Thirty Minutes to the Last Day of July 2012

Self is teaching an on-line memoir class, and her students are amazing and lively and curious.

There’s that, to begin with.

Then, the sense of satisfaction with the day (still Monday) is that she got to see the “Dark Knight” movie, which she’d rate probably a B+.

Then she mailed a story to Conjunctions.

And she joined yet another contest.

Now she is reading, from her Pile of Stuff, a back issue of The New Yorker. Apparently, the day’s lessons are still not over, for she finds herself absorbed in a review of a World War II novel (as if self hasn’t read dozens of those already; yet she feels drawn to each new book that comes out and invariably finds herself spending more time on reviews of World War II books than on any other types of books). And here are the things she’s discovered:

The author of the novel (whose title is weird and whimsical at the same time: HHhH, which stands for — oh, never mind what it stands for. Take self’s word for it, it is weird and whimsical) is a “French writer and academic” named Laurent Binet. That fact means nothing to self, and might even have caused self to stop reading the rest of the review, except that Binet asserts that “invented facts — invented characters, for that matter — have no place in historical fiction, and weaken it both aesthetically and morally.” Binet has written: “Inventing a character in order to understand historical facts is like fabricating evidence.”

Binet’s novel turns out to be about a monster named Reinhard Heydrich — and self, who has read so many books on World War II, had never heard of this particular monster. Self learns that Heydrich “planned Kristallnacht.” She is properly chastised about the depth of her World War II knowledge. She reads on.

An important event during World War II was the convening of the Wannsee Conference, on January 20, 1942. The name rings a bell, but it is not as loud as the bell that went off in self’s head when she read that the conference was held “in an elegantly somber villa on the shore of Lake Wannsee.”

A few sentences on, self learns that there is a “beautiful memorial in Berlin’s Grunewald S-Bahn station, which calmly records the numbers, dates, and destinations of each of the city’s mass deportations of Jews (all of whom left from the station).” Self has been in Berlin and wishes she’d read this review before. But of course, she couldn’t have, because she was in Berlin in 2005, and Binet hadn’t written the novel yet, and James Woods hadn’t reviewed it (of course), and if he’d never read the novel he’d never have written the review and would never have thought of mentioning Grunewald station.

And then self reads that “many of those present at the Wannasee Conference lived justly shortened lives” (Self almost cheers). Heydrich himself was assassinated, four months later, in Prague, by two Czech parachutists sent by the Czech government-in-exile in England. Heydrich was riding through Prague in an open-topped Mercedes, and his driver had to slow as the car rounded a bend in a city street. And that was where the men chose to attack.  SPOILER ALERT!  The men’s guns jammed but one had the presence of mind to throw a grenade, and Heydrich died a week later when he developed septicemia.  “Reprisals were blind and absolute: the village of Lidice, near Prague, mistakenly thought by the Nazis to have some connection with the parachutists, was burned to the ground . . . ”

(In the meantime, The Man, who went to bed two hours ago, apparently is still able to whine, in the middle of a dead sleep: YOU’RE MAKING TOO MUCH NOISE WITH YOUR TYPING. He’s like an octopus that never sleeps. Neeeever sleeps)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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