In our little square mile town on the Hudson River, with its rows of houses stuck together brick to brick, each with its stoop, there's a kind of free lending library that takes place. And not only books: toys, appliances, whatever that whoever in that edifice behind the steps has outgrown or outworn. Last weekend I put out a dozen or so of my own books that I would never read again, and in a few days they were all gone. On a nearby stoop I recently picked up two books among several: RADIO PRIEST is a good source for those who want to know more about American politics in the Thirties, from the Great Depression to Pearl Harbor. Coughlin's once-a-week hour-long radio broadcasts that went on for years were heard and loved by millions of American Catholics, Protestants, Jews and atheists. He did not preach "hate". A Catholic priest of Irish Canadian background, he was passionate about social justice, as religious people ought to be, and published a monthly by that title. He saw war brewing in Europe and believed, like Lindbergh, that it was the capitalist war merchants, the bankers, the English, and certain Jews behind President Roosevelt who were stirring the pot. (A poll showed that 85% of Americans, shocked and sickened by WW1, were against getting into another war). Coughlin was an important voice, his movement politically influential, in America and elsewhere. World leaders paid attention, major politicians courted him, yet it is probable, now, with our historical amnesia (flushed by Media down the Orwellian memory hole), that most Americans have never heard of him. Yet those were tumultuous times. If a group like the ADL worries that anti-Semitism is on the rise after Trump's election, it is nothing compared to the Thirties, when thousands attended rallies where speakers denounced those they blamed for trying to push America into the European war, and, unfortunately, it was a time when those so blamed were sometimes assaulted on the streets of New York and other cities.
I am now halfway into Conrad's VICTORY. In my early reading years, when I rarely read anything but fiction, I read and loved several of Conrad's novels. After those years of reading classics from Austin to Zola, I went through a period of a few decades reading no fiction: only none, in an effort to educate myself-- how the world and America got to be the way it was.
Now that I understand how Boobus Americanus, crippled by war, is limping to the poorhouse, I am able to read, and enjoy, fiction again, as I am now letting myself enter, without reservation, Conrad's world.