“The Torments of His Dreams” — chapter 8

Continued from here:

William was troubled, understandably so. This was not what he had hoped for, no indeed.

He had taken the latest letter from his mother out to reread with him while on the ferry across to the East Bay. He had made it clear to Cathy that he needed to go on this trip and found some of her protests to be extremely strange. After all, was she not a mother, and did she not have a child to take care of? What Percy needed was the love and attention she could provide him, but he needed to carry out the further edification of his mind needed, and the best place to do so remained the University that was not so far away, by ferry, by hired carriage.

He knew she had protested not so much the trip as the expense. Did she not understand that this was money not simply wasted, as she claimed, but well spent? If he had to provide better for her, for Percy, then he himself needed to understand more thoroughly about himself, what he could learn from others. In the realms of the elevated, the educated, he would do so. He was one of them too, of course, and would have moved among their number had he the means and the connections necessary. Ah well, it was often such a cruel fate for men as he, unrecognized by his fellows and unappreciated by his time. He would yet make his mark more clearly, and at that time all would see exactly what it was that he possessed, that greater knowledge.

He smiled suddenly as he remembered that first time, some years back, before things had changed. It was necessary, the times demanded it. He’d heard stories, he knew that Richard would know how best to arrange it. But Richard’s approaches had been too crude for him, too much requiring a contact with others in ways that he himself found questionable, even repulsive. Yet Richard had directed him to a source, and the rest had happily followed from there. He had never known such proper peace before and could always find it again whenever he needed. All was adrift and free at those times.

He found himself looking down into the water. The sea was choppy but he didn’t feel it. Had he still been feeling the effects of the last time? How pleasant if so! This truly was a revelation. Perhaps he could now feel this way on a constant basis. If there was no limit to the feeling then he might be able not to visit as much, and then that would perhaps mean Cathy would feel less cause for complaint. He wondered again how she seemed to fail to understand him on this point, when she was so good to him on all other ones, and knew exactly what he needed and how his sense of balance was best preserved by her efforts.

He sighed. She would understand, and Percy, Percy would always know. He would never disappoint Percy, that he had sworn. Some things would never be done, and Percy would always know that his father was there, that his father was a good man. Yes, he would understand even why he pursued the knowledge he did, why he had a thirst to learn more and more. He looked forward to that day when he could talk with Percy directly about many things, and imagined the gleam of understanding in his young eyes. It was still a thing of wonder to him, that he had been blessed with a son who would sense him intuitively, so well. Never a doubt of this, even if there was sometimes a sense of doubt in Cathy.

Oh Cathy. Why must you doubt, my dear one? Why must you question me? Do you not think I see what you must be suffering? I know it seems hard and I know you cannot always understand but I am doing only what so many others have and it will all be for the best. I would never hurt you, I would never have you suffer so. All that you sense and feel now is merely temporary, something that will yet be resolved?

He felt better having thought this to himself, indeed he was amazed at his depths of eloquence. The thoughtfulness of his words and feelings! Could anything more dramatic be imagined? He would have to use them in some future writing somewhere, when he finally felt himself able to properly commit pen to paper. Everything he had seen of his work when he had looked at it again appeared to be only so much vile scribbling, drained of feeling, infertile. No, he would embrace life and health and show his talents in ways for all to marvel at.

He looked towards the rapidly approaching East Bay coast and found his excitement for what was next building. He so rarely got the chance to go to the place he enjoyed so very much, for what it was, for what it held and had. There were other options in the City itself, of course, but he knew them to be somewhat limiting, dispiriting. He wanted to drink in the knowledge directly in a place where all would understand why he was seeking what he did, why he desired to transform that knowledge into a better form for the edification of his peers, his people, his family.

What would it be today? He would let the impulses take him as they seemed to, he felt a sudden glow in his soul and body. Yes, something that would explain this new state he found himself in, this freedom from the travails he so often had to suffer.

He suddenly felt the letter in his hand again, and looked down at it. Oh yes, his mother’s message. There was time to reread it later. Now was a different time and a different feeling, and his mother’s concerns would grow no more in the interim.

He wandered through the building with a feeling of contentment, of utter serenity, knowing he was where he needed to be. If only he could be there at all times.

It could not be easily done, though, not without some more work. Imagine, if he could work at such a place. That would be something to be proud of, something that the family could understand more readily than the work he did now. He wondered if there was an easy way to get a position here at the library, but felt that there were likely some unknown obstacles that would cause him distress on this front. He knew he should ask, but there seemed no reason to disturb his sense of bliss, at seeing so many books, knowing that so much knowledge was contained therein.

He had had some trouble with the staff at the library too, which further added to his sense that he had a role here. If he worked there, then he could demonstrate how wrong they were to regard him as somehow less than those others who came to gather wisdom from the texts. He knew he was no student like so many here, but this was a University for the state, and he felt that this meant that there should be no limitation on his use of it. Yet some of the staff members over the years had seemed to think his questions did not deserve answers, or did not immediately recognize his presence when he appeared before them, wanting to note that there were errors in some of the books which required their attention. He almost grew angry, but no, there was no need to bring such feelings into this spot, that too would be an unnecessary disruption.

All was well. He had found a couple of books he had heard of, some writers he wanted to investigate in more detail, and an old favorite, one that he had relied on for many years now. He knew he could never keep it with Cathy and Percy – Percy would soon be at the stage where he was beginning to ask some questions, and Cathy, well, Cathy would simply, again, not understand. He really should make the attempt to explain it to her, to point out just why it was that it was important to have such a guide on his journeys, but she would simply denounce it or worse. He would grow angry, and that would be a further disruption at home where none should be. He shivered at the thought and put it aside, it was something not to bring up again for now, something to avoid.

Once or twice as he was moving through the stacks searching for the books he needed he thought he had heard a comment or two from someone nearby. Curious! Talking in a library, what a strange thought. He presumed they were asking him some questions but he could never see himself being the subject of whatever they were, and surely all could see that he had greater things to investigate than whatever petty questions were in fact being asked, and that was all that could be being asked. If only it was clear to everyone as it was clear to him how the library worked and how he worked, then all would be well.

He was glad he had arrived early enough in the day so he would be able to take a seat near a window and read by the natural light he only found appropriate for such times. He settled himself into the hard chair and, before exploring those newer readings and publications that would have matters of particular interest, turned again to his old favorite. He knew this copy’s feeling well now, the way that the binding of the book was starting to give slightly, perhaps in response to his many readings of it over time. He wondered if there would be a way to enable its swift repair, should its condition worsen, but he did not want it to be unavailable for too long of a time. It had been printed in London and he was glad for whatever means had enabled a copy to be placed here, for he knew that some would object to its contents even here.

He found the passage that had sung to him from the time he had first read the book, that here was a soul who truly understood what he, William, went through, and how he lived his life:

“You will think perhaps that I am too confidential and communicative of my own private history. It may be so. But my way of writing is rather to think aloud, and follow my own humours, than much to consider who is listening to me; and if I stop to consider what is proper to be said to this or that person, I shall soon come to doubt whether any part at all is proper.”

William felt that this was the truest thing he had ever read then, and now. All would have to be shared, and when it was finally shared, all would understand him and all his decisions. He looked forward to the day when all that could be set on paper would be, and how all would marvel at his insights and honesty. This would be his guiding light, his epitaph.

He suddenly frowned a bit at a crackling sound and remembered the letter again. On an impulse, he read it again, thought, then returned it to his pocket swiftly.

Soon, I will see him again soon. I must. He must truly now be the means with which to sustain all my work, surely he cannot refrain from this. My moment arrives soon and he will be the assistant in this great labor. He too will finally understand.

He reached for one of the newer books and soon lost himself in a series of new visions, whose impact on him was not yet clear for some while.


Some less torturous thoughts — and some more amusing ones

My post on Deroy Murdock’s straight-faced apology for outrage garnered a couple of interesting reactions — and you know who you are, of course. As it happened, a far more edifying response to Murdock’s piece than mine surfaced via, of all people, a RedState commentator, something I wasn’t expecting to happen in about a million years. However, Joe Carter (who, it should be noted, served in the Marines, and who is described here by a sympathetic source as “a committed conservative, and…a defender of this war” — pulling the BDS claim on this guy isn’t going to get far, I think), whose main blog is at Evangelical Outpost but like a number of writers crossposts to RedState, threw down a heck of a gauntlet with a post entitled “Our Tortured Silence: The Shameful Response of Christians to Waterboarding”. To quote a passage:

(How degraded has conservatism become? Consider: Historically, a utilitarianism-embracing Benthamite like Murdock used to be a prime target of conservative criticism. Today, he gets to be regular contributor to Human Events and National Review Online.)

Compare the opinion of this ignorant scribbler and armchair general to men who have served their country with honor and distinction: Sen. John McCain says waterboarding is torture and adds ” People who have worn the uniform and had the experience know that this is a terrible and odious practice and should never be condoned in the U.S. We are a better nation than that. ”Charles Krulak, former commandant of the Marine Corps, and Joseph Hoar, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, say that waterboarding is torture and note that such methods “have nurtured the recuperative power of the enemy.” John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General of the Navy, says “Waterboarding was devised in the Spanish Inquisition. Next to the rack and thumbscrews, it’s the most iconic example of torture.”

As Christians we must never condone the use of methods that threaten to undermine the inherent dignity of the person created in the image of God. Murdock may believe there is nothing “repugnant” about waterboarding. But there is something clearly repugnant about our unwillingness to distance ourselves from the fear-driven utilitarians willing to embrace the use of torture.

To say that this has tripped up a lot of people puts it mildly — you can read one response on RedState here, and there are others, and Carter has followed up in comments at many points as well as in comments to his original post (all of which I encourage reading, and which cover a wide range of responses). That I admit to a bit of ‘they eat their own’ glee in response is my own failing, but the greater feeling is one of depression, in that, again, this issue should never have come up in the first place. Nonetheless, it is good to see that the debate exists.

On a lighter note, though, RedState provided laughs tonight, though as per usual of the unintended sort. A little background — if you’ve not immediately heard of Regnery Publishing or its parent organization Eagle, you’ve definitely encountered some of their works around, having been involved in publishing books with a conservative bent for some decades. Plenty of their books have been best-sellers of late, most recently Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity?, and they’ll be a force for a long while to come, one figures.

However, they recently got a rather nasty little black eye — from their own:

In a suit filed in United States District Court in Washington yesterday, the authors Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter state that Eagle Publishing, which owns Regnery, “orchestrates and participates in a fraudulent, deceptively concealed and self-dealing scheme to divert book sales away from retail outlets and to wholly owned subsidiary organizations within the Eagle conglomerate.”

Traditionally, authors receive a 15 percent royalty based on the cover price of a hardcover title after they have sold enough copies to cover the cost of the advance they receive upon signing a contract with a publisher. (Authors whose books are sold at steep discounts or to companies that handle remaindered copies receive lower royalties.)

In Regnery’s case, according to the lawsuit, the publisher sells books to sister companies, including the Conservative Book Club, which then sells the books to members at discounted prices, “at, below or only marginally above its own cost of publication.” In the lawsuit the authors say they receive “little or no royalty” on these sales because their contracts specify that the publisher pays only 10 percent of the amount received by the publisher, minus costs — as opposed to 15 percent of the cover price — for the book.

Mr. Miniter said that meant that although he received about $4.25 a copy when his books sold in a bookstore or through an online retailer, he only earned about 10 cents a copy when his books sold through the Conservative Book Club or other Eagle-owned channels. “The difference between 10 cents and $4.25 is pretty large when you multiply it by 20,000 to 30,000 books,” Mr. Miniter said. “It suddenly occurred to us that Regnery is making collectively jillions of dollars off of us and paying us a pittance.” He added: “Why is Regnery acting like a Marxist cartoon of a capitalist company?”

Needless to say, I could have fun with that last quote for years. In a weird way it’s almost an echo of the current Hollywood writers’ strike as well — writers versus the companies they write for — though I doubt we’ll see picket lines involving these five any time soon.

A more or less official Regnery response is its own form of soft soap that would take a while to break down (sample: “I’m a lawyer and know that the contracts they signed are clear and transparent, and are similar to the contracts used throughout the industry” — personally I can feel the heartwarming author-friendly sincerity, can’t you?), but more fun was a post earlier tonight at RedState from one of the main folks there, Erick Erickson. I don’t question he was put on the spot by his readers a bit, since as he noted RedState is also part of the Eagle family tree, but I do find it funny that this was his most substantive comment:

Eagle’s power house was able to get them to the top of the New York Times best sellers list despite — and pay attention here — despite the New York Times never reviewing their books. In fact, the Times seems to pride itself in ignoring all of Regnery’s books, despite Regnery’s success in generating best sellers.

So, it is with a great deal of irony, I think, that these guys filed their suit and then ran to the New York Times to bitch about Eagle — perhaps the only positive coverage they’ll ever get from the New York Times because the Times gets to bash a conservative powerhouse it loathes.

Could anything be more love/hate! “That damned NY Times! (Which, um, validated the sales.) But ignored us! (Even as they always listed us.) Foolish authors to run to them to whine! (Oh wait that means they know that lots of people read the NY Times and therefore will actually learn about this now oh god no WHY WHY?)” Erickson’s point about the nature of this coverage may have merit, but he seems to have missed an important point about PR, namely that you don’t plan your world conquest by running a two-line ad in the Pennysaver saying “WANTED: ARMY GUYS” or the equivalent.

As it is, his post feels like self-important bootlicking no matter what, and it indirectly puts me in mind of a great piece at Balloon Juice today regarding RedState’s increasing if not necessarily permanent marginalization (reflected by other recent events as well — I couldn’t give a care for Ron Paul, frankly, but rather notoriously RedState banned all supporters of him from commenting, then faced the news of his smash-success fundraising with a bitter carp that he didn’t raise as much as he’d hoped, which redefines the term sour grapes right there). Tim F. used the opportunity to link back to an earlier post some months ago, when Erickson tried to lead a housecleaning protest against the GOP House leadership regarding a committee appointment going to a California GOP rep facing corruption charges. He failed spectacularly, leading Tim to further state, after quoting a report of some of the fallout:

It is hard to imagine a more trenchant, telling and dispiriting exchange for conservative bloggers than this short anecdote. A Republican lawmaker outright says that the influence of GOP blogs is a pale shadow of their Dem counterparts, and more than that, this subservient position in the political discourse is exactly where he thinks they belong. Even other bloggers like Dean Barnett acknowledge that unlike their liberal counterparts, conservative bloggers like Erick don’t get a place at the table. Barnett argues that a party member like Erick should know his place and stop making so much noise.

Erick’s voice may have gotten shriller, but he seems to be heard somewhat less than before. As Tim F. added today to that earlier post of his, “It will only be good when when the party treats well-intentioned members trying to effect change from the inside like a squeaky wheel rather than like an unhammered nail.”

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