By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Trujillo was a genuinely terrible figure, and Vargas Llosa makes you feel the implacable weight of his megalomania. Yet reading The Feast of the Goat feels oddly reassuring, almost nostalgic, for it evokes a brand of crude, materialistic evil that’s easy to understand. I can see why you might want to be so powerful that you can bed any woman you desire, build monuments to yourself or arrange the traffic to fit your own convenience. Such grandiose selfishness is comprehensible because it’s an extension of our normal, rational lives. This is a far cry from what we’re faced with in today’s theocratic terrorists whose vision of the future — equal parts Armageddon, the Middle Ages and Jonestown — suggests a disorientation of the soul verging on collective madness. (Vargas Llosa tackled such fanaticism in his gripping novel, The War of the End of the World, the extravagantly violent epic of a revolutionary utopian commune in 19th-century Brazil.)
Under the Goat, writes Vargas Llosa, the Dominican citizens were “brutalized by indoctrination and isolation, deprived of free will and even curiosity by the habit of servility.” One such quisling is a drunken senator named Henry Chirinos (a fictional character who, in a piece of authorial score settling, has been given the name of a onetime Vargas Llosa supporter who later became a Fujimori apologist). Trujillo’s private nickname for Chirinos is the Walking Turd, and he treats him with exactly that much respect. He uses him to write articles in the daily paper El Caribe that tell the public what to think.
From the relative safety of the U.S., it’s always tempting to feel superior to flunkies like Chirinos and all those who propped up Trujillo. But I was just finishing The Feast of the Goatwhen I was handed Newsweek’s recent “Where We Got Our Strength” cover celebrating George and Laura Bush. The story was billed as an “Exclusive,” which meant that we got to read of Laura’s “calming presence” and the president’s newfound confidence: “I believe a lot of it has to do with the prayers of the American people.” Funny, I keep praying he’ll stop saying crap like that. At a time when Bush is creating Trujillo-worthy military tribunals while urging us not to worry about losing our rights, the story is propagandistic piffle of such astonishing purity that I expected to see a byline by Henry Chirinos.
The Art Of Dying
No living writer came close to being as famous as George Harrison, who last week in L.A. died a characteristically graceful and understated death. Meanwhile the Generation Gap lived on. Although Time put Harrison on its cover, MTV barely mentioned his passing. While George Will used the occasion to bash the 1960s once again (Cokie was pissed!), the L.A. Times trotted out clichés about boomers now confronting their own mortality.
My most vivid memory of George comes from when I was a kid seeing the Beatles play at the Red Rocks in Colorado. He was famous for liking jellybeans (did he really?), and as soon as the Fab Four entered the spotlight, hysterical girls began flinging them by the handful. I was a good 75 yards from the stage, but so many candies smacked my noggin from behind that I spent the rest of the concert with my hands wrapped around the back of my head like someone under arrest. When the music and shrieking stopped, we all inched toward the exits, stepping on what seemed like a million bright, misshapen marbles. In the sudden silence, they cracked and flattened beneath our feet, a reminder that all things must pass.
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