me? Maybe, but I can’t help having an opinion, and our own news media have been almost as full of it as yours for the past few weeks; the world gets smaller every day.
My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that Barack Obama is that rare oxymoron, an honest politician whose heart is in the right place; and Romney... isn’t. I have scant evidence other than my own perceptions for either view, and if lawyers’ letters begin to fly across the water I’ll probably regret and withdraw the second one, but based on simple observation it’s what I think.
I also think that no man (not even a woman) can be expected to clear up an almighty economic mess and get a large country back on its feet in four years, especially not when he had to spend the first year getting used to a whole new lifestyle and the last one defending his position so he can continue what he started for another four years. So whoever had won back in 2008, there would have been no quick fix. Fortunately, enough people saw that, and voted to let Obama continue what he started.
Enough of that. The circus is over, and the real business of living goes on. And I was planning to post about something completely different today anyway.
Last week’s seventh circle of American hell is still too fresh in the memory for a lighter approach; I’ll save that for another week, when your east coast is feeling less fragile and battered. A few slightly more serious thoughts have been assailing my brain, including the way familiarity, or personal connection, makes any kind of disaster more real, and not just another news item about something that happened far away. In world terms, Hurricane Katrina was huge, but I didn’t feel it personally the way I’ve felt Sandy – and yes, Jeff, you’re right; we should find scarier names. Sandy is the stray dog in Annie, for goodness sake!
I suppose finding a local connection with a national or international event is a journalistic trick, but it’s one which works. As long ago as 1988 I recall my local newspaper leading on the Lockerbie bombing, not because my home town is anywhere near Lockerbie, but because one of their reporters just happened to be stuck in the resulting traffic jam and could give a first-hand account. And in 2004 when the tsunami hit southern Asia, they followed the disappearance, and fortunately the rescue, of a local family who were working out there. Both stories brought home that sense of there but for the grace...
And, if I’m allowed to invoke Graham Greene’s icy crystal in the heart of every writer, and edge a little way back towards the stated function of this blog without sounding callous and dismissive (which I’m certainly not – I ache for you guys without power or clean water), this particular journalistic trick is one which transfers neatly to fiction.
A while ago I read a crime novel which included an account of a terrorist bombing in a city centre. It wasn’t the first of its kind I’d read, but it was the best, and I wish the name of the book hadn’t receded into the mists of memory. Sometimes that kind of scene feels second-hand, as if the author has watched it on TV and doesn’t have much idea how it actually feels. This one showed the protagonist stumbling around in debris and body parts, disorientated, his hearing temporarily gone, unable to recognize streets and buildings which had been familiar only a hour or so earlier. It felt right. It felt genuine. It felt as if this was how it really was, and as if the author had been there, done that himself. Or possibly herself; I don’t recall.
I don’t recommend seeking out terrorist bombs as a way of giving fiction an extra layer of reality, but it works on a simpler level too. Sometimes you just know the author is genuinely familiar with the place the story is set; and sometimes you know s/he isn’t.
I wonder if the next Haunted Guest House mystery by your friend and mine E J Copperman will include a scene in which Alison gazes helplessly at a pile of rubble (please, not hers!), or begins to direct a guest to that demolished rollercoaster, then suddenly remembers...