American Son Novel + Essay

American Son Novel + Essay-79
“Consider how the titles of tyrants change,” the historian William Frederick Kohler once wrote. The critic Robert Kelly wrote in The Times Book Review: “It will be years before we know what to make of it.”Kelly was more right than he realized.

“Consider how the titles of tyrants change,” the historian William Frederick Kohler once wrote. The critic Robert Kelly wrote in The Times Book Review: “It will be years before we know what to make of it.”Kelly was more right than he realized.

Tomas can’t understand why Gabe doesn’t want to be involved in this life.

Gabe, meanwhile, ashamed of his family’s heritage, feels he doesn’t belong in America.

This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of (2001), a novel by Brian Ascalon Roley, follows two Filipino brothers who try to make a life in California but end up caught in gang life.

It received a nomination for the 2001 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction and was both a Notable Book. He is currently an associate professor of English at Miami University in Ohio.

As he said of his most ambitious novel: “I wrote ‘The Tunnel’ out of the conviction that no race or nation is better than any other, and that no nation or race is worse; that the evil men do every day far outweighs the good.”Kohler, its narrator, is a 50-year-old professor of history at a thinly disguised version of Purdue University, where Gass himself taught for more than a decade.

As the novel opens, he has just completed a book, “Guilt and Innocence in Hitler’s Germany,” that he’d once hoped would be his masterpiece.When he sits down to write the introduction, however, he finds that he despises it, and he starts to pour out his life story instead — his dismal boyhood, his unhappy marriage, his failed love affairs.He also begins to dig a tunnel to nowhere out of his basement, although this evocative symbol occupies only a fraction of the narrative, which is dominated by Kohler’s seemingly endless flood of rage, interspersed with typographical tricks, cartoons and obscene limericks.“And now the hero comes — the trumpet of his people. He roars, he screams so well for everyone, his tantrums tame a people. And God Resentment — a pharaoh for the disappointed people.” Kohler anticipates the role of the media — “TV faces and their blatant lies are now our leaders” — and contemplates the shape of such a man’s life: “Our favorite modern bad guys became villains by serving as heroes first — to millions.It is now a necessary apprenticeship.”As for Hitler, Kohler calls him “a petty little twerp” whose one undeniable gift was to openly state what other politicians left to implication: “Yet Hitler — the dissembler, the liar, the hypocrite, the mountebank, the deluder, the con man, the sophist, the manipulator, the dreamer, the stage manager and the ultimate ham — he was probably history’s single most sincere man.” Kohler speculates at length about the motivations of Hitler’s opportunistic supporters, “all of those who weren’t twerps who willed what Hitler wished,” and he finally arrives at a shattering conclusion: “I would have followed him just to get even.”After “The Tunnel” was published, Gass made its true subject clear: “I’m not talking about Germany, I’m talking about the United States.” The novel ends without a solution, but Gass had once hinted at a potential way out. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.” Follow New York Times Books on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. At first it can be hard to understand why Gass dedicated so much of his career to writing in such an unbearable voice.As we learn more about Kohler, however, we find that Gass is assembling a case study with the meticulousness of a psychological profiler.We gradually discover that Kohler — who keeps a trunk of Nazi memorabilia hidden under his porch — is drawn to the Hitler era because it reveals the unspeakable truth about his own soul.As a young man, he studied in Germany, and on Kristallnacht, he was so swept up by the fury that he hurled a brick at the window of a Jewish grocery store.His narrator’s memories begin with his bigoted father, who scorned the ideas — “free trade, for instance” — that his son learned at school, while dismissing immigrants as “parasites, scabs, seducers” and ranting against “those who let these people into the country in the first place, when there were few enough jobs.” Gass methodically depicts what he elsewhere called the “fascism of the breakfast table,” as domestic combatants “crow over every victory as if each were the conquest of a continent, grudge every defeat as if it were the most meanly contrived and ill-deserved bad luck a good sport ever suffered,” in performances that can expand outward to define an entire culture. Die with a tan your daughter’s thighs would envy.” This sense of betrayal, which can shade into vengefulness, leads to a radical strain of politics that Gass later described in an interview: “Fascism is a tyranny which enshrines the values of the lower middle class, even though the lower middle class doesn’t get to rule.He also devotes many pages to the small towns over which “sunsets were displayed in the deepest colors of catastrophe, the dark discordant tones of the Last Trump.”As Kohler recalls the resentments of his father’s generation — “They were America, damn it, and Americans should come first” — he offers a word of advice to those who have been abandoned by history: “Don’t invest in a future you will never see, a future which will despise you anyway, a future which will find you useless. It just gets to feel satisfied that the world is well-run.


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