FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Crime of Silence

by RON JACOBS

 

Sara Paretsky is known for her crime fiction. One of the first writers in this genre to feature a female protagonist, Paretsky’s tales exist in the netherworld of murder, corruption and general venality that often crosses into that part of the human soul where power, lust and greed combine to produce sheer evil. It is this familiarity with that juncture that makes Paretsky’s recently released collection of essays on our current condition so interesting. The book, titled Writing In An Age of Silence, is a heartfelt expression of the age of fear we live in. It is also much more than that.

Paretsky discusses her childhood and how that part of her life played into the origins of her fictional characters. She writes about her parents’ struggle as immigrants to understand the United States and the meaning of the almost total destruction of her family by the Nazis. She describes a childhood that was not easy but also quite typical of her times and circumstances. In another part of the book, her description of her experience as a foot soldier in the civil rights movement in Chicago when Martin Luther King came to that town to protest housing discrimination leads into a discussion of the realities of US class, and race and the way the two phenomenon are manipulated. “That summer,” she writes, “changed my life forever.” Besides opening her eyes to the aforementioned realities of race and class and the inferno the mix could create when manipulated by those whose interests such manipulation served, Paretsky tells the reader that the summer of 1966 made her aware of the issues of voice and voicelessness–issues that helped her decide what to write and continue to dominate her writing.

I have been working in libraries for twenty years and writing for even longer. Therefore it was with great interest that I read Ms. Paretsky’s final essay in this book. It is a discussion of the publishing business in the world of global capital, the fate of libraries as democratic institutions, the fear to write what one truly believes in the wake of the 9-11 and the so-called PATRIOT Act and the fear to borrow certain books from the library. It is also about the fear to read and discuss such books for fear that someone might be listening who might then report you. I know that when I plan what I will read on an airplane trip, I am always certain to not carry a book whose title might cause some TSA worker to pull me off to the side and question me. It doesn’t even have to be the government that watches us. It can be a fellow citizen who has allowed their fears to overcome their reason..

Over the course of Writing In An Age of Silence, Paretsky addresses religion in the US, American exceptionalism and its influences on how Washington frames its imperial adventures, her experiences as a woman in capitalist America, and even Dashiell Hammett and his inspiration in her writing. This book is light in its weight, but not in its content. It is a concise, compellingly written discussion of everything mentioned here which, despite the darkness of the authoritarian night within which this discussion resides, there is a ray of light. That light is Paretsky’s writing. It is learned without being aloof, and accessible yet not condescending. One hopes that those who like Paretsky’s crime fiction (and that is a good number of today’s readers) will take the time to read Writing In An Age of Silence, and then do something about what they have read. Yet this book should not only be confined to those familiar with Paretsky’s fiction It is for anyone concerned about living in the times Ms. Paretsky so aptly describes as an age of silence.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is forthcoming from Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

 

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail