Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Radicals Revisited
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Radicals Revisited

Nancy Sundstrom - October 2nd, 2003
In recent years, she’s become a Trivial Pursuit question and fodder for the “I Love the ‘70s“ program on VH1, along with making guest appearances on talk shows and films by John Waters, and speaking out on the recent, highly publicized abduction and rescue of Elizabeth Smart.
But long before all that, the kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst in 1974 and her year-long life on the lam that followed was one of the most shocking and fascinating events of that decade. Hearst has told her own version of events, but now, almost 30 years later, comes a novel entitled “American Woman“ by Susan Choi (“The Foreign Student“) that is the first true attempt to deliver a serious fictional treatment of the ordeal.
For the most part, it works well and does so on a number of levels, with the passage of time providing a perspective for the reader that helps anchor the narrative and its psychological probe of the main characters. Choi also made an interesting and wise choice in making another American woman, not the one modeled after Hearst, the primary focus of the story, which aids in drawing us into the shadowy world of those for whom terrorism, political activism, race relations and class wars are battles to be fought on the front lines of daily life.
If you’re familiar with the Hearst saga, you’ll recognize who the fictional versions of the real-life players are/were, but there’s something to be said for unfamiliarity, as well. The basis of Choi’s tale stays fairly tethered to the facts of Hearst’s “lost year,“ but aims for depth in explaining motivation along with manifesto.
In “American Woman,“ several members of a small revolutionary band survive a deadly confrontation with the police. They are Juan and Pauline (Bill Harris and ex-wife Emily Montague are their actual counterparts), a married couple, and an heiress-cum radical named Pauline, the daughter of a wealthy publisher. The trio are the focus of a massive California manhunt, but with the help of a sympathizer named Rob Frazier, whose motive may be less noble than those of the average well-intentioned revolutionary, they make their way across the country to an off-the-beaten-path part of New York:

“Red Hook is little more than the junction of a couple of roads, with a farm store, a church and graveyard, a diner. And the post office, a small square cement building with RED HOOK NY 12571 spelled out in metal letters across the flat gray façade. He keeps flying through this sparse nexus of structures, first along the south-north road, then, when he finally manages to slow down and make the turn, along the east-west. He has the idea that the rest of the town must lie just farther on, and that the diner and farm store and church and post office are a far-flung outpost, but he keeps ending up twenty-odd miles away in front of a sign welcoming him to a new town, and so he keeps turning back and retracing his route...
At the post office he parks and goes in to take a look at her box. If there were a tiny window in the little metal door he would stoop and peer in, but there isn‘t. At the diner he orders coffee and a jelly donut and tries to figure out where all the people live. A man in overalls asks another man at the counter how to get somewhere. “I‘m from over-river,“ he explains. Back in his car Frazer studies the map. The Hudson lies west of here, about a ten-minute drive on these roads. Might be pretty. Frazer knows he is possessed of the skills to solve such problems as the one that lies before him. He can recognize, for example, that right now he is looking too hard at the wrong thing, and missing the point. He needs to do something else, maybe even give up for the day, find a bar and a motel, and start fresh in the morning. He should have realized that she wouldn‘t live here; she wouldn‘t want to be too near the post office. Yet she wouldn‘t want to travel too far. This is the sort of zero-sum compromise she makes all the time; Frazer knows this about her, having been subjected to the same flawed formulation. Trust Frazer or spurn him? A little of both? He notices, thinking of the man in overalls from over-river, that there aren‘t so many bridges: just four in the 150-mile stretch from the city to Albany. One lies due west of here, but Frazer‘s willing to bet that Jenny wouldn‘t cross the river for her mail. Too much traffic concentration, too confined; there‘s no good exit from a bridge. He puts an X on Red Hook, then estimates a half hour‘s driving distance and draws a circle around Red Hook with that radius. He does this mostly to amuse himself, but also because he believes in the inflexibility, predictability, knowability of people. They never stray far from their familiar realms of being. The most shocking act, closely examined, is just a louder version of some habitual gesture. No one is ever “out of character.“ That idea just makes Frazer laugh.“

The Jenny he is referring to is another fugitive, a young Japanese-American woman with the last name of Shimada, who is based on Wendy Yoshimura. The foursome retreat to a Red Hook farmhouse to hide out, undergo training to further their radical sensibilities, and generally get on each other’s nerves. All the familiar elements are there - the flight across country from justice, a bank robbery that gets national publicity, the “brainwashing“ of Pauline, and a “cause“ that is so half-baked that the quartet was ostracized by their mentors long before the kidnapping of a prominent young socialite gave them more attention than they ever deserved.
Choi’s creation of Jenny gives the book its rudder and she manages to make her so sympathetic that even when the seemingly ludicrous is revealed through her eyes, she brings a credibility to the psychology behind the action. There are supporting characters who contribute to the story, particularly Jenny’s friend and former lover Frazer and Will, another radical imprisoned for bombing government offices, and their appearances are well-timed, relieving some of the tension imposed by the claustrophobia of a life spent hiding.
This was a challenging tale to meld into a fictional novel, and one of its triumphs is that even though we know how the story ends, the mystery continues to unravel, right up through the final pages. It confirms that as much as we know or think we do, only those who lived through it are the actual owners of the truth, and even that, at times, has been as elusive as the radicals themselves once were.

 
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