The linkages between the books we read in a week a month a year, are mysterious, usually unconscious, and occasionally surprising. You can play connect-the-dots from one title to another and to another, until a picture seems to arise. A picture which looks like an intention a plan even a necessity.
I had meant to read The Ticking Is The Bomb ever since Alison had told me how much she liked it and how much she thought I'd like it too. I did and I did, I read it and liked it immensely. It's an immense book in a driftingly wideranging way.
In connecting dots you don't connect all the dots just the dots that seem to need or want to be connected. I'll tell you now that the other dots are A Thousand Lives and The Old Man: John Brown at Harper's Ferry. Barely a line these three books an arc an arrow.
I read all three I thought for very different reasons. Ticking as I said by recommendation curiosity and an interest in poets who write in other forms than poetry. A Thousand Lives I read for a dinner with the author, though I am interested in Jonestown and in other extreme social events.
Reading Old Man arose from an ignorance of John Brown's history and a fascination with defiantly moral conviction. Where does conscience arise come to proclaim itself and be heard? The boundaries of principle violence and history.
I hadn't intended to read these three books let alone in close proximity. They all deal with the farthest reaches of the social contract. Torture, mass suicide, violent overthrow.
I don't usually read crime thrillers mysteries, whether fiction or nonfiction, or movies for that matter. I'm not attracted to violence except as a flaring edge of human choice. I am intrigued by powerful resistance to systems that repress human rights.
The three books congeal around the commitment to violence against a fellow human made with the cool eye of seeming reason. Moral principle rationalizes the destruction and certifies its necessity. Torture is justified in certain cases; revolutionary suicide is required to confront the oppressive status quo; violence is the only means left to catalyze an uprising to end the greatest evil of slavery.
After reading all three books I became like Flynn at the beginning of Ticking anxiously confounded by the human capacity for intentional violence. The dot to dot penetration of that capacity in the everyday forms of our speech our media our government our lives. The recognition that the righteousness in each of these books is just a few degrees away from where each of us speaks thinks acts.
It wasn't intentional. I just read these books this summer of all the hundreds of books that surround me. The dots joined up like silver in a mirror.