Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Phillip Gourevitch is my boyfriend

He doesn't know it, of course, but this shouldn't be a problem. I'm in love with his brain.
Yesterday, we heard him speak, together with Errol Morris, about Standard Operation Procedure, the book by my boyfriend and the documentary film of the same name by Morris. I have seen the movie and written about how it should be required viewing for every American citizen. I have not read the book, but I'm sure that coming from my boyfriend, it is amazing. The question is, will someone buy it? Our moral degradation is so huge that it is hard to muster the courage to read or watch these things. I saw Morris' film because I am a huge fan of his movies. I really want to read my boyfriend's book, but it is just too painful (I have yet to read his amazing book on Rwanda. After yesterday, it is next on my list).
Phillip and Morris were great, and they spoke about the differences in the two works. How Morris concentrated on the problem of the photographs and Gourevitch was taken by the language of the interviews with the Americans at Abu Ghraib. They also both seem to have enormous empathy for the soldiers who took the pictures and were prosecuted. This sparked an interesting debate about whether the taking of the photographs itself was a crime.
Unfortunately the talk was moderated by a professional idiot (as happens regularly in such events) who apparently was a British diplomat who went to Iraq. For a diplomat, he was horrifyingly vulgar, stupid and aggressive. His was the cheapest possible way to provoke argument, which is by spouting politically correct idiocies, like asking whether continuing to show the photographs, which Morris does in abundance in the film, is not continuing to dehumanize the victims. Imagine someone having this complaint about pictures of the Holocaust or other horrific human rights violations. The pictures serve a purpose, not to dehumanize, but to open our eyes and to foment the outrage that we should all be feeling. As my boyfriend said, showing the pictures is a public service. He said that taking them was a public service, even if in many cases it was not intended to be. I disagree with both Phillip and Errol in that they seem too lenient with the soldiers, but they have taken it upon themselves to enlighten us about conditions in which American soldiers are abused by their superiors and degraded to such an extent, that their human decency deserts them.
I also have to say this: the New York Public Library organizes very interesting talks. However, I don't go to most of them because they involve having to listen to that pretentious, insufferable windbag who runs the talks, Paul Holdengraber, the James Lipton of the literary set. Except he is worse. He stole 10 precious minutes of the talk by giving his unnecessary sophomoric mini lecture about what we were about to hear. For the life of me, I don't understand why he is where he is. Perhaps behind the scenes he gets the job done, but as a public speaker he is embarrassing. I tuned him out, but I did hear the word Kafka bandied about -- cheap literary namedropping, way below the level of the guests, and the audience present last night.

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