The Nation, 22 November 2010

Several articles and columns analyze the results of the 2010 US national election.  The common theme of all these pieces is that the Democratic Party’s losses were due, not to any excess of ambition in its leaders’ programs, but to their timidity.    I think the best writing on the magazine’s site is an item not in the print issue, JoAnn Wypijewski’s column about the Delaware Senate race in which anti-sex crusader Christine O’Donnell met with a crushing defeat.  Opening with the observation that victorious Democrat Chris Coons didn’t bother to appear with any unionized workers or other progressive mainstays at his victory celebration.  For Wypijewski, the resulting images of the senator-elect with his fellow millionaires go a long way towards explaining why so many working people could rally to the support of rightists like O’Donnell.  Wypijewski’s closing paragraph is forceful:

Before it was the toast of the Tea Party, O’Donnell’s campaign was the revenge of the discarded and ignored, the people who fell by the side of the road while the economy was busy making bankers and call center clerks and IT specialists; while it was battering organized labor and with it a sense of class consciousness and direction, sorting out the winners and letting the losers fend for themselves. Christine O’Donnell was their avatar and heroine, and if she goes on to TV celebrity and wealth, those who identified with her most fervently will probably view her rise the way one would a success in the family. They will no more disappear because of her defeat than the conditions that produced them.

Elsewhere in the issue, Stuart Klawans’ reviews several recent movies.  I would mention his harshly negative review of Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter.  I am generally opposed to movies by Clint Eastwood, and this one sounds as bad as the rest.  But I was intrigued by Klawans’ description of the ghosts whom Eastwood depicts as haunting his characters:

Clint Eastwood has long been interested in ghosts and revenants of the avenging kind, as you may see from Pale Rider, Hang ‘Em High and even Unforgiven. From certain broad hints in Mystic River and Gran Torino, you may also guess that Eastwood is not much interested in the consolations of religion. So it’s not surprising that when he set himself to make Hereafter, a movie about intimations of a nondenominational, do-gooder ghost world, the only parts that turned out to be convincing were the eruptions of violence and the sly dirty jokes.

The opening eruption, which leaves the rest of the movie limp in its wake, is a special-effects extravaganza, in which a tsunami roars across a tropical resort island, sweeping a visiting French journalist (Cécile de France) to her temporary death. The flood is vivid, detailed, tactile and unforgettable. So too is the journalist’s recovery, which involves vomiting perhaps a quart of water. So much the worse, then, for her brief intervening glimpse of the Beyond: a cloudy, color-drained nonplace streaked with dark, out-of-focus figures.

It sounds like Eastwood is pushing a conception of the afterlife rather like those I have recently noted in Ambrose Bierce, Lila Burns, and David Malki.

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