Letter to Julius

July, 1951:

Believe me, my loved one, children are what their parents truly expect them to be. If we can face the thought of our intended execution without terror, so then will they. Certainly neither of us will seek to dwell on these matters unduly but let’s not be afraid and they won’t either.

Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy, p. 185

The visit with her children on Aug. 1 lasted one hour. It was the first time she’d seen them in a year.

Self’s tearducts are getting properly exercised, for sure!

David Greenglass, you are a lousy, stinking rat! I hope you weren’t paid for your 60 Minutes interview!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Emmanuel Bloch Closing Argument in the Trial of Ethel Rosenberg

March 28, 1951, shortly after 10 a.m.:

  • “Dave Greenglass loved his wife. He loved her more than he loved himself . . . and ladies and gentlemen this explains why Dave Greenglass was willing to bury his sister and his brother-in-law to save his wife.” — Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy, p. 165

Granted this may not have been the most persuasive closing argument in the history of closing arguments, but it was heartfelt.

Apparently not content with having sent his sister to the electric chair, in 2016 Dave Greenglass gave an interview to 60 Minutes (!!!!) where he tried to justify his actions (again!) and showed not the slightest remorse.

Here’s the link to a foundation started by Ethel Rosenberg’s younger son, Robert Meeropol. His brother Michael is on the board.

On to the jury deliberations. “The one juror holding out against a death sentence for Ethel was a forty-eight-year-old accountant called James A. Gibbons, with two children of his own.” (p. 169) May his name go down in history.

If self had been on the jury, notwithstanding the terrible incompetence of the Blochs, self would have thought: Hmm, isn’t it strange that the ONLY testimony to this woman’s guilt comes from her brother? He cannot be entirely trustworthy. It’s all his word against hers.

On April 5, the judge handed down his sentence. Julius and Ethel sat there, their faces “chalk-white . . . frozen into grimaces of incredulity.”

The judge went on to sentence the two to death, and probably went home afterwards feeling very satisfied with the day’s work, while Ethel’s brother David — well, who cares what David was feeling. He’s not smart, so he probably felt self-congratulatory, too.

The judge did not just stop at sentencing Julius and Ethel to death, oh no. He drove his point home by singling out and “criticizing Ethel as a mother.” (What about Julius as a father? Did the judge care to say any words about that? Newp)

Before the two were taken back to their respective prisons, Ethel sang a Puccini aria from Madame Butterfly to Julius. AARGH! Which prompted a prison guard to say (p. 174): “Julie, you’re a low-down son of a bitch . . . but you’re the luckiest man in the world because no man ever had a woman who loved him that much.”

That night, the prison matron offered Ethel a sedative, but she refused it. Singing arias to her feckless husband after she’d just been sentenced to death? Then refusing the sedative? God, that woman was strong.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Million-Dollar Question

Manny Bloch’s cross-examination of David Greenglass, Ethel’s younger brother (bear in mind Bloch’s experience in court was settling small bakery contract disputes, and he was up against a very wily and very slippery Roy Cohn, David’s lawyer)

Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy, pp. 141 – 142

“You realize the possible death penalty in the event that Ethel is convicted by this jury, do you not?”

Repeating the question, Bloch asked: “And you bear affection for her?”

“I do.”

“This moment?”

“At this moment.”

“And yesterday?”

“And yesterday.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Leaving Shards of Self’s Heart, All Over the Floor

There won’t be much left of self, after she finishes Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy. Really agree with the title. Ethel Rosenberg’s story is a tragedy.

She’s at Chapter Five: Prison.

After Julius Rosenberg is arrested, Ethel Rosenberg goes home to their squalid little apartment, and continues caring for her young sons. BUT NO ONE WILL SPEAK TO HER. And Ethel is too afraid to approach any of her friends for fear of incriminating them.

Ethel even stops her psychotherapy sessions with Dr. Saul Miller (the only thing she had going for her)

  • When he called her, having read about Julius’s arrest in the newspapers, Ethel responded by telling him, “Oh, you don’t have to see me anymore.” Miller tried to reassure Ethel that he was not worried about being “tainted.” Ethel started crying, said she would be in touch, and hung up. According to Miller, he got the impression that Ethel was trying to protect him.

She is called to testify twice. After the second time, she is immediately arrested and taken to jail. She asks if she can call her sons, who she has left with a babysitter. When the older one gets on the phone, and she tells him she cannot come for him, he breaks into a loud wail. When the babysitter realizes that Ethel will not return, she deposits the children at their grandmother’s, Ethel’s mother. This kind (NOT!) woman almost refuses to take the boys. She calls Ethel’s lawyer to complain. She threatens to drop the boys off at the nearest police station, a comment that “shocked” the lawyer. You see, the mother always thought Ethel was too big for her britches. Her daughter entertained some fancy notions about becoming a singer, now look where that got her, and so forth.

Per Hoover’s instructions, bail was set astronomically high ($100,000, around $1 million today), in the hopes that seeing his wife in prison would cause Julius to crack and give up some information.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

Ethel doesn’t know yet that it was her own brother who implicated her. This delightful person was a REAL spy, stealing things from Los Alamos, which he would then pass on to the Russians. After his arrest, he knew he had to give the Feds something, or they would put him in prison. So he gave them his sister. NICE! 2016, the brother’s on 60 Minutes. He said he had no choice, it was either Ethel or him. And I guess he didn’t think twice about his nephews, Ethel’s sons? I can’t imagine that the boys would have anything to do with their uncle today!

In prison, she is strip-searched and given an enema. She writes to Julius, but always tries to sound “cheerful and not complain.”

(You might wonder what happened to the boys after? They were adopted by a very nice childless couple, changed their names, and tried never to think about the past. The younger boy calls it “the long nightmare.” WAAAAH! And all their mother wanted was to be the best mother in the world for them)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy, Ch. 3

Chapter 3 of Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy is very, very hard to read.

The strength of this book is that it really puts you inside Ethel’s head. Which means, of course, you will find the end depressing.

We find in Chapter 3 that these two naive young people, Julius and Ethel, were lonely IN their marriage. They were so poor, Ethel had to “occasionally” borrow small food items from neighbors “that she never returned” and everyone just learned to look the other way. The worst thing for her, though, was not their poverty, but the sight of her husband “failing.”

Julius, on the other hand, was lonely because his Russian handler worried that Julius might be compromised and stopped seeing him for eight months. During which time Ethel got pregnant again, probably as her way of reassuring Julius that she had absolute faith in him as a husband and father! While Julius, probably had so much time on his hands after Feklisov stopped meeting with him that he got bored and had nothing better to do! You see, people, this is what happens when you marry a feckless man!

Julius’s handler is eventually called back to Moscow. He feels he must tell Julius in person, so he takes him to a nice Hungarian restaurant. And then breaks the news.

This is the agent, Feklisov, writing from memory six months later:

  • Julius stopped, looking at me wide-eyed. A few long seconds went by. “What do you mean,” he asked. “You’re leaving me? Why?”

Oh God. This is so painful. Self wants to kick Julius for acting like a lovesick puppy. With his newly pregnant wife at home yet.

Stay tuned.

Past Squares 7: A Look Back at This Kickass Reading Year (2021)

This is also today’s post for Life of B’s Past Squares!

People We Meet on Vacation, p. 317

Yes, compared to self’s reading pace on The Slaughterman’s Daughter, she is practically on fire reading this, because dammit how long does it take to get to HEA? 350 pages? Are you kidding? Her jaw is dropping from disbelief.

Don’t get her wrong, the writing is engaging, but when you’re anxious to finish so you can get started on Paul Auster, and the two main characters have been PDA’ing all over the place, to have the narrator stop dead and ask these questions IS MORE THAN A LITTLE RIDICULOUS:

  • Do I want to have kids?
  • Do I want to live in a seventies quad-level in Linfield, Ohio?
  • Do I want any of the things that Alex craves for his life?

Especially when you know, and the narrator knows, and even the narrator’s love interest knows, that the answer to all three questions is Yes Yes Yes. But, damn, there are still 60 pages to go? Because we have to know exactly what went down two years ago that had these two not speaking for two years? Is Emily Henry really going to tease us for 60 more pages about that blessed event? Can these two people really be about to fight AGAIN? Can one person be saying (only for the nth time) “No, I have to go” and and can the other person really be staring dumfounded (also for the nth time)? Will the next 60 pages be about how they get back to “I love you” when they’ve ALREADY said it. How, how, can love interest be telling narrator, “You need to figure things out. Don’t talk to me” and can she really be breaking down in tears (for the nth time)

Is this book going to get three or two stars? That would all depend on whether the Blessed Event that has been teased since page 1 is indeed worth reading 350 pages to get to. Self has a sneaking suspicion that the author had, at one time in her life, a super-duper time in Croatia and wrote this book just so she could unleash 50 pages at the end about how fabulous Croatia is.

So here we are again, last 50 pages. Here we go, yet another trip, yet another hotel, all the usual funny details (ha ha). The narrator and love interest are fighting (only for the nth time).

SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT

What happened two years ago was: they both realized they were in love with each other. Oh.

Self really wants to know how that led to NOT SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER FOR TWO YEARS.

So this is what happens (you’ll note self put SPOILER ALERT above):

They kiss, and the love interest says, “We can’t do this.” (right after a passionate kiss). The narrator scoots away from him, so embarrassed.

The love interest looks miserable and says “I just mean . . . “

And the narrator says, “I get it.”

And THAT IS HOW THEY ENDED UP NOT SPEAKING FOR TWO YEARS.

UGH. AWFUL. These are two of the biggest blockheads in America. Funny, you would think Americans would be a lot more sophisticated. Then again, they’re from Linfield, Ohio. This keeps being brought up, throughout the novel. As if Linfield, Ohio were an awful penance.

Self cannot believe she’s on p. 328 and it is happening all over again. She checks to see how many pages are left. 30 pages. So they have to not talk for 29 pages, most likely. Narrator thinks of love interest, thinks of their kiss, blah blah blah. Do they just walk away from each other, blah blah blah. She should have thought it through blah blah blah (for the nth time)

So here we go, only 15 pages from the end. Narrator goes into a bar, sees the love interest. And SHE WANTS TO BOLT.

And then the love interest looks up and sees her. And they stare at each other without speaking, FOR TWO WHOLE PAGES. Narrator has the GALL to think: My heart is splitting in two places (You should see the inside of self’s head. That’s ALREADY split in two places. No, three). And then she is RUNNING OUT OF THE BAR (Figures, there’s eight more pages, after all. Oh, WAIT. There’s an EPILOGUE. Which seems to be de rigeur ever since The Hunger Games)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

‘Tis a Good Book

How does self know this is a good book?

Because she’s been praying ever since p. 5 that the love interest hasn’t gone and gotten himself hitched in the two years when he and the main character weren’t speaking to each other.

She’s trying to remember how she first heard about this book. It couldn’t, surely, have been the Wall Street Journal? Or The Economist? Or Locus Magazine? None of those sites ever gives romance recommendations.

Anyhoo, the main character, Poppy, is a little like herself: she’s open to a whole lot of movies:

“I will go anywhere a movie wants to take me, even if that is watching a spy in a fitted suit balance between two speedboats while he shoots at bad guys.”

PWMOV, p. 47

And right away self knows that Poppy’s describing a scene in a James Bond movie (She’s seen them all. Yes, ALL)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Now Reading

Even though self just started reading (last night), she likes the characters already, and that means she’s probably going to enjoy finding out what happens to them. It helps to know the FORMULA, because that is the only way self can stand reading about two likeable people who do not see what is right in front of their noses. Self is not against formula, as long as the writer keeps it fresh.

Take Shakespeare. She can take any Shakespeare, as long as it’s done with energy. Her first Shakespeare at The Globe in London was Titus Andronicus. Buckets of gore, in that one. People walking out, clutching their stomachs. LOVED! And this last Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale at Cal Shakes. She saw it three times. It was absolutely the highlight of her year. Some snob over at Facebook said it looked “awful.” Good! Stay away! Don’t take a seat away from someone who might love it!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Four Stories and One Forthcoming, 2021

Her story about Chopard earrings, dancing chickens and matryoshka dolls, out now in the most recent issue of Pembroke Magazine.

Two stories about ghosts and guilt, one set in Murcia, Spain, the other in Miami’s South Beach, just out in Vice-Versa

Her story about Osama bin Laden (yes, THAT Osama bin Laden), forthcoming in The Museum of Americana.

There is one other story which was published late 2020, so mebbe it doesn’t really belong here, but what the hoo: her story about a ferry disaster on the Philippine Sea, published in the most recent issue of Western Humanities Review.

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