Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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The Emperor of Ocean Park Probes Affluent Black America

Nancy Sundstrom - July 25th, 2002
Stephen Carter’s “The Emperor of Ocean Park“ is one book you won’t want to miss this summer. Smart, engrossing, tense, and loaded with provocative ideas on a range of subjects from justice to father-son relationships, it’s the sort of work that’s both satisfying and challenging.
“Emperor“ is the fictional debut of Carter, a Yale law professor and distinguished conservative African-American intellectual who has authored seven acclaimed nonfiction books, including “The Culture of Disbelief“ and “Civility.“
It was released to great acclaim, being heralded as a novel of great originality in terms of it being the saga of an African-American family of affluence and privilege who are forced to deal with their crimes and misdemeanors, and has created the same sort of literary excitement that was generated when John Grisham burst onto the scene with “The Firm.“ While that’s an easy comparison to make, “Emperor“ is a far more complex work, rich in social observation and personal insight.
The tale is set in two exclusive worlds, that of old-monied African-American society of the eastern seaboard who summer on Martha’s Vineyard, and an Ivy League law school.
In the opening chapter, “The Latest News by Phone,“we meet protagonist Talcott Garland, an African-American law professor at an elite university who is son of Judge Oliver Garland, a man with a brilliant legal mind who was conservative, controversial, and not without his share of enemies. Carter writes:

“This is the happiest day of my life,“ burbles my wife of nearly nine years on what will shortly become one of the saddest days of mine.
“I see,“ I answer, my tone conveying my hurt.
“Oh, Misha, grow up. I’m not comparing it with marrying you.“ A pause. “Or having a baby,“ she adds with a footnote.
“I know, I understand.“
Another pause. I hate pauses on the telephone, but, then, I hate the telephone itself, and much else besides. In the background, I hear a laughing male voice. Although it is almost eleven in the morning in the East, it is just nearing eight in San Francisco. But there is no need to be suspicious; she could be calling from a restaurant, a shopping mall, or a conference room.
Or not.
“I thought you would be happy for me,“ Kimmer says at last.
“I am happy for you,“ I assure her, far too late. “It’s just —.“
“Oh, Misha, come on.“ She is impatient now. “I’m not your father, okay? I know what I’m getting into. What happened to him is not going to happen to me. What happened to you is not going to happen to our son. Okay? Honey?“
Nothing happened to me, I almost lie, but I refrain, in part because I like the rare and scrumptious taste of Honey. With Kimmer for once so happy, I do not want to cause trouble. I certainly do not want to tell her that the joy I feel at her accomplishment is diminished by my concern over how my father will react. I say softly,“ I just worry about you, that’s all.“
“I can take care of myself,“ Kimmer assures me, a proposition so utterly true that it is frightening. I marvel at my wife’s capacity to hide good news, at least from her husband, She learned some time yesterday that her years of subtle lobbying and careful political contributions have at last paid off, that she is among the finalists for a vacancy on the federal court of appeals. I try not to wonder how many people she shared her joy with before she got around to calling home.“

From that passage, one immediately senses Tal’s wariness and paranoia, and we soon learn that most of that is not unfounded. He discovers that his father has just died, suddenly and suspiciously. Judge Garland was no stranger to scandal, having been on the brink of a Supreme Court nomination before having it stripped from him on national TV, when it was revealed in Senate hearings that he had a friendship with Jack Ziegler, a maverick former CIA agent rumored to be an organized crime boss.
The event bitterly humiliated him for the rest of his life, but when Ziegler turns up at his funeral, Tal must deal with him and a cryptic, mysterious message left by his father, entrusting him with “the arrangements.“ A successive series of clues linked to chess strategies (“you have little time.... Excelsior! It begins!“) are linked to more discoveries about his father’s past. Another death and more clues prompt Tal into action and a web of danger that could cost him his job, his family, and most likely his life.
“The Emperor of Ocean Park“ has all of the best ingredients for a juicy legal thriller. There are deep, dark family secrets, greed, ambition, intrigue, and betrayal, all played out by attorneys, government officials, powerbrokers, law professors, the FBI, shady underworld figures, chess masters, and various friends and relatives. Everything Tal comes in contact with is a threat, and the fragility of his own world is underscored at every turn. Events especially steamroll in the last 100 pages, making it very difficult to set down.
Carter certainly acquits himself as a masterful storyteller who brings an insider’s perspective too his insights, which are particularly keen on topics like race and power politics. Each surprising development is credible, and the author has raised the bar, no pun intended, for the genre. This will no doubt make it to the big screen some time soon, and would be a fitting vehicle for Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Halle Berry. In the meantime, book lovers can look forward to Carter’s next fictional outing, which will have to be quite something to top this one.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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