JUST BECAUSE

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Just because the days are stressful lately and this excerpt sent to me by a friend from David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King” feels, to me, like a meditation, a gentle inundation, a still, sweet, patient hush…

Past the flannel plains and blacktop graphs and skylines of canted rust, and past the tobacco-brown river overhung with weeping trees and coins of sunlight through them on the water downriver, to the place beyond the windbreak, where untilled fields simmer shrilly in the A.M. heat: shattercane, lamb’s-quarter, cutgrass, sawbrier, nutgrass, jimsonweed, wild mint, dandelion, foxtain, muscadine, spine-cabbage, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter-print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently nodding in a morning breeze like a mother’s soft hand on your cheek.

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An arrow of starlings fired from the windbreak’s thatch. The glitter of dew that stays where it is and steams all day. A sunflower, four more, one bowed, and horses in the distance standing rigid and still as toys. All nodding. Electric sounds of insects at their business. Ale-colored sunshine and pale sky and whorls of cirrus so high they cast no shadow. Insects all business all the time. Quartz and chert and schist and chondrite iron scabs in granite. Very old land. Look around you. The horizon trembling, shapeless. We are all of us brothers.

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Max in America: Into the Land of Trump

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A sheltered, artistic Mexican man.

An overprotective mother who passes away.

A balloon.

A journey across borders…both geographical and psychological.

I know everyone’s beaten down by the present U.S. administration and can probably barely endure another moment even thinking about it, but Henry Chamberlain’s Max in America: Into The Land of Trump comes at us sideways from a different point of view: one of a Mexican national.

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Remember them? The sex offenders and criminals running across our borders in droves, raping and pillaging wherever they go? Oh, wait a minute. That was the Vikings. Or was it Chaucer (yes, Chaucer!) or Jeffrey Epstein or Bill Cosby or obviously guilty but slapped on the wrist Kavanaugh or the Church covering up—to this day–for disturbed priests?

Rape aside, what about other criminals? The Madoffs and the Mansons, the Enron guys and the Ted Bundys? And yes, women too. Shouldn’t we worry about being murdered in our high schools by our fellow Americans or while we’re listening to music at a concert before we worry about Mexico?

I think so.

Realizing late in life that the beloved comics he’s always enjoyed lack Mexican-themed stories, Max comes to understand that his mother’s zero interest in Mexican culture fostered much of his blindness toward racial and cultural inequality, and once he “immigrates” to America, he can’t help but continue on to related, much larger issues.

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Once in the States, he begins to face the bigotry and biases that “ethnic” Americans face every day, and the author impresses upon us a startling truth out of this: “Your otherness becomes you.”

As Max continues on a fairy-tale like adventure buoyed by strange luck and almost ludicrously chance events which propel him into stand-up comedy on a quest across the States to “press the buttons” of a sometimes complacent society, I learned a lot, including some interesting stories about past personalities like George Herriman, an American cartoonist, famous for Krazy Kat, who passed for white but spoke about racial injustice through his character in code.

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Throw in the author’s delightful artwork before every chapter and lines like, “He might turn you in to ICE.”
“He might turn me into ice?”!
and you’ve got a quirky, odd saga told with insight, feeling, and humor. One can’t help but root for Max…who is, in the end, rooting for all of us.

I would definitely not skip over the epilogue, as a reader. The press conference following Trump and Putin’s secret meeting is displayed in full and is a mind-boggling read, complete with both of these dangerous men at one point actually applying the word “humanitarian” in regards to themselves. Mind-blowing. Craziness. Max in America.

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