Week Two had several outstanding choices for quote of the week.
What’s your vote? One of these or something else?
“Don’t forget the real business of the War is buying and selling. The murdering and the violence are self-policing, and can be trusted to non-professionals. The mass nature of wartime death is useful in many ways. It serves as spectacle, as diversion from the real movements of the War. It provides the raw material to be recorded into History, so that children may be taught History as sequences of violence, battle after battle, and be more prepared for the adult world….The true war is a celebration of markets.” (124-5)
“Pointsman’s season of despair was well upon him….this war, this State he’d come to feel himself a citizen of, was to be adjourned and reconstituted as a peace—and that, professionally speaking, he’d hardly got a thing out of it.” (88)
The first, a devastating view of the reality of conflicts that are politically manufactured and controlled by wealth, is intensely cruel on several levels. And feels very true. Nauseatingly true.
The second captures what seems, thus far, a central tension of the novel. War is a monumental Hell experienced by all involved, and yet each still has to live each day. Live, as in eat and clean and think and have sex and work. But it’s war, and so none of that really happens in a way that feels normal? How do we not collapse into deep existential depression? How do moments like Roger and Jessica’s “Fuck the war. They were in love.” happen? And do they accumulate sufficient moments of humanity to allow the net reality of war to still be life?
Finally, my personal favorite:
“Ask them at ‘The White Visitation’ about the master plan of BBC’s eloquent Mryon Grunton, whose melted-toffee voice has been finding its way for years into the fraying rust boucle of the wireless speakers and into English dreams, foggy, old heads, children at the edges of attention…” (87).
Why? Because it feels luxuriously normal and beautiful in a sea of cold and deadly and fearful.
How about you?
I think Pointsman looks to the war as opportunity. The same way a generals in the ’80s needed some war for promotions. As I recall, the invasion of Greneda resulted in an unprecedented number of medals. That’s the meaning of “professionally speaking, he’d hardly got a thing out of it.” The man really is a jerk. For the most of the rest of the characters, you are spot on.
Do you think, Dennis, that he was hoping to experiment on humans and the war didn’t last long enough for him to get that far?
I don’t know that he specifically wanted humans, but it seems a definite cut above his dogs. His experiment with dogs don’t seem to be much more that redoing Pavlov. At the point of the quote, however, the War might have been winding down, but it was still around and he was trying hard to grab whatever advantage he could.