Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Literary Insight

I recently finished reading Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America, which is a re-imagining of Tocqueville's Democracy in America.  Carey is a gifted writer, and the book is superb for anyone interested in historical fiction.


But one passage near the end of my book caught my attention and I have been digesting it for a few days.  It is from Olivier, who is the French aristocrat in the novel, sharing his most expansive and reflective thoughts about the American experiment in democracy with Parrot, who is bustling with enthusiasm.  In light of current politics, I found the passage interesting and insightful to some extent. So, without further comment and in the sole interest of sharing a fine literary passage ....


“Yes, and you will follow fur traders and woodsmen as your presidents, and they will be as barbarians at the head of armies, ignorant of geography and science, the leaders of a mob daily educated by a perfidious press which will make them so confident and ignorant that the only books on their shelves will be instruction manuals, the only theater gaudy spectacles, the paintings made to please that vulgar class of bankers, men of no moral character, half-bourgeois and half-criminal, who will affect the tastes of an aristocracy but will compete with each other like wrestlers at a fair, wishing only to pay the highest price for the most fashionable artist. Do not laugh, sir. Listen. I have traveled widely. I have seen this country in its infancy. I tell you what it will become. The public squares will be occupied by an uneducated class who will not be able to quote a line of Shakespeare.”