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Defining the shape and the dimensions of the nuclear predicament.
Final Edition is a one-issue-only political magazine written by people who are aesthetes and literary writers and edited by Wallace Shawn, who seriously believes that part of our national problem is that the people who run the country have a crude and minimal imaginative life and are too little acquainted with the quartets of Beethoven. The issue consists of five pieces:"Before the Election--Fragments from a Diary 2004" by Wallace Shawn The diarist broods on the analogy between the addiction to pornography and nationalistic obsessions, and he wonders whether a collection of people who vote in a kind of sleepwalking ignorance can ever be called a democracy."Invitation to a Degraded World" by Jonathan Schell In this essay, Schell meditates on the comic book/disaster movie view of life, in which bin Laden and George Bush are both immersed, and discusses the "standing army" stationed in all of our homes, the media."The Webern Variations" by Mark Strand Strand's hauntingly delicious poem explores what is most poignantly beautiful, while exploring the themes of darkness, descent, decline, and nothingness. Wallace Shawn Interviews Noam Chomsky. For those with no acquaintance with Chomsky, this could make a wonderful introduction, while offering surprising insights to those who know him well. Chomsky is electric with vitality, wit, and rage as he ranges ferociously across the present and ancient worlds, giving his thoughts on the development of the internet, the 2004 election, and the God of the Bible. In an odd way, the interview highlights the inspirational and optimistic quality of this enormously angry man."The Twilight of the Superheroes" by Deborah Eisenberg In this brooding, passionate, and brilliant short story, Deborah Eisenberg paints a brutally honest portrait of New York City today and of our lives today, wherever we live. Through observing the lives of some sophisticated residents of the great metropolis, we encounter truths which are both poetic and deeply political.
(From the book jacket) At the height of the Cold War, Jonathan Schell's seminal The Fate of the Earth awakened the public as never before to the reality of the nuclear peril. Now, he delineates the fearful shape that danger has unexpectedly assumed in the twenty-first century. Schell addresses the fundamental questions: How and why has nuclear danger revived? Where are we heading-? What can be done? Far from disappearing with the Cold War, the bomb is today in the midst of a worldwide revival. The invasion of Iraq, the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, the rising danger of nuclear terrorism, and the reinvigoration of nuclear establishments among the old Cold War rivals have all put the nuclear issue back on the world's front pages and returned it to the center of geopolitical strife. Schell argues that a vicious dynamic is at work. On the one side, the nuclear powers are turning once again to nuclear arms for their defense-finding new targets, framing new strategies, building new weapons and delivery systems. The United States, for example, has discarded a forty-year tradition of relying on disarmament treaties to contain proliferation and, in a radical shift, has adopted the preemptive use of military force, including nuclear weapons. On the other side, the proliferators, desperate to find a shortcut to security and prestige in an increasingly anarchic, nuclear-armed world, are themselves hell-bent on acquiring the bomb. Meanwhile, the danger of nuclear terrorism increases.
Ben Suc was a relatively prosperous farming village thirty miles from Saigon, on the edge of the Iron Triangle, the formidable Vietcong stronghold. It had been "pacified" many times, but because of security leaks no Vietcong were ever captured, and it always reverted to them. Therefore on January 8, 1967, American forces launched a surprise assault kept secret even from their South Vietnamese allies. The plan was to envelop the village, to seal it off, to remove its inhabitants, to destroy its every physical trace, and to level the surrounding jungle. Jonathan Schell accompanied the operation from its beginning to its successful but dismal end, and reports it in depth as he saw it. This time no one slipped away. The story of the bewildering task of separating the V.C. from ordinary villagers is the dramatic core of the first part of this book. The 3,500 villagers were moved to a refugee camp in Phu Loi, a barren, treeless "safe" area, with only what possessions they could carry. The bulldozers went to work and flattened every building. For security reasons no advance preparations had been made, and the move became a human and administrative nightmare. The people of Ben Suc were farmers, and there was nothing for them to do at Phu Loi, Mr. Schell offers vivid portraits of one individual after another--women, children, old men--as they are pacified and sink into apathy and despair. Here is an overwhelmingly affective narrative of American skill and good intentions squandered in a cause made hopeless by misunderstanding, by resistant traditions, and by cultural gaps not only between ourselves and the villagers, but between them and the Saigon government. Mr. Schell's report is devastating.
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