Book review

The Truth
By Mike Palecek
Writers Publishing Cooperative, 2003, paperback, 234 pp, $16.95.
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Against the backdrop of history, we have the story of a small-town mailman whose son is one of the U.S. casualties during the occupation of Iraq – and his almost inevitable realization of the cruel, deceptive and cynical context within which many sons and daughters continue to sacrifice their lives.

Iowa author Mike Palecek’s latest book, “The Truth,” is a vital book on a vital subject: Democracy (of any definition) is threatened in the United States more than any time in her history – not only by the erosive events enacted by the Bush administration (and the events are many, both in domestic and foreign affairs), but also by the inertia in response, or non-response, by a truly frightening number of the American public.

The book is organized with even-numbered pages carrying quotes of significance on the point of the “lockdown” of America (from Goebbels, from Ari Fleischer), but also the wonderful and inspiring words of such people as St. Augustine, Thomas Jefferson, as well as writers, thinkers and journalists ranging from Helen Thomas to William Shakespeare.

The odd-numbered pages relate the story of Pete Penny. Either the quotes alone or the story would be fully satisfying, but together they serve in creating an acute tension of the individual life in historical context. This same tension is further played out in the very, very funny sections that run throughout an otherwise almost Kafkaesque unraveling of the life of one man. The extremely comic attends the tragic of both the story and history’s narrative – just as the ludicrousness of an absurd president underlines the daily horror: The horror of the administration’s avarice and lies in a bloodshed that shows no signs of abating; the mockery and indifference to much that the American people have valued; the ravaging of any American dream.

It is without hesitation that I urge everyone to read this book: For those who are lost in the chaotic events of our times, it is illuminating. For those who are familiar with the aspects that Palecek describes, his lucidity and fine perceptions further organize our thinking.

“I found out the truth, man, but it’s better to stay stupid, go to ball games, smoke cigarettes and fish from the shore. Figuring it out is not the hard part. It’s what are you gonna do, now, man? That’s when it gets tough. What’re you gonna do now?”

– Sheila Conroy
International Progressive Publications Network