Sunday, February 26, 2012


There's a scene in the Scott Ridley adaptation of the Joseph Conrad tale, The Duellists, where the mistress of the protagonist goes to a tarot card reader to get insight into her personal dilemma.  The seer throws the decision back at her with the moon card and the path between the two dogs.  Tells her the cards say she must make her own decision.  Well done, I think.

For the decisions are not in the cards but in ourselves.  I'd be glad if I could make a living by explaining that to people.  Card reading started out as a parlor game and evolved into a method of hyped divination used by con artists to fleece the gullible.  But it is still a parlor game too, more fun than an ouija board, and the tarot cards themselves are sometimes interesting works of art.

There are authors who work tarot cards into their books as symbolic tools of the subconscious, and the most significant example of this may be in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.  In the novel, members of the gang have their fortunes told by a gypsy card reader.  The protagonist,  who is known only as "the child" and then as "the kid" and late in the novel as "the man," draws the four of cups.

Well, the legend is that McCarthy saw the four of cups in a dream, nailed to the wall of a house (which is described in the novel), not knowing what the card meant.  John Sepich, a longtime friend of McCarthy, devoted a full chapter in his famous Notes On Blood Meridian to "Tarot and Divination."  It is his opinion that the interpretation four of cups is the key to understanding the meaning of the novel.

The four of cups is a rather blue-collar, low ranking card, a bit like the four of spades in a regular deck.  Even in Stuart R. Kaplan's massively illustrated three-volume Encyclopedia of Tarot, the four of cups doesn't get much space and hardly any illustrations.  Rank is not so important in divination, however, and a card's meaning usually depends on what company it keeps.

Details vary greatly from deck to deck, but the gist of the card is this:  A young man or woman sits with their back to a tree, gazing rather blankly at three cups, which are sometimes on their sides, empty.  The idea is that of angst, a disappointment with material things.  Meanwhile, out of the sky--or out of the subconscious--a hand from out of nowhere offers a better cup, or perhaps a spiritual awakening.

Not all tarot decks conform to this narrative regarding the four of cups, but most have something like it.  Sepich cites sources to say that this card is associated with mercy and a divided heart.  That, in the McCarthy novel, it foretells the kid's later display of mercy in the desert, and it is for that reason that the Judge eventually destroys him.

There of course is more of the tarot in Blood Meridian, but the dim light of humanity that persists in the novel is built around the evolution of empathy in "the kid," who becomes "the man" in the narrative directly after giving mercy to the old woman in the desert.  Mercy was an act of free agency and marked the kid's coming of age.
Novels, like tarot cards, are subject to different interpretations, but I certainly agree with John Sepich on this.  McCarthy stresses the notion of the subconscious, and his novels are deeply layered.  If you want to know about the historical references in the novel, Sepich's work is not to be missed.  He also maintains a site, link,  on the web in association with Christopher Forbis and some other McCarthy scholars, which includes concordances of the novels.

Then too, over at Ken's Occult McCarthy site, link, there are more detailed references to freemasonry, the tarot, parodies of McCarthy's prose, and much more.  And of course, there are always many serious interpretations being discussed at the Cormac McCarthy Society, link.  I've talked about McCarthy's works in this blog several times, including a Wednesday's Western review of Blood Meridian at this link.

We've seen a surge in the number of artistic tarot decks lately, or so it seems to me.  I can recall when there were only two or three different styles available, but now they seem without number.  It would not surprise me if someone soon came up with a Blood Meridian Tarot Deck, if they haven't already done so.

Scott Ridley has been named the director of the new Cormac McCarthy movie, The Counselor--in case you haven't heard.  The cast includes Michael Fassbender and possibly Brad Pitt or Javier Bardem.  And of course McCarthy has long been said to be putting on the finishing touches to his newest novel, The Passenger.  James Franco is still trying to make movies of both Blood Meridian and Child of God

We'll see.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: ROCK PAPER TIGER by Lisa Brackmann

I've been a Kentuckian all of my adult life, save for those four years during the Viet Nam War when the draft forced me to serve overseas at Naval bases, in Morocco and Cuba mostly.  Foreign countries give you an enhanced appreciation of home, but serving in the military bureaucracy can make you hate bureaucracies, if you were not already inclined to do so.

I tend to agree with Major General Smedley D. Butler, the highly decorated soldier of many conflicts, who said that "war is a racket" designed to make money for those rich men who control the U. S. Government, and at the expense of those drafted to fight.  I read Butler's story recently in Sally Denton's excellent The Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right.

Anyway, I thought about all of this when choosing my selection for Forgotten Book of the Week, Lisa Brackmann's ROCK PAPER TIGER.  It was her first book, published in 2010, and right away she garnered a hard core of fans.  There were many lauding reviews and the book was on many best-of lists at the year's end.  It isn't forgotten by any means, but those of us who are fans think it deserves a much wider audience.

Rock Paper Tiger
 Brackmann's refreshingly vibrant protagonist is an Iraq War veteran who follows her husband to China to live after her service time is up.  Her husband has deserted her and she is left to fend for herself, giving us a keen look at contemporary life in China, something that is unusual to find in an American mystery or thriller.  And this is a thriller--despite what some readers have said at Amazon--it is both a conspiracy/political thriller and a virtual-gaming thriller.
Lisa Brackmann

An example of the author's dialogue:

"So, Trey, he does not work for American Government?"

"Big Corporation."  I laugh.  "What's the difference?"

John nods sagely  "You know, here in China, PLA, Peoples' Liberation Army, owns many businesses.  They hide this better than before, but still it is this way.  So maybe this is somewhat the same in America."

"It's the other way around in America," I tell him.  "Companies own the Army.  They send us where they want us to go.  To do their shit for them.  So they can get rich."

There are several interviews with the author across the web, and she even has shared her query letter that landed her book with a publisher.  In that letter, she compared her spunky protagonist to Laura Lippman's, which only makes me want to read more of Lippman's books now.

And of course, I'll soon be sending for Brackmann's second novel.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

HOW TO LIKE IT by Stephen Dobyns and THE CRY OF THE WILD GOOSE by Frankie Laine

Today, February 24th, was like a perfect spring day in these Kentucky woods until it clouded up and rained late in the day.  Just before it rained, my wife and I were cutting brush on the edge of the farm pond.  We heard the cry of the wild geese before we saw them, flapping convoys in V formation winging their way north, lower than usual--perhaps because of the cloud cover.  A sight that takes our breath away, year after year.

Stephen Dobyns has written many breathtaking works of art.  One of my favorites is his midlife crisis poem, "How To Like It."  A dog is featured here, perhaps the same English setter as in Winter's Journey, but here the dog is symbolic of the itchy tendency of a man to break off his relationship and light out, smelling the wanderlust of fall.  It works for the wanderlust of spring too, as in the Frankie Laine recording of  "The Cry of the Wild Goose."

Last night I heard the wild goose cry
winging north in the cold blue sky.
I tried to sleep but it wasn't no use
cause I am a brother to the old wild goose.

The cabin is warm and the snow is deep
and I got a woman who lies asleep.
She'll wake up at tomorrow's dawn
and she'll find, poor critter, that her man is gone.

Spring is coming and the ice will break
and I can't linger for a woman's sake.
She'll see a shadow pass overhead
and she'll find a feather beside my bed.

Cause my heart knows what the wild goose knows,
and I must go where the wild goose goes.
Wild goose, brother goose--which is best?
A wandering fool or a heart at rest?

Well, doesn't he know that geese mate for life?  Apparently not.

The Stephen Dobyns poem below is both funny and sad--sad because the man is torn, having not quite learned how to love deeply enough to be happy, staying true to what is real and important.  If you have not yet read this one before, you are in for a treat.


These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.

A man and a dog descend their front steps.

The dog says, Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let's tip over all the trash cans we find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.

But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which are shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.

The dog says, Let's pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let's dig holes everywhere.

Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn't been used since last winter.

The dog says, Let's go down to the diner and sniff
people's legs. Let's stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man's mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.

The dog says, Let's go to sleep. Let's lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.

But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he'll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he'll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.

But the dogs says, Let's just go back inside.
Let's not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.

How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing? The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?

But the dog says, Let's go make a sandwich.
Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen.

And that's what they do and that's where the man's
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept--
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.


You can hear Frankie Laine sing "Cry of the Wild Goose" at this link:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: Stephen Dobyns' SARATOGA BACKTALK

This is a light comic mystery with poetic undertones.  If you've tried to read others by this author earlier in the series and laid them aside, go back and start with this one.  If you're completely new to the rich variety of Stephen Dobyns' novels and poetry, you might also want to start here.

This is a continuation of the Charlie Bradshaw/Saratoga private eye mysteries, but the narrator here is Victor Plotz, who often works for Bradshaw as Angel Martin worked for Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files.  Like Angel, Plotz is no angel, but he's older, smarter, and funnier.

I always hear Plotz in something like a Rodney Dangerfield voice.  Just listen:

"I got a girlfriend.  Actually I got more than one but this is the main one, at least for now . . .Her name is Rosemary. . .She's fifty-one.  She's big and plump and I call her the Queen of Softness.  If you ask me, women only come into their prime after they hit fifty.  Before that they've got too much bone and muscle: baby machines too easily distracted by what they have manufactured.  They remind me of Japanese car companies, all style and no soul.  Before menopause a woman can be a real nuisance, she's packed full of hidden agendas and most of them concern her kids.'

"But after fifty a woman's kids are usually grown up and she can turn herself over to pleasure.  And they get soft at that age, almost spongy.  It's the time when a woman gives up her figure and takes on a shape.  Rosemary Larkin has a wonderful pear shape.  No aerobics for her.  Who wants a lady with a figure like a letter knife.'

"Rosemary has got this hot tub in her basement and we sit in it and play Elevator.  I put my hands under her breasts--big white stocking-cap breasts with nipples like the eye of the cyclops who Kirk Douglas bumped off in that movie about Ulysses.  I put my hands under Rosemary's breasts so I can feel their weight, their very consequence and magnitude, and Rosemary calls out, 'Eighth Floor!" and slowly I raise her breasts up out of the bubbling water.  Then she calls out 'Fourth floor!' and slowly I lower them again.  Then she calls 'Bargain Basement!' and we go down, down, down.'

"You can't play that kind of game with a younger woman. . .A woman like the Queen of Softness isn't wound up tight about getting someplace or not getting someplace, she already lives someplace.  She's arrived.  She stands on her life with both feet.  She doesn't mind that I am fifty-nine, or thereabouts, and that our skin is squishy and yielding.  Not only has our skin been around the track, it has been the track.  It's got history.  We rub each other down with body oil and we're like two big seals flopping together on her big waterbed." 

Plotz always confesses himself to be an Angel Martin type of rat, but his droll manner is more endearing and the plot provides him with many opportunities to be wildly funny.  I was first attracted to the series because of the horseracing-related plots, but soon I became hooked on the characters and the writing.  Dobyns seemed to get better with every book.

I discussed his stand-alone, The Church of Dead Girls, last Halloween, and his book on poetry, Best Words, Best Order, is one of the most significant of its kind.

This month, I'm rereading his most recent book of meditative poems, Winter's Journey, about a poem a day when a mellow mood strikes me.  It deserves to be published in a deluxe hardcover edition, but flimsy paperbacks with small print are all that even the best poetry can muster these days, or so it seems.  Even with gifts from Amazon and a score of other sponsors.

In his poetry, Dobyns sounds nothing like Rodney Dangerfield at all.  Instead, I hear him as the sage and older Paul Newman, and I suppose now that I always will.  His books have a lasting place on our "most-loved" shelves.

I plan to give my analysis of Winter's Journey a bit later.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

THE GUARD: The Best Dark Comedy I've Seen In Years

THE GUARD is a dark comedy for adults, the best I've seen in a long time.  Much of the humor is intellectual, you might say, but a lot of it is also slapstick, lower-grade stuff.  I can't think of a movie to compare it to; it is that unique.

We saw it the day after I reviewed Adrian McKinty's COLD COLD GROUND, and the book had some of the same elements as the movie.  Gangsters; drug violence; bribes and extortion; religious, racial, and gender prejudice; casual sexual relations; jibes at the Brits, at Dublin, at the corruption of policemen in general.

It may sound like the usual, but it isn't.  Brendan Gleeson as Gerry Boyle is corrupt, but he is not conventionally corrupt.  He lives within an existential code of his own.

My favorite scene is where Gleeson and the FBI agent are about to confront the drug smugglers.  The FBI man says that he's sent for back-up, that they should wait for back-up, but Boyle knows that back-up won't be coming because the entire western coast of Ireland is on the take.

Like a lot of scenes in here, this one is underplayed, but you get it.  It's just you and me, Boyle tells him.  There will be no back-up.  Colexico then provides a suitable spaghetti western soundtrack at this point in the movie.

The entire soundtrack is witty, quirky, surprising.  They open the credits with John Denver's "Leaving On a Jet Plane," which makes you wonder if Boyle himself didn't come up with that one as he boards a plane on the way to a sequel.

I also especially loved a scene where the three main smugglers discuss philosophy and nothingness, all to comic effect.  The overall acting was splendid and none too serious, as you can tell by listening to the backstory comments on the DVD--where writer/director John Michael McDonagh teams up with the actors.

I know they are having trouble finding an actor capable of playing Cormac McCarthy's Judge Holden for the movie of Blood Meridan.  Maybe Gleeson could do it; he's big enough, with the right sense of humor.

We'll see.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day: What's Love Got To Do, Got To Do With It?

What's love got to do with it?  Plenty.  My cup runneth over, and I'm grateful for the day.

Yeah, I know.  Like almost every other holiday, this one is overly commercialized.  Sales of candy, cards, jewelry and sexy lingerie depend on it.

Over at one of my favorite blogs, The Rap Sheet, J. Kingston Pierce provides links to Valentine's Day history, and over at Killer Covers, link, he gives us some noir book covers with kiss in the title. 

But just as sex is much more than a kiss, and just as love is so much more than sex, the meaning of today for us is much more than randy sex, much more than an excuse to eat chocolate, much more than "sentimental movies and sappy songs."

Valentine's Day is yet another day of gratitude, a reminder that we need to stay mindful and grateful for our love this and every day.  Every day is Thanksgiving, every day is Christmas, every day is New Year's Day, every day is Groundhog Day, every day is Valentine's Day, and it should be.

You need to look beyond the commercialism and materialism of these holidays to see what is real and eternal, to see what is really important in life.

Again this year, I'm posting Kenneth Fearing's funny verse, and I'll discuss the way I see it below:

Love 20 Cents the First Quarter Mile

All right, I may have lied to you and about you,
     and made a few
     pronouncements a bit too sweeping,
     perhaps, and possibly
     forgotten to tag the bases here or there.
And damned your extravagance,
     and maligned your tastes,
     and libeled your relatives,
     and slandered a few of your friends.
     Nevertheless, come back.

Come home.  I will agree to forget the statements
     that you issued
     so copiously to the neighbors and the press.
And you will forget that figment of your imagination,
     the blonde from Detroit;
I will agree that your lady friend who lives above us
     is not crazy, bats, nutty as they come,
     but on the contrary rather bright,
And you will concede that poor old Steinberg
     is neither a drunk, nor a swindler,
     but simply a guy on the eccentric side,
     trying to get along.

Because I forgive you, yet, for everything.
I forgive you for being beautiful and generous and wise.
I forgive you, to put it simply, for being alive,
     and pardon you, in short, for being you.

Because tonight you are in my hair and eyes,
And every street light that our taxi passes shows me
     you again, still you,
And because tonight all other nights are black,
     all other hours are cold and far away,
     and now, this minute, the stars
     are very near and bright.

Come back.  We will have a celebration to end all
We will invite the undertaker who lives beneath us,
     and a couple of boys from the office,
     and some other friends.
And Steinberg, who is off the wagon, and that insane
     woman who lives upstairs, and a few reporters,
     if anything should break.


What's wrong with the way most Americans view love?  Plenty. 

Just as in the title of the verse above, most Americans assign "love" a monetary value.  Materialists themselves in a material culture, they see material value in everything, and they bargain everything, tit for tat.  Their love is conditional and hence temporary.  Their material, superficial possessive love does not last, for they fail to see what is real but not material, they fail to appreciate what cannot be weighed and measured on a scale.

Their lovers are something they possess, trophy lovers, simply material things to collect and to be disposed of when they lose that glamor, that material value.

Lots of popularly acclaimed books professing to be love stories only deal with this form of possessive love, with juvenile ego trips rather than love itself, with the shallow and temporal rather than the eternal and deep.  According to these materialistic authors, finding love is something like figuring out the most glamorous date available to take to the prom.

Such stories are often clever, witty, and sometimes fun to read, but they are also sad because these authors have not yet learned to see beyond the material.  Their most "adult" stories are stuck in a juvenile mode.  They can be verse but never poetry, because materialists do not yet believe in the transcendant where love resides.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


THE COLD COLD GROUND is a brilliant new thriller/police procedural by Adrian McKinty, a multicultural writer of considerable experience and impeccable qualifications.  Although Soho Press inexplicably passed on publishing it here in the United States, you can still buy it at Amazon (as I did), for less than $20 and it is well worth the expense and effort.

Set in Northern Ireland's Carrickfergus during the terrorism (or the Troubles as they are politely and routinely called), The Cold Cold Ground is a detective yarn spun against the backdrop of history.  It is also a period piece bristling with the attitudes and artifacts of that time.  For example, the narrator/detective protagonist describes the lady pathologist as looking like Samantha of Bewitched , certainly a generational reference, but young people will still get the idea.

A lot of the Irish slang was new to me, but the context was such that I had no difficulty in picking it up.  It added rather than subtracted from the reading experience, so much easier than reading Peter Temple's Australian slang in his own equally brilliant but more widely known detective yarn, Truth (the winner of the 2010 Miles Franklin Literary Award for best novel).

The title of The Cold Cold Ground comes not from the Stephen Foster spiritual but from Tom Waits' song, quoted in an epigraph.  A playlist of the music mentioned in the text includes Blondie, Juice Newton, and several others familiar to most Americans.

Secular Americans generally find it hard to relate to Ireland's Protestant/Catholic partisan divide.  Readers of Lawrence Block's popular and savvy Scudder series will be familiar with his Irish gangsters, ex-patriots relocated to New York.  The Cold Cold Ground will show you the other side of the coin in a very real way.

Do a search and you can find several other glowing international reviews of this novel, but my advice is to avoid spoilers and to let the novel surprise you with its delightful twists and turns.  McKinty is a stylist and his protagonist often muses on the ironies and complexities of human existence.  It is both beautiful and astonishingly well grounded in history.

Hard aground to the cold, cold ground.

You can listen to Charlotte Church's lovely "Carrickfergus" at this link.  And the Celtic Woman version is here, link.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


"The ultimate act of thirties usurpation is Ayn Rand's thousand-page 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged.  To its present-day fans, it is a work of amazing prescience, the story of the overregulating, liberty-smothering Obama administration told more than fifty years before it actually happened.'

"For me, it is the political flimflam of our times wrapped up in one big package:  the manifesto of the deregulators and free marketeers who caused the economic disaster, embraced without a glimmer of awareness by the protest movement that the disaster stirred up.'

"The story of a group of business leaders fighting big-government oppression, Atlas Shrugged has been popular since it was first published, especially among egotistical fourteen-year-olds and among the sort of self-pitying mogul types who see themselves in the book's tycoon heroes.  For free-market true believers, the tome is their very own Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, more accurately, their Caesar's Column.'

"With Barack Obama's inauguration in January of 2009, sales of Atlas Shrugged registered a remarkable uptick.  Everyone could see that it was the novel for the era.  The opinion page of the Wall Street Journal hailed it as the tale of our times foretold.

The influential blogger Michelle Malkin urged readers to emulate the book's entrepreneurial heroes.  Officers of the Ayn Rand legacy organizations began appearing at Tea Party rallies, stoking the fires of discontent; protest signs started quoting famous lines from the novel; someone issued silver coins emblazoned with the name of the book's main character; and a movie based on the book was released to the great anticipation of the resurgent Right.'

"Rand fans heard the call to the colors.  Among our characters, Rick Santelli and Mike Pompeo are both disciples.  Paul Ryan suggested in 2009 that 'we are right now living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically speaking."

Among the freshman class in Congress, the fandom burns brightly.  Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin refers to Atlas Shrugged as his 'foundational book.'  Representative David Schweikert of Arizona cites Atlas Shrugged as his favorite book, Representative Rick Crawford of Arkansas quotes Rand on his Twitter feed, and Senator Rand Paul describes Atlas Shrugged as a "must-read classic in the cause of liberty."

According to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the other Ayn Rand psychopaths, it is the superior man who is being persecuted, "the ownership society," "the wealth creators," the "job creators."  The rest of the population is made up of moochers and freeloaders whose sense of "entitlement" is a burden on "free men."  And according to their propaganda in line with the Ayn Rand script, it is not the corruption of Wall Street that is to blame for the financial collapse.  It is merely the government meddling that is to blame.  Instead of replacing and enforcing the removed regulations on the banks, the Ayn Rand psychopaths want to double-up on the deregulation.

"In September 2011, House Speaker John Boehner, mimicking John Gault of the novel, announced that the economy wasn't improving because 'job creators in America, basically, are on strike."  He says that we must 'liberate' these powerful ones from taxes and an insane, meddling government--or else.  If talent isn't treated the way talent wants to be treated, it will walk.  Just try running your economy then.'

"Those who think they have something to look forward to in the libertarian future would do well to reread the famous scene in Atlas Shrugged where Rand illustrates the breakdown of society with a colossal train accident.  Rand arranges this disaster in such a way that the crash is attributable not to some act of negligence by the railroad but to the arrogance of one of the train's passengers, a powerful politician who forces the train's crew to proceed into a dangerous tunnel.'

"And then, in a notorious passage, the narrator goes through all the other passenger cars on the train and tells us why each casualty-to-be deserves the fate that is coming to him or her.  One of them, she points out, received government loans; another doesn't like businessmen; a third is married to a federal regulator; a fourth foolishly thinks she has a right to ride on a train even when she doesn't own the train in question.  For each one of these subhumans, the sentence is death.'

"For a reader like me, Ayn Rand's almost total contempt for humanity is her most repugnant point.  For the master spirits of our contemporary Right, though, I sometimes suspect that's the stuff that rings truest."  Identification with the billionaire as a superior man, and deserved comeuppance for the humiliation and death of everyone else.  "The game is finally up for the whiners of the world, they exult. . ."

This is the script of the Tea Party, of the Republican Party as it stands.  It worships the God of the Market, a false idol, a laissez-faire utopia.  "What they pine for is a system that can never exist, that has never existed, and that will never exist.  And with every inch they bring us toward that ugly utopia, our society's deterioration accelerates."

"Inflexible dogmatism is, after sociopathic shrillness and fast trains, one of the great selling points of Atlas Shrugged. . .But the lastest Right doesn't so much simplify reality as idealize it.  They're in a place where beliefs don't really have consequences, where premises are not to be checked, only repeated in a louder voice."