THE PROBLEM with religious fundamentalist political agenda -- besides the fact that it is unconstitutional -- is that it's fundamentally un-American. Like all extremist movements, its success depends on making people afraid of each other... they've never lasted. I believe that's because most of us want to find our own way to happiness. We're here for such a short precious time; we want to choose how we live, how we love, how we worship; and because we want that freedom for ourselves, we have to see the justice in giving it to our neighbors. This is who we are as a people.
That is author Hillary Jordan, whose astonishing book of last year, When She Woke, has come to me now in soft cover.
This is a tale of the not-very-distant future, after economic collapse and a catastrophic pandemic, where criminals are "chromed" (tinted) in accordance to their crimes -- yellow, blue, and most disastrously, red -- for murder. The story follows a woman, Hannah, tinted red, and how she manages to live in a world where she cannot escape her sin. I will not reveal the nature of her crime -- that would tell too much. But it is unquestionably a woman's story, a thrilling, heartbreaking journey as she discovers herself through incredible adversity. Hannah Payne, much like Hawthorne's Hester Prynne, should become one of the great female characters in literature. (The Scarlet Letter was a large influence on author Jordan.)
When She Woke is one of the most compelling and important novels I've ever read, and despite its sci-fi trappings, scarily plausible.
- IF YOU love masterpiece theater, catch it Sundays on PBS and you can see Michael Landes in Upstairs Downstairs. He plays the charismatic millionaire Çasper Landry who arrives in London just before World War II and is introduced to Lady Agnes by the then-American Ambassador Joseph Kennedy. (Michael just happens, in real life, to be married to Wendy Benson Landes. Her famous parents are New York's popular Gigi and Harry Benson. He is a photographer for the ages and to the stars.)
More about the Bensons later but right now I must advise that actor Michael Landes will begin a new gig in January, starring with actress Anne Heche in the new series from NBC titled Save Me.
As for my pals, the Bensons, Harry has a new book Harry Benson: The Beatles on the Road 1964-l966. This is the 1,000th book that Taschen Publishing has put out and is a limited edition, coffee table size. There were only 1,964 copies printed to correspond with the year that the Beatles arrived in America to do the Ed Sullivan Show.
The canny Scotsman, Harry, and his Texas-born Gigi, have just been on a fabulous book tour from New York to Miami to Berlin, Hamburg, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London.
- It was fascinating to read the other day that the Obama administration recalled Laurence Pope, a veteran Arab-speaking diplomat, age 67, to temporarily fill the Libyan post of our late and much lamented Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. (The latter died with other Americans in the attack on the Benghazi compound.)
Amb. Pope will be the top ranking officer in Libya until that post is filled later. And President Obama didn't require Senate confirmation for this appointment.
Amb. Pope is a senior Arabist, fluent in Arabic, knows the Middle East and Africa well. He is highly respected as he was an advisor to General Anthony Zinni, the head of Central Command of the Middle East.
- THIS FRIDAY night there'll be a lot of twanging and Texas cheer at the Paley Center for Media in midtown Manhattan as her admirers evoke the spirit of the late governor of Texas -- Ann Richards.
A documentary titled Ann Richards' Texas will be shown. It's about this Lone Star State star liberal who embodied a new and progressive Texas. But, she was defeated in her re-election bid by the young and inexperienced George Bush. So a high old warm remembrance time will be had by one and all. Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Dan Rather and Bill Clinton share their personal recollections of the outspoken activist Ann who made herself well known at the Democratic Convention by saying that "poor George... he was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
- WE TRY to cover the waterfront. The other day we had an adorable baby notice from Mayor Mike Bloomberg's stalwart helper Megan Sheekey.
TODAY we note that novelist Erica Jong lost her mother on Oct. 8th when Eda Mirsky Mann died at age 101. Eda left 17 grandchildren.