Alexander Chee on Elena Ferrante's upcoming new book.
The bar for every writer of fiction is that the novel is an invented thing. And yet each time we write, novelists are treated like spiritualists who rip off the grief-stricken — as though our inventions are some sort of hustle. Surely you must have some experience like this: Tell us about it. On tour for my first novel, a reader asked, “How much of this is autobiographical?” I replied, nearly snarling, “If you knew, would you believe it more or less?”
No amount of not taking guns away will convince some people that nobody's coming to take their guns away. But even if you believe the 3% belief — mistakenly thinking that only 3% of the population of the United States fought the Revolutionary War (with a population of 2.5 million in the colonies, and about 145,000 joining in militias, and 231,000 in the Continental Army — although those totals span the war and no individual battle saw near those numbers — it was more like 15%) — you would have to be close to 9.5 million to take the same action now. Finding 9.5 million Americans to take up arms, especially in times of relative prosperity, based on conspiracy theories is a tall order.
But of course, these men, like other "patriots", believe what they want irregardless of the weighty evidence that they are wrong, historically, and about the current political climate. Patriotism is a faith and a dogma, and the symbol of their sect is crossed firearms.
For example. let us consider the figure of Mr. Devin Bowen:
This session was held on 14 acres owned by Devin Bowen, a machinist who was having a miserable day even before the deputies forced him to drop his pistol.
The door of his trailer — the one with a sign that reads, “If You Don’t Live Here, Don’t Come Here” — was smashed in that day. Three rifles, a crossbow, 13,000 rounds of ammunition and an 800-pound gun safe were taken — not by federal agents, but by local thieves. Worse, Mr. Bowen was coughing up blood from an unknown malady. He soothed his throat by chugging cold Coca-Colas.
Mr. Bowen’s comrades urged him to see a doctor, prompting a sour discussion about yet another conspiracy they see: the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Bowen waved them off. He was more concerned about Muslim immigrants’ imposing Shariah law. “You cannot come to my country and shove your religion down my throat,” he said, coughing.
In a world where the GOP candidate hires firms with workers literally convicted of voter fraud and appeals (successfully) a court choice that his campaign cannot intimidate voters, and where a GOP state chair accuses polls of only staying open late so that "certain people" can vote, it's maddening to see the racist, classicist, and anti-democratic local Republican leadership so nakedly try to squash minority votes. There is no other way: all Americans who believe in Democracy should vigorously support as many people voting as possible. It's ludicrous to suggest otherwise.
Olivia Pearson, known around town as Miss Libby, surged with pride when she ferried her 18-year-old nephew to the polls to cast his first-ever ballot for Barack Obama in 2012. But now the former parole officer, civil rights activist, and grandmother has been charged with improperly helping him to vote. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison.
Her prosecution is one skirmish in the intense and increasingly bitter nationwide struggle between Democrats’ efforts to mobilize voters — especially people of color — and Republicans’ attempts to crack down on what they say is voter fraud in an election that Trump has repeatedly claimed is “rigged.” Her case comes amid the pitched electoral battle for the state of Georgia, long a rock-solid Republican bastion where polls show Donald Trump holds only a slim lead over Hillary Clinton. Republican officials in Georgia have encouraged ordinary citizens to lodge voter-fraud complaints through, for example, a dedicated website. Prosecutions remain rare but, critics charge, can send a message so chilling it suppresses voter turnout.
What do you do when David Duke shows up to your party and you want to get rid of him, but can't?
A few stalls and many crowds of drunk people across the grounds, Theresa Crosby, Deutsches Haus' executive director, sat behind a raffle booth, wearing a dirndl and ruffled bloomers. "He has been here uninvited," she told me. "He was told that he cannot hand out anything political, and he could not ask people to wear stickers and things like that." For emphasis, she ran down the list of her rules for all political figures, but most of all for this particular 66-year old candidate for the United States Senate: "You cannot pass out any literature, you cannot put any stickers on people, you cannot hold court, you cannot make any announcements. If you go around and people come up to you, that's fine, but you cannot go around and harass our people."