Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

01/12/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 28, Whole Number 1997


Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,

Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,

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      Noise on the Line (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

      Mini Reviews, Part 2: THE DINNER, VICTORIA & ABDUL,

            and DARKEST HOUR (comment by Mark R. Leeper)

      NEW YORK 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (audiobook review

            by Joe Karpierz)

      ABE & PHIL'S LAST POKER GAME (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

      CRAZY FAMOUS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

      THE GIFTED (television review by Dale Skran)

      The Traveling Money (letters of comment by David Goldfarb

            and Dorothy J. Heydt)

      The NFA, Top Ten Films of 2017, and ORPHAN BLACK (letter

            of comment by John Purcell)


            1912-1972) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)




TOPIC: Noise on the Line (comments by Mark R. Leeper)


We are now finding out how much Abraham Lincoln relied on the

telegraph getting his news of the Civil War just as the battle was

occurring.  But he said that he never understood why Grant's

dispatches always ended with the same nonsense string of characters

colon-minus-close_parenthesis.  [-mrl]




TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 2 (comment by Mark R. Leeper)


In my last mini-review column I explained why I get to see films

submitted to the On-line Film Critic Society for award

consideration.  Some of these films will show up at in popular film

theaters, some in art houses, maybe some on Amazon Prime or

NetFlix.  But frequently nobody yet knows where and when the movies

will become available.  Getting a film reviewed is part of the

process of selling the film to a distributor.  It is like getting

inspected a house you intend to buy. But at least these reviews

will give my impressions.  Each film below is rated on my -4 to +4





Two wealthy couples have a very luxurious dinner while they discuss

their family's problems.  Their problems involve mental illness,

but it takes a while to get specifics.  They want to decide what

should their reaction be after a boy from each immediate family was

involve in a terrible incident.  The viewer does not know what the

incident was an it takes a long time before the viewer gets enough

clues to realize who is who and what has happened.  Stan Lohman

(Richard Gere) is running for Governor of his state and he tries to

be the leader of the two families.  He is continually stymied by

his cynical and annoying younger brother Paul (Steve Coogan).  THE

DINNER really has a powerhouse cast including Laura Linney, Rebecca

Hall, and Chloe Sevigny.  The film is intentionally confusing as

the audience finds out bit by bit what had happened.  The

characters keep being interrupted, stretching the film out to a

full to hours.  Coogan is good for his role, but listening to his

rants may be the most painful thing the viewer will do all day.  To

some degree the narrative is stretched by documentary footage about

the Battle of Gettysburg.  (Paul is a history teacher planning to

write a book about the battle.)  Oren Moverman, who directs from a

script he based on the novel by Herman Koch, could have asked his

actors to enunciate more clearly.  The film also uses overlapping

dialog, further obfuscating some of the speeches.  This is a film

requiring some patience, but if one waits long enough she or he

will be pulled into the moral can of worms the families face.  Then

again, he or she may be seduced by to descriptions and images of

the marvelous food.  This film is available from either of the

NetFlix services.  Rating: low +1



This film is based on a true story that pitted xenophobia against

xenophilia in the household of Queen Vitoria.  Abdul is a Muslim

living in Agra almost in the shadow of the Taj Mahal.  He is chosen

to take part in a ceremony of the gratitude of the Indian people

for the Queen.  As a foreigner Abdul is bewildered by the absurd

etiquette required of people dealing with the Queen.  However,

Victoria notices the tall, handsome Abdul and she chooses to get to

know him.  Each develops confidence in the other, and the two open

up to each other.  Abdul's self-taught erudition impresses the

Queen and they begin to spend more time together.  The very elderly

Victoria begins act years younger and to feel more alive.  The

household sees no profit in having Victoria befriending Indians,

whom they feel are an inferior people.   The court does what they

can to break up the friendship.  Victoria is fascinated by foreign

customs and remains loyal to Abdul.  Stephen Frears directs from a

rather pat screenplay written by Lee Hall based on a book by

Shrabani Basu.  The film is above average, but is too obviously

moralizing polemic, preaching only to people already convinced.  A

little more subtlety and complexity to the story would have made it

a better film.  It is good to see Dame Judi Dench still present and

acting.  Apparently she cannot study printed scripts and when she

performs she must have her lines read to her with a Miracle Ear.

But it works and her performances do not seem to suffer.  Rating:

high +1



I have to say that I like history films that recreate some historic

decision and all the arguing that came before the decision.  We

have had films like LINCOLN and SPOTLIGHT not long ago.  This year

we have Steven Spielberg's THE POST, Christopher Nolan's DUNKIRK,

and Joe Wright's DARKEST HOUR.  The latter is about Winston

Churchill.  Britain has been pulled into the European war somewhat

before it was ready.  The whole British army is on the beaches of

Calais and Dunkirk surrounded by the German army where the Germans

are picking it off the British Army at their own pace.  Once the

German army gets around to it, it will drive the English into the

channel.  The situation is catastrophic.  Churchill arranges the

Dunkirk evacuation.  Now Chamberlain and Halifax want to take up

Mussolini's offer to mediate between Hitler and Churchill on a

possible peace.  Of course today we have a good idea how faithful

Hitler might have been to any treaty with Britain.  Joe Wright

directs with Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill.  The result of

Oldman made up to look like Winston really does not look like

either.  Rating: +2






TOPIC: NEW YORK 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (copyright 2017 Orbit,

2017 Hachette Audio, 624pp, 22 hours 34 minutes, ISBN-10:

0316262315, ISBN-13: 978-0316262316, ASIN: B01NAM793D, narrated by

Suzanne Toren, Robin Miles, Peter Ganim, Jay Snider, Caitlin Kelly,

Michael Crouch, and Ryan Vincent Anderson) (audiobook review by Joe



After I read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy what seems a half

a lifetime ago, I didn't read a novel by him until 2312.  I did try

to read THE YEARS OF RICE AND SALT, but after 80 or so pages I

couldn't go one any further and put it down, never to pick it up

again.  I returned to Robinson's work with 2312 and AURORA,

skipping SHAMAN, which was not my cup of tea.  I eyed NEW YORK 2140

with a sideways glance.  I wasn't sure that I wanted to read it,

thinking that once again it might not be for me, but man did it

sound interesting.  The deal was sealed when Robinson appeared on

The Coode Street podcast; his descriptions of the book and how he

went about researching it and putting it together were enough to

get me to pick it up and give it a try.


NEW YORK 2140 is not a novel in the usual sense.  There is no real

plot, although there are several events that are strung through the

book that actually do have a beginning, middle, and end.  There are

also characters that the reader follows from the beginning of the

novel to the end of the novel, and their lives do intersect because

those previously mentioned events do intersect and overlap.  And

there is conflict, but not the sort of conflict a reader is used to

seeing in a novel that is structured in a typical fashion.  Even

the title is a bit misleading, as the novel starts in 2140 but ends

a few years later after the events that are recounted within are

complete.  What NEW YORK 2140 does provide, as does 2312, is a

snapshot, a snapshot of a few characters within one of the largest

and most well-known cities in the world as they--and the city--go

about their daily lives.


You'd be right to ask, "Why should I care about New York in 2140?".

Well, it's under 50 feet of water.  To be fair, not all of it is

under 50 feet of water, but most of it is.  In fact, the book

itself answers the question of why you should care about New York

instead of any of the other coastal cities that are under water.

Back to this in a bit.


Or maybe not.  It's really a difficult novel to describe.

Structurally, the novel is broken into parts, and each part has

subsections that follow individual characters--or, in two cases, a

couple of characters.  There is also an additional subsection for a

character called "The Citizen".  Robinson is famously known for

liberally sprinkling infodumps throughout his books, and NEW YORK

2140 is no exception.  While infodumps are spread everywhere

throughout the book--and I'll have to say I didn't mind them in the

least, as they were in my opinion well done, informative, and

entertaining--the best of the lot come in the sections featuring

The Citizen.  It is in these sections that the reader learns about

the two events--The First Pulse and The Second Pulse--that put NYC

and the other coastal cities under water.  What's more, we learned

how the Pulses came about in wondrous detail that should, but

won't, convince any climate change denier that we have really

screwed up this planet and we'd better do something about it

yesterday.  The Citizen doesn't just tell us about how NYC got to

be in the state it's in ecologically, he tells us about finance as

well, how the Pulses affected the global economy, and how current

(to the novel) solutions to the problem are no different than what

was done in the past.  It's very clear throughout the book that

Robinson has done his research. As a side note, and in bits that

most readers may not enjoy but I found amusing, The Citizen, a

snarky resident of NYC, refers to the text of the book itself,

letting his audience know that he knows what he's saying is being

read, and is giving those same readers permission to skip these

sections if they want to, while at the same time letting them know

that they're going to be ignorant of many facts if they skim

through his parts.


The thing that is fresh about this novel is that while it is a

post-disaster novel, it doesn't dwell on the disaster (or in this

case disasters).  The point is not the disasters--the point is how

a subsection of society deals with the nasty hand it's been dealt.

Robinson also lets us know that it really is all about money.  Yes,

there is climate change which will lead to disaster.  But money,

really, makes the world go around.  Nearly all of the characters

have either something to do with finance or are affected by those

that have something to do with finance.  A major plot (there's that

word here) point involves how to manipulate the global economy in

the aftermath of a hurricane that hits New York.


The characters here are secondary.  I don't think Robinson means

for the reader to be enamored of these characters at all.  I don't

think there's any character that grabbed me by the scruff of the

neck and made me pay attention to him or her--although I did feel

sorry for the two kids that continually did stupid things and got

into trouble for them.  This, like 2312, is a story about ideas,

but ideas based in reality, ideas that we could find becoming a

reality if we're not careful.


Back to one point I made earlier, about why we should care about

New York and not any other coastal city.  Don't skip The Citizen

sections.  And don't skip any of the rest of the sections either.

They're too good to pass up.


This is the first audiobook I've listened to that has more than a

couple of narrators.  There are seven of them, and they are all

wonderful.  While I haven't taken the time to learn which narrators

performed which sections (although it's a safe bet that the female

narrators did the sections centering on the females, and the same

with the males of course), I'm really partial to the guy that

performed The Citizen.  This was a great cast performing a great

book.  [-jak]




TOPIC: ABE & PHIL'S LAST POKER GAME (film review by Mark

R. Leeper)


CAPSULE: Abe Mandlebaum (Martin Landau) has moved with his wife to

a senior living center.  He becomes friends with another resident,

Phil.  The two compete to win the affections of a nurse to whom

they are attracted and another nurse long ago orphaned who has

unfinished business with the past.  The script intertwines two

plots, one a moving drama on aging and one a sort of geriatric sex

comedy.  The film has its moments, but is it the film Martin Landau

deserved as his farewell performance?  Howard Weiner directs from

his own screenplay.  Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10


It should be remembered that barring other films waiting to be

released, this will probably be the final film of a great actor.

Martin Landau died last July 15 (at age 89).  He had a long and

impressive career.  In 1959 he played a (probably) gay henchman of

a master spy played by James Mason in NORTH BY NORTHWEST.  He

played the central character in Woody Allen's best film (in my

opinion), CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS.  He played Bela Lugosi in ED

WOOD.  Now his final film is ABE & PHIL'S LAST POKER GAME.


As the film opens, Dr. Abe Mandlebaum (Martin Landau), is leaving

his last home, and going to live in a senior living center to be

near his wife Molly who suffers from dementia.  Abe knows the move

is necessary, but it is a blow to his dignity to be forced to live

with other elderly people.  He grasps at shreds of his self-esteem

by correcting anyone who calls him "Mister" and insists he be

called "Doctor."


Soon Abe meets Phil (Paul Sorvino, aged 78), who brags about the

large number of women he has slept with.  The two discuss at length

their sex lives and how much they hate their current dysfunction.

The film takes on some of the aspects of a teen-age sex comedy.

They are both befriend a nurse, new to the center, who it turns out

has a hidden agenda.  The two balance these youthful urges against

their acceptance of aging and the inevitability of death.  Abe

compromises his dignity and talks on Phil's level about his

attempts to rekindle the dying flame of sexuality.


The story has vulgarities that seems unlike Landau's usual screen

persona.  On the other hand, we get very few movies about the aged

living out the last chapters, or perhaps paragraphs, of their

lives.  The subject of they elderly is rarely treated in films,

much less if the subject is elder sexuality.  The treatment of

either sex or death and the elderly is not a topic likely to

attract a wide audience.


Are Abe's and Phil's observations on sex and death credible?  They

seem to be.  But ask me again in twenty years and I will have a

better idea.  Currently I rate ABE & PHIL'S LAST POKER GAME a low

+2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.  The film will have a limited

release beginning January 12.


Film Credits:


What others are saying:







TOPIC: CRAZY FAMOUS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)


CAPSULE: Bob Marcus believes that a life lived in obscurity is not

worth living.  Bob's goal in life is simple.  He wants his name to

be a household word.  He tries a stunt that is calculated to make

news reported all across the nation.  All he succeeds in doing is

having himself committed to a mental facility.  There he finds his

fellow detainees are real screwballs but he also finds a new chance

to become famous.  This is a low-budget comedy with screwball

characters, something rarely seen in such an economical film.

Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10


Electronic media have changed the world so that people can become

celebrities in hours.  This also means that fame-seekers who want

to draw attention can do so in minutes.  The social networks allow

people who want to attract attention a venue to broadcast their

questionable views.  Our main character has his own quest for fame.

But that is not really all this film is all about.


Gregory Lay plays Bob Marcus, the man who would be famous.  As the

film starts he is executing a plan, with the aid of a trampoline,

to jump the fence into the President's Camp David retreat.  Won't

that make him famous?  No, it just gets him committed to a mental

facility.  Perhaps this fame stuff is elusive.  The patients seem

just a little more rational than the patients in ONE FLEW OVER THE

CUCKOO'S NEST.  Bob is one of four patients who form a little (just

a little) dysfunctional group.  Yes, the main character has a mania

to become famous, but that mania will put him with three other

eccentric friends on a quest with startling results.  The jokes are

a bit hit or miss, but it is limited by the budget of the film.

Not many films could deliver this much humor on this small a



None of this could be confused with any sort of realistic portrayal

of real mental derangement, but people who are deranged are one of

the last minorities whom it is acceptable to lampoon.  Some of the

humorous bits really are humorous bits and if there are not enough

it is at least in part because the film runs a brief 78 minutes.

There are moments that are reminiscent of Arthur Hiller's THE IN-

LAWS.  The film would be better with more such moments, but I will

take what I can get.


The film feels a bit incomplete and imperfect, but it is a first

feature film written by Bob Farcas.  The director is Paul Jarrett.


I rate CRAZY FAMOUS +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.  CRAZY FAMOUS

was released on DVD January 9th.


Film Credits:



What others are saying:







TOPIC: THE GIFTED (television review by Dale Skran)


Fox has a new "X-Men" TV series that is loosely connected to the

various X-men movies. The premise seems to be that "the X-men have

disappeared" and a motley band of mutants carry on the fight

against "Sentinel Services."  It is left deliberately vague whether

this TV series occurs before some of the movies, after them, or

just on a different timeline. Sentinel Services has been using

robots, although they have yet to appear in the series, but have

recently turned to "hounds" - mutants enslaved via drugs and mind

control - to hunt other mutants.


The general setup is that two young  teenagers, Lauren Strucker

(Natalie Alyn Lind, who you may recall as Silver St. Cloud in

GOTHAM and as Dana Caldwell in THE GOLDBERGS) and Andy Strucker

(Percy Hynes White), discover that they have mutant powers, air-

based force fields and a kind of destructive telekinesis,

respectively.  After they destroy their local gymnasium, they come

to the attention of Sentinel Services, and soon they are on the run

with their non-powered parents, Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer) and

Caitlin Strucker (Amy Acker).  Amy Acker is a fan favorite perhaps

best known as for her portrayal of Ilyria, an "old god" from the TV

series ANGEL. She was a recurring character in ALIAS as a bad girl

spy, and also did stints in DOLLHOUSE and PERSON OF INTEREST.


One thing GIFTED does very well is subtly tie the story into the

larger Marvel universe without using most of the well known Marvel

characters.  If you are a comic fan, you may have figured out that

having the main characters named "Strucker" might mean something,

and indeed it does.  The series starts out as a kind of World War

II Jews vs Nazis resistance story.  Everything is grim, hopeless,

and downbeat, with a lot of yelling and screaming. The first group

of episodes is mostly depressing.


Eventually Lauren and Andy find out that they are descendents of

the original Strucker twins, sometimes known as Fenris, the Wolf.

Alone each is dangerous, but if they hold hands, their powers are

vastly increased.  They now have to struggle with whether they wish

to take up the mantle of their evil ancestors, or fight for good

instead. Also, their combined powers are not especially controlled

at this point, making them a weapon of mass destruction.  Their

parents so far as mostly trying to avoid the war and escape to

Mexico, but one suspects that in time Lauren and Andy, or at least

one of them, will embrace the war as the only path forward for



The main "X-characters" are Macros Diaz/Eclipse (can control

light), Clarice Fong/Blink (can teleport), John

Proudstar/Thunderbird (super-hunter and fighter), and Lorna

Dane/Polaris (can control magnetism).  Eclipse is created for the

series, but Blink, Thunderbird, and Polaris are pretty much

straight out of the comics.  This Polaris is the daughter of

Magneto, just like in the comics, and just like in the comics, she

is a green-haired bargain basement Magneto, lacking his raw power.

Another character from the comics - Sage - appears as the brains of

the mutant underground using her computer-like brain and perfect

memory to help them avoid Sentinel Services.


Spoiler Alert--Spoiler Alert--Spoiler Alert--Spoiler Alert


Towards the mid-season a new blond telepath is introduced, and it

should not come as a big surprise that she turns out to be one of

the Stepford Cuckoos, a hive-mind of identical telepaths straight

out of the comics.  This development takes the series in a new

direction, as it turns out that the Cuckoos work for the Hellfire

Club, and they want to use the Mutant Underground as a tool to

destroy Sentinel Services.


All in all, THE GIFTED is reasonably entertaining Marvel spinoff,

but for 13 and up due mainly to dark thematic elements. This is

just a grim story with a lot of realistic fascism.  Characters die.

Betrayal is everywhere. The triumph of good seems distant. It can

be hard to watch since it reminds us all of how easily our lives

can be flushed away on a tide of paranoia and hate. However, now

that things have had a chance to develop it is getting more

interesting.  [-dls]




TOPIC: The Traveling Money (letters of comment by David Goldfarb

and Dorothy J. Heydt)


In response to Evelyn's comments on the puzzle involving the

counterfeit bill in the 01/05/18 issue of the MT VOID, David

Goldfarb writes:


Evelyn writes: "The Hatter finds a $50 bill.  He went to the

butcher and pays him the $50 he owed him.  The butcher bought a pig

from the farmer for $50.  The farmer paid the carpenter $50 he owed

him.  The carpenter paid the King $50 in taxes.  The King paid the

Hatter $50 he owed him for a hat.  Then the Hatter recognized the

bill as the original $50 bill and realized it was fake.  What was

lost in this and by whom?"


I'm reminded of a Poul Anderson story called "Fairy Gold", which

follows a very similar plot: a young man does a favor for Oberon,

the king of Faerie.  Oberon rewards the man with a valuable gold

coin.  The man uses it to purchase a passage to the New World; then

the captain ... well, I don't remember exactly what the captain

did with it; maybe he paid off his bar tab.  But at any rate we

follow the coin through a whole bunch of various transactions that

cancel a bunch of debts; and in the end it comes to the young man's

intended bride.  She and he board the ship to enter their new life



.... and with the dawn, the coin turns, as fairy gold turns, to a

dead leaf that crumbles away.  [-dg]


Dorothy J. Heydt adds:


There's also Asimov's "Gold", whose details I now forget, but a

sum of money is invested and benefits a series of people in turn,

and is later returned to the investor.  Asimov, being a chemist,

notes that gold is a catalyst, enabling chemical processes to

proceed while remaining itself unchanged.  [-djg]


Evelyn notes:


If anyone is interested, the story "Fairy Gold" appeared in the


ANYWHERE.  "Gold" appeared in the September 1991 issue of ANALOG,






TOPIC: The NFA, Top Ten Films of 2017, and ORPHAN BLACK (letter of

comment by John Purcell)


In response to Mark's comments on the NFA in the 01/05/18 issue of

the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:


You know, 1996 was a good year for me.  But you don't want to hear

about that; instead, you want comments about the 1996th issue of MT

VOID.  So be it.


Once again, your little lead-in drips with sarcasm.  This is a

trend that I approve of.  Like many people, I have no fondness for

guns in the hands of the general public, and believe that any time

is the right time to discuss the creation and implementation of

reasonable gun laws in America.  What the NRA and GOP have been

doing is keep putting off this very necessary discussion as long as

they possibly can while both entities reap vast financial rewards

in the process. America is beyond the time for finding the "proper

time to discuss firearms regulation."  My guess is that they'll

start saying "something" reasonable a month before the mid-term

elections because that will make the NRA and GOP look responsible.

Yeah, right...  And monkeys might fly out of my butt.  [-jp]


Mark replies:


I agree, but I am glad you said it and not me.  [-mrl]


In response to Mark's "Top Ten Films of 2017" in the same issue,

John writes:


Of all those Top Ten Movies of 2017 you list, I have not seen a

single one.  I do, though, want to see THE POST and BLADE RUNNER

2049 (still haven't done so) just because the first simply sounds

like a good movie, and the second because I want to personally

compare both BLADE RUNNER movies.  But the movies I *really* want

to see are DARKEST HOUR and THE SHAPE OF WATER.  While I was in

London last summer during my TAFF trip, I went through the

Churchill War Museum with Claire Brialey. Fascinating place,

meticulously recreating the conditions and paraphernalia (such as

maps, typewriters, communication center, living quarters, etc) of

living underground during the Nazi bombing of London.  I am a bit

of a military history buff, so I found it all quite amazing; in

fact, I'd like to see DUNKIRK, too.  Lots of good movies these

days, and that is definitely good.



Mark replies:


I didn't think either THE POST or BLADE RUNNER 2049 was

spectacularly good, but each has its moments.  It will be good if

you can see DUNKIRK and DARKEST HOUR near to each other.  I am

surprise you did not see the Imperial War Museum, though Evelyn

says it is more about WWI.  Her memory is better than mine.  She is

also cuter.  [-mrl]


John answers:


Rob Jackson and I did spend time exploring the maritime museums in

Portsmouth Harbour in late July--part of the TAFF trip again--which

had a lot of photographs, maps, and ship models from WWI.  That was

a very interesting afternoon, too.  [-jp]


In response to Dale Skran's review of ORPHAN BLACK in the same

issue, John writes:


As for ORPHAN BLACK, now that series is kaput.  No more episodes,

but it was definitely a very worthy series to watch.  We have the

complete run saved on Direct TV.  Now we are waiting for WESTWORLD

to return.  More good stuff awaits.   [-jp]


Mark replies:


I have said everyone agrees that not one but the two BEST science

fiction programs ever are running right now.   But nobody agrees on

which two they are.  [-mrl]




TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


The first book by Edmund Wilson I read was PATRIOTIC GORE, a study

of the literature surrounding the Civil War.  Since then, I have

read several of his collections, diaries, etc., and nothing has

quite lived up to it.  LETTERS ON LITERATURE AND POLITICS 1912-1972

by Edmund Wilson (ISBN 0-374-18501-8) is no exception--interesting

in parts, but also boring at times.  Still, there are some great



For example, it is clear that even (or perhaps especially) the

intelligentsia did not understand Stalin back in the 1930s:


"And Stalin, however he may want to maintain his power, is

certainly a good deal different from Napoleon.  Stalin is a

convinced Marxist and old Bolshevik; Napoleon cared nothing about

the principles of he French Revolution and betrayed it.  Also, he

had megalomaniac imperialist ambitions which one can hardly imagine

Stalin entertaining.  Stalin, whatever his limitations, is still

working for socialism in Russia."  [11 Jan 1935, to John Dos



Nor did they understand Hitler:


"[Charles Rumford Walker and Adelaide Walker] had been in Russia

and Germany since I'd seen them and were very interesting on the

subject.  They say that they got the impression in Germany that the

industrials were now running things more or less openly without

paying much attention to Hitler and his friends, on whom they were

quietly bringing pressure to pipe down."  [31 Jan 1935, to John Dos



A couple of years later they had a better, though still incomplete,



"[In Russia] the gap between the well-informed and intelligent and

the ignorant and dumb is still so great that the latter are always

treated like children by the former.  IZVESTIA and PRAVDA now--

which are what the ordinary read--haven't a word of news or sense

in them.  They are as bad as the Nazi papers.  The real papers are

those of the privileged groups, like the RED ARMY STAR and the GPU

bulletin--just as it is only the specially privileged people who

are allowed to use the libraries."  [15 Apr 1937, to Malcolm



And by 1950 Wilson was completely disillusioned:


"When I was writing about Lenin in the FINLAND STATION, I tended to

accept the memoirs published in the Soviet Union.  I hadn't

realized how early the deliberate mythmaking had been begun.  Now I

am not at all sure that some of my details of his return to Russia

were not made up out of the whole cloth for the purposes of a

volume of Eulogies, of the authenticity of which I was convinced by

the proletarian status of the supposed witnesses, but by which I

may well have been taken in.  Trotsky, whose first volume of a life

of a Lenin is one of the best things on the subject, does not even

believe in the memoir published by Lenin's sister, which I decided

to accept.  ...  [It] is always an awful nuisance to try to get at

the truth behind conflicting accounts..."  [4 Apr 1950, to Arthur



One of the most shocking revelations of Wilson's beliefs was:


"From a non-legal point of view, though, the whole discussion of

mental responsibility seems rather idle.  In my opinion, the great

reform needed is a law to authorize the chloroforming of imbeciles

and hopeless psychiatric cases.  Of course, mistakes would be made,

and the people would have to be very carefully checked, but we

already put a lot of other matters in the hands of Boards of

Health, etc., and it would be better than shutting up such cases in

miserable asylums."  [17 Jan 1952, to John Biggs]


That Wilson could say this, after all that had come out about the

Nazis' "euthanasia" programs, and the long history of governments

deciding that certain racial groups, religious groups, socio-

economic groups, or political parties were "imbeciles and hopeless

psychiatric cases," indicates that he had no concept of history.

And while we put lots of matters in the hands of Boards of Health,

that does not include killing people on their own say-so.   (Has

Wilson actually read the Bill of Rights?  If so, it does not appear

to have sunk in.)


On another topic, Wilson had very use for fantasy.  I have

previously quoted him on Lovecraft; here he is on Tolkien:


"I am enclosing a review of Tolkien.  Do you know his work?  I

think it is awful."  [12 Apr 1856, to James Branch Cabell]


"I have never read THE HOBBIT, but Helen, when she was younger,

read it or had it read to her innumerable times, so it must be a

good children's story.  I can't imagine it in an English course,

though."  [14 Jan 1966, to Cecelia Carroll]


He also had a strong opinion on Carl Sandburg's biography of



"But in my opinion Carl Sandburg is the worst thing that has

happened to Lincoln since Booth shot him, and I can't imagine

either Grant or Lee getting through JOHN BROWN'S BODY..."  [30 Apr

1953, to John Dos Passos]


Regarding this, when we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential

Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, this year, there was a

list of recommended biographies; Carl Sandburg's was not on it.


However, this does not necessarily mean that Sandburg's biography

is bad.  If I remember correctly, all the recommended biographies

were much more recent than Sandburg's, which might indicate either

improved research over the years or just a tendency to prefer the

new to the old.  For example, reading groups seem to emphasize

current or recent best sellers over classics dating back fifty

years or more.


Wilson's letters, in short, have some interesting passages, but one

must pick and choose, because there's a fair amount of

uninteresting daily minutiae as well.  [-ecl]




                                           Mark Leeper




           I do not believe in revealed religion--I will have

           nothing to do with your immortality; we are miserable

           enough in this life, without speculating on another.


                                           --Lord Byron, 1778-1824