I don't often respond to reviews, but I do want to respond to a cheap shot taken at me by Tim Symms--certain of his comments about my 9/11 story, Only Parlly Here, cast aspersions on my character, and other of his comments embody an attitude I find somewhat sad.
Mr. Symms seems especially chagrinned--indeed, insulted--that I dare write about 9/11 not having been in NYC at the time, not joining in the relief effort. Well, I almost was. I was scheduled to fly to NYC on Sept. 12 to attend my son's wedding. When I was able to reschedule, I spent several weeks in the city, some of that time with a group of people who were cleaning up the debris. My story involves itself with that time, not the attack. What really burns me about Mr. Simms' comments is his statement, "Lucius wasn't in New York during the attack. He was in our homeland, however. He went to the movies...", thereby implying that I went out for some light entertainment and some tasty popcorn that same day. Part of my income is derived from doing movie reviews. I was doing my job and, further, when I went to the movies several days later, I was mainly fleeing my apartment, escaping the barrage of horrific imagery on my television set. I wanted to be alone in the dark where I could think about my son, about other matters, where I could feel the beating of my heart,and not have its beats programmed by the insipid commentary of Paula Zahn et al. Doubtless, while I was so engaged, Mr. Simms was saving the planet from his command center in Boca Raton, but that's another subject entirely.
This idea that 9/11 is so vast and sacrosanct that it cannot be touched, that we must wait to savor all its aftertastes, that if it is to be approached at all, we must bow out heads and paint them gray...Where did it come from? Vietnam, I think. We'd had it with Vietnam, too much TV, etc, and we didn't want to hear novelists on the subject. Thus a lot of great Vietnam novels (MEDITATIONS IN GREEN, for example) written during or immediately after the war were more-or-less overlooked or just plain ignored. Wherever it came from, this desire not to know, not to hear from our most eloquent voices, until after a mourning period and then a period of acceptance or whatever, it's time we got over it. Since 9/11 there have been disasters that dwarf the fall of the towers -- are we to wait years before we write about them, and if we do, won't other disasters supplant them? Given the frequency of disasters, there's likely going to be a logjam. Speak now is my advice. Speak now and speak often. You may not have ten years. Even if you do, your immediate reactions are as a valuable, perhaps more valuable, than ones processed from memory.
I'm sure there'll be at least one major 9/11 novel. It'll be praised for its "great humanity;" weigh slightly under eight pounds; win the Pullitzer; have legions of readers (Mr Symms among them, no doubt) who'll tote it around like it was the Bible; avoid dealing with politics in any controversial way; contain a predictable assortment of characters (including at least one college professor); have a sub-plot involving yuppie redemption; and, who knows, perhaps it'll even be readable.
I tried to post this without a rating, but they won't let me, so...that being the case, damned if I'm gonna give myself less than five stars.