Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Children's Literature: Not Just for Children

While the popular media's attention has been focused on “The Politics of Fear” cover of the July 21, 2008 issue of The New Yorker and on Ryan Lizza’s article in the same issue about Barack Obama’s political history in Chicago, there is another article of interest in that issue – particularly to those of us with a particular interest in “all things reading”. Jill Lepore is a professor of history at Harvard and chair of the History and Literature Program. Her article in this issue, “The Lion and the Mouse”, describes the early history of children’s libraries and the battle over the publication of Stuart Little by E. B. White.

To most of us a children’s room is an integral part of every library. But it was not always so. There was a time when libraries were restricted to those over 14 or 16 and also to boys. But that changed thanks in large part to the efforts of Anne Carroll Moore, the first children’s librarian at the New York Public Library when it opened in 1911. She introduced tables and window seats low to the floor, story-tellers and story hours, borrowing privileges for children, and removed “Silence” signs. Ms. Moore contributed serious books reviews of children’s literature and organized Children’s Book Weeks. We take all of these things for granted now.

But for all of these contributions, and for reasons explored in the article, Ms. Moore took a dislike to Stuart Little when it was published in 1945 and tried to get it banned from schools and libraries. For a time she was partly successful. The author seems to think that Ms. Moore may have been responsible for denying E. B. White the Newbery Medal.

Of course I had to see what all the controversy was about by reading Stuart Little myself. Although there was a copy on my own children’s bookshelf I cannot honestly say that I remember their reading it. Certainly I did not read it to them.

The detailed black-and-white illustrations by Garth Williams are a treasure of careful lines, detail and shading. I happened to notice that in the illustration of George Little’s bedroom there is a banner from Cornell. Why, of all the colleges, would it be Cornell? It turns out that E. B. White graduated from Cornell. A nice touch! No doubt there are many more like that throughout the book if one were to take time to study them.

I have to say I was startled by a passage in the chapter “The Schoolroom.” Stuart Little has offered to be a substitute teacher for a day. After dispensing rather quickly with arithmetic, spelling, writing and social studies, he poses to the “scholars” (children of unspecified age), “…why wouldn’t it be a good idea if we just talked about something.” There are the typical all-boy responses: a snake winding itself around your wrist, the fat lady in the circus with hair on her chin. And then Lydia Lacey speaks up: “Could we talk about sin and vice?” I’m thinking: what do the children of 1945 think of this? Do they read right past it? Do they go to the nearest adult for clarification? (If I were that adult, how would I respond?) Do they need no clarification? Is it any different for children of today, 53 years later? What was White’s intention? Humor?

This is a book which, like the television show Sesame Street, appeals to the children in its audience on one level and to its adult audience on an entirely different level. It is by turns very funny and poignantly sad. Perhaps that is why Stuart Little has now sold more than four million copies.

A interview with Jill Lepore and Roger Angell, E.B. White’s stepson, can be found at

Saturday, July 26, 2008


In 2005 our Book Club read Valerie Martin's Possession, a dark and disturbing story about a loveless marriage between a Louisiana sugar plantation owner and his wife, and the volatile relationship both of them have with the female slave he has given her as a wedding gift. (Click here to see our entire Book Club catalog). So when I started her latest novel Trespass I was expecting another brooding and violent period piece. Instead the novel opens with a contemporary scene – a mother, who has traveled to Manhattan from her rural home upstate, meets her college student son and his new girlfriend at a restaurant for lunch. Toby is clearly besotted with his darkly exotic girlfriend Salome Drago, a Croatian refugee. But his mother Chloe is not impressed. The early chapters expand on the tensions which grow as Toby's devotion to Salome and Chloe's mistrust of her lead to clashes between the mother and son, despite the best efforts of Chloe's amiable husband Brendan to keep the peace between mother and son.. Martin presents a realistic portrayal of a mother who feels loving and protective towards her son, and can't help thinking that his girlfriend is taking advantage of his naïveté. But a darker undercurrent slowly appears as the story progresses.

As the title implies there is a trespasser in Chloe's life, a foreign-looking poacher hunting rabbits on her land. At the same time she is illustrating an edition of Wuthering Heights, and her woodcuts of Heathcliff, a dark and mysterious outsider much like Salome, seem to reflect this menacing mood. And in New York anti-war protests are increasing during the lead up to the 2003 Iraq invasion. The details of Salome's family history in Bosnia, vaguely hinted at early in the book, begin to emerge. The menacing feeling that Martin has slowly built finally explodes in harrowing scenes of the Bosnian genocide. What began as a domestic story widens to encompass a larger picture of the effects of war. But at the same time it remains a story about parents and children, husbands and wives. Martin never lets you feel settled in your view of any of her characters. They are complex, and in some ways all experience the dark effects of trespass.

Although I was a little disappointed in the tidy way Martin wrapped up her story, I tremendously enjoyed her dispassionate storytelling and her ability to weave the political and the personal into a compelling narrative.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Real Thriller

We have just recently learned that in late 2007 Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran. Over the next decade or so as more details of these operations become known, it will not be surprising that some works of fiction will take such operations as their background in much that same way that Joan Didion’s The Last Thing He Wanted has as its context the covert operations with the Nicaraguan contra forces in 1984.

I don’t know how I came to have this book on my bookshelf but what a terrific surprise. All I knew of Joan Didion was Slouching Toward Bethlehem, a 1968 collection of essays describing her experiences in California in the 1960s, and The Year of Magical Thinking, an account of the year (2004) following the death of her husband. In between she published this novel, a “thriller” in every best sense of the word.

The main character is a woman reporter for the Washington Post who quits her job covering the 1984 Presidential primaries and subsequently, in doing a favor for her father, becomes drawn into danger. The writing is superb and the structure taut. No need to feel guilty about wasting your time. Just be sure that once you start you have cleared your calendar to finish.

Readers better versed than I in history will have an advantage in appreciating the allusions and references throughout. But even I understood “November 22 1963” without further explanation – because none is provided.

I’m not sure that I really understand even now what actually happened at the end of the book. I would love to be able to discuss it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

An Author's View

Ann Patchett’s fifth novel, “Run” was the topic for our monthly book club discussion. One of our members had downloaded an interview with Ann Patchett and Michael Silverblatt, from the “Bookworm” internet site. Listening to Ann Patchett talk about her new novel “Run” was a wonderful addition to our book club discussion. Ms. Patchett is extremely articulate and passionate about her writing. “Run” is a story about the Doyle family, Bernard Doyle, an Irish Catholic politician, and his wife had only one child so they adopted two black children, Tip and Teddy. The birth mother of these boys, Tennessee, appears one night with the child she is raising as her own, Kenya. Ann Patchett asserts that the reality of her story does exist, and that people in general are nice (at least the people she knows) and this is how she sees the world. Her characters were loosely based on people she knew. For example, she based Tip on an ichthyology major she knew at Harvard because she was intrigued by someone who was that smart. She also loosely based the father, Bernard Doyle, on the patriarch of the Kennedy clan, Joseph P. Kennedy. The sons Tip and Teddy were named for the famous Boston politicians, Tip O’Neil and Teddy Kennedy.

One critic suggested that the title “Run” suggests many things, Kenya’s passionate desire to run and Bernard Doyle’s passionate desire to run for political office. Our group discussed the question of the events of the story being contrived. One critic called the book “over plotted”. Ms. Patchett answered that question by stating that the world we see is only a small part of the overall scheme. And, what other people see as being contrived she sees as something that is possible. She wants to tell a story. If a critic says the story is contrived, she answers that that is how she wants to write the story. It is logical in the world of this story and she is the “puppeteer” of the story.

The main theme of the story and the question that Ann Patchett (and Bernard Doyle) ask, is: “If you are smart and privileged, do you have a larger responsibility than what you personally desire?” “Do you owe some sort of debt because you have been given so much?” This is the question that Tip and Teddy struggle with in “Run”. Tip wants to be an ichthyologist but his father wants him to be a doctor. Teddy wants to be a priest but his father wants him to be a politician. The events that unfold in the 24 hour time span of the story greatly affect those decisions. Another question that the author asks, is: “What is family?” “Is it the family you are born into or the one you create?” The characters in this story do not know what their true relationships are, but nevertheless they form a family that loves and supports one another.

The end of the book is an epilogue which more or less ties up the loose ends of the story. Again, this is a technique that Ms. Patchett uses…… “If you set something in motion you must be true to it.”

Listening to this interview gave us, as readers, insight into what the author was trying to say, the techniques she uses to tell the story and propel it forward, and what she ultimately wants the reader to gain from reading this story.

You can listen to Ann Patchett’s interview with Michael Silverblatt at

Friday, July 18, 2008

On the Lighter Side

Sometimes I need a change of pace. After reading a series of a serious novels I was ready for a few laughs. So I turned to Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck. Ephron's book is a series of essays about cooking, New York apartments, ex-husbands, reading, writing, purses - and most especially Growing Older. I'd like to pretend I've never had a discussion with my friends about turkey necks or the horror of wattles (and the advantage of wearing turtlenecks), but I'd be lying. Ephron has these same discussions and hers are a lot funnier. For example - “You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn't have to if it had a neck”. And then there's her observation that your neck never looks worse than when you view yourself from the backseat of a car in the rear view mirror. I thought I was the only one who had noticed this. And let me just expand on it for a moment. It's not just my neck that looks bad in that mirror. I have more than once been tempted to ask the driver to just drop me off at the Old Folks Home or the emergency room. Surely the rest of the people in the car don't want to be seen in public with me anyway. I mean, will I look any worse in my casket than I do in that mirror?

Where was I? Oh yes – Nora Ephron. The essay “On Maintenance” discusses this topic for women over forty. A simple Ephron definition: “Maintenance is what you have to do just so you can walk out the door knowing that if you go to the market and bump into a guy who once rejected you, you won't have to hide behind a stack of canned food”. It covers everything from hair (wanted and unwanted), nails and skin to exercise. Although I'm amazed to learn that a woman of her talents has not yet figured out how to blow dry her own hair, I completely agree with her theory that the increased use of hair dye has meant that more and more women look good in black. It can't really be true that “most everyone wears black – except for anchorwomen, United States senators , and the residents of Texas”, but it sounds right when Ephron says it. And her brief essay “Blind as a Bat” mourns the loss of such simple pleasures as reading a map or a pill bottle without finding your glasses. I think she could have added that the small print on price tags may in fact be a conspiracy to make older women spend more than they meant to. Are you really going to walk through Bloomingdale's with your reading glasses on a chain around your neck?

Other essays tackle more serious subjects, such as the death of a dear friend and a witty but scathing riff on her disappointment with Bill Clinton (“Me and Bill:The End of Love”). I have enjoyed Nora Ephron's writing for many years – her screenplays (“When Harry Met Sally”) as well as her essays, and I'm happy to report that her wry, witty, courageous observations still make me laugh.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fact and Fiction

Ron Hansen (Mariette in Ecstasy) teaches at Santa Clara University which is a Jesuit Catholic university in Silicon Valley, California so it is not so surprising that the main character in his latest novel Exiles is a Jesuit priest. What is surprising is that the priest is a real Jesuit, the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hansen describes this work as “fiction based on fact.”

Facts: Gerard Manley Hopkins was a seminarian living in Wales in December 1875 when the steamship “Deutschland” ran aground off the coast of England. More than sixty passengers died including five Catholic nuns who were on their way from Germany to Missouri in the US. Hopkins memorialized the incident in his poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland”.

Fiction: Very little is known about the five nuns but Hansen has created individual biographies for each of them and described in detail their last moments on the ship.

At times the book reads like non-fiction in the biographical details of Hopkins’ life. Hansen switches back and forth between the events of Hopkins’ life and the events on the ship. He also weaves in certain relevant passages from the poem. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to understand the poem without the historical background.

There are a lot of details about Catholicism and religious life that will be better understood by readers over the age of 50 who were raised as Catholics. Being in that category myself, I cannot judge how important that is to an appreciation of the novel overall.

While Hopkins and the nuns may have felt themselves as exiles in spiritual terms, there are other very real levels which earn them this description. And here we are returned to Fact. One of the reasons that the nuns were on their way to the US was that during this period in Germany under Bismarck Catholic religious orders were prohibited from practicing their religion. As a convert to Catholicism, Hopkins was rejected by his family and unable to teach at Oxford despite being a recognized scholar. Hopkins was not published or appreciated as a poet during his lifetime – and he died young at the age of 44. I had no knowledge of how important and influential he was in the development of modern poetry. The full text of his “Deutschland” poem is reprinted at the end of the novel – and truthfully it is a challenge for me to understand it even with the historical context.

While this novel succeeds wonderfully in joining fact and fiction, in the absence of lengthy footnotes or annotations, I found myself frustrated in not being able to distinguish which was which. You can hear an interview with Ron Hansen on “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Marital Love

Finding a good book to read sometimes feels like a treasure hunt. When I read “The Great Man” by Kate Christensen I discovered that she had won the PEN/Faulkner award for the novel. I then saw the short list for the award this year. On that list was “The Maytrees” by Annie Dillard. When I began reading “The Maytrees” I learned that Annie Dillard was a well known writer who had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”. And so it goes. One good book leads to another and we discover authors we didn’t know about and reading literature takes on a life of its own.

“The Maytrees” is on the surface a love story that begins after World War II. It takes place in Provincetown, a famous artistic community on the tip of Cape Cod. Toby Maytree courted Lou Bigelow on the dunes and she met his friends, the quirky cast of characters with odd names, Deary Hightoe, Cornelius Blue, Reevadare Weaver and Hiram and Elaine Cairo from New York. Toby and Lou marry and eventually have a son, Petie. The story is a meditation on love and relationships.

Annie Dillard is a writer who understands nature. “The Maytrees” is full of rich descriptions of the natural landscapes on Cape Cod. But Annie Dillard is also a published poet and the story is filled with imagery. She describes the sea, “muddy sea ice” and the dunes in the fog…………… “From a white lake of fog opaque as paint, the tips of dunes and only the tips of dunes, arose everywhere like sand peaks that began halfway up the sky………”. She also uses words that are uncommon at best, such as, “alewife, tatterdemalion, zebus or epistomeliac“. And, sometimes it is difficult to understand exactly what Ms. Dillard is saying. But the language, the characters and the story win out.

After a blissful, serene fourteen year marriage, Toby has a mid-life crisis and their lives are completely altered. Ms. Dillard writes a story about marital love, how it begins, endures and sometimes slips away. Then circumstances can change again and people need each other and most of all they need the people who loved them. Annie Dillard tells us and the Maytrees show us that compassion and forgiveness are also part of marital love, “Lasting love is an act of will.”

“The Maytrees” is a short novel, only 216 pages, but it will surprise its readers with beautiful descriptions of nature, wonderful imagery, poetic prose and a captivating love story.

Friday, July 11, 2008

True Love

I'm not usually a fan of historical novels, so I wasn't certain I would be interested in Nancy Horan's Loving Frank, the story of a love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah (pronounced MAY-muh) Borthwick Cheney. Even the title was off-putting – it sounded like a gushy account from an enamored groupie. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Mamah and Edwin Cheney were a young married couple in Oak Park Illinois in 1903 when they commissioned Wright to build them a bungalow in his already famous Prairie Style. Although Wright was already married, a love affair began, and in 1909 Mamah and Frank both abandoned their families –including his six children and her two – and 'eloped' to Berlin on what the couple called a “spiritual hegira”. The public outrage that began immediately would follow them for years to come. The sensationalist journalism of the era, even in mainstream newspapers, feasted on the scandal, and Mrs. Cheney was frequently painted as the villain. Wright's wife called her a “vampire”, and the press described her as “of a highly temperamental disposition, capricious and sentimental to a degree”. Wright's career suffered as clients dropped him to avoid association with the scandal. After their return from Europe the couple eventually settled in the now famous Taliesin which Wright built in the hills of Spring Green Wisconsin, hoping to escape the public eye.

Nancy Horan, in her debut novel, attempts to rescue Mamah Borthwick Cheney from history's forgotten footnotes. She shows us a woman who struggles to find her own identity. In a time before women's suffrage, Mamah encounters Swedish feminist Ellen Key during her stay in Europe. She is profoundly influenced by Key's philosophy of female independence and free love, and even learns Swedish in order to translate Key's work for American publication. But Horan does not present Cheney as a haloed feminist heroine. Mamah is conflicted and guilt-ridden, always trying to find balance in her roles of mother, lover, writer, often disappointed with herself. And she is not simply an adoring acolyte to Wright. Much as she admires his genius, she clearly sees his shortcomings. But her love and understanding of his creative vision nourish him. Horan presents a complex, evolving woman, and I enjoyed her fictionalization of this fascinating and ultimately tragic love story.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lost Boys

If I say “lost boys”, do you think “Peter Pan” or “Sudan”? After reading A Long Way Gone Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah you may also think “Sierra Leone”. Beah, now 28, was born and lived in Sierra Leone until he was 18 when he moved to New York. There he finished high school and graduated from Oberlin College. He has written this book in part to expiate the demons that have followed him since he was trapped in the civil war in his home country starting when he was 12. At first impression you may think the connection between Barrie’s boys and Beah tenuous but remember that an early scene of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan is their attempt to shoot Wendy with a bow and arrow after Tinker Bell tells them Wendy is a bird, and convinces them that killing her would bring great favor with Peter. Replace the bow and arrow with an AK-47.

Beah says he has always had a photographic memory. Surely many of the scenes he describes are so horrific as to be unforgettable to anyone. One of the most shocking aspects was the constant use of drugs including cocaine and marijuana by the children. Perhaps that explains in part how they were able to survive the atrocities to which they were witness and in which they acted.

At the age of 16, Beah came under the auspices of UNICEF for “rehabilitation”. Those chapters of the book are equally compelling in their portraits of Beah’s drug withdrawal and the start of his emotional healing.

While this experience is, on the one hand, another example of “man’s inhumanity to man” and to children, it is also a compelling testament to the resilience of those same children. This particular child has grown up to be an articulate and dedicated spokesperson for all children affected by war. Unfortunately there are still far too many children in various countries who continue to suffer the effects of ongoing wars. Far from being trapping in a never ending fantasy of make-believe, these children like Beah are losing a childhood that cannot be reclaimed.

Since its publication, several Australian journalists have made an aggressive challenge to some of the events and the timeline of this memoir. You can read more about the dispute at Wherever the truth lies, this book has brought well-deserved attention to the serious and on-going problem of child soldiers. It is well worth your time.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Art and Life Collide

The PEN/Faulkner 2008 award was given to Kate Christensen for her novel “The Great Man.” As the newest recipient of this award Ms. Christensen joins some of our book club’s favorite authors and past recipients, such as Ann Patchett for “Bel Canto” in 2002, Michael Cunningham for “The Hours” in 1999 and David Guterson for “Snow Falling on Cedars” in 1995.

“The Great Man” is the story of Oscar Feldman a renowned painter living and working in New York city in the forties and fifties. The story opens with Oscar’s obituary in the New York Times in 2001. It tells of Oscar’s innovative work as a painter of only one subject, the female nude. His work was prized by collectors and hung in many leading museums in the country. The obituary states that Oscar left his wife Abigail, his son Ethan and his sister Maxine Feldman a famous painter in her own right.

What the obituary did not state was that Oscar had another family living in Brooklyn. His long-time mistress, Teddy St. Cloud and their twin daughters learned that Oscar died when they read the obituary. The story evolves as two rival biographers begin to interview the women in Oscar’s life. Through the stories that Abigail, Maxine and Teddy relate, the reader learns that Oscar was not the great man that everyone thought he was. These women loved Oscar but they are revealed as the “great” ones. They have supported Oscar, emotionally, financially and physically, throughout his life. Kate Christensen portrays these women as funny, strong and completely in charge. The heart of the book is Ms. Christensen’s wonderful characters. Abigail the long suffering wife, who patiently cares for their autistic son, is someone of great strength and integrity. Maxine, Oscar’s sister, is a cranky, eighty four year old, lesbian painter who uses four letter words and drinks whiskey on the rocks. And, Teddy the seventy four year old, smart, sexy mistress lived her life for Oscar, was content to share a small part of it and asked for little.

The stories and the women collide as a secret “bet” and an art related scandal are revealed. The weaknesses of the great man are also revealed. “The great man,” said Teddy, “was the biggest human baby in all of history. That‘s no secret.” Kate Christensen is a witty, engaging observer of the art world in New York. The two biographers, in the end, write books that tell very different stories. But, the final story is that behind “great” men are the women who prop them up, forgive them and make them great.

Friday, July 4, 2008

All About Alice

Alice Munro has been writing short stories for more than fifty years. Many are set in rural southwestern Ontario where she was born and raised. They are often about women – their strengths and weaknesses, their passions and their illnesses. Munro has claimed that she is not an autobiographical writer, but her woman characters often seem to reflect the author's own feelings. Her newest collection, The View from Castle Rock, edges much closer to the autobiographical line. In Part One “No Advantages” she tells stories about her Scottish ancestors who left the Ettrick Valley (described by the Statistical Account of Scotland in 1799 as having “no advantages”) and came to North America. The names, dates and events are real, gathered from family letters, but Munro imagines the conversations and personality quirks that flesh out the facts. They include a wonderfully imagined description of a six week sea voyage from Scotland to Montreal by Munro's ancestors in1818.

Part Two is called “Home”, and these stories, written in the first person, are Munro's memories of her own life. In the Foreword she stated that the stories were “not memoirs, but they were closer to my own life than the other stories I had written...I was...exploring a life, my own life, but not in an austere or rigorously factual way”. They begin with memories of her childhood in which her future as a storyteller can already be glimpsed. As a teenager she loves to relay news and gossip from town to her parents on their farm. But she must do it carefully:”I had learned how to do this in a way that would not get me rebuked for being sarcastic or vulgar or told that I was too smart for my own good. I had mastered a deadpan, even demure style that could make people laugh even when they thought they shouldn't and that made it hard to tell whether I was innocent or malicious”. My favorites from this section include “Lying Under the Apple Tree”, in which she describes a secret teenage romance in a way that is both touching and humorous, and “Hired Girl”, where she works for a summer as a maid for a wealthy family at their summer home on an island in the Georgian Bay. Her storyteller talent again emerges as she enthralls the pampered daughter with exaggerated tales of her deprived life - walking barefoot to school and living on a diet of dandelion leaves. She deftly shows us how the lives of the very rich looked to an impressionable teenager.

I won't say that this is my favorite Alice Munro collection, but if you have enjoyed her stories I think you will appreciate getting a closer look at this wonderful writer and her history.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Art and Science Together

Andrea Barrett is one of those rare individuals who can successfully combine art and science. The proof is on display in full force in her book Ship Fever, a collection of seven short stories and a novella of the same name, which won the National Book Award in 1996.

Barrett majored in biology as an undergraduate. As a graduate student she started but did not finish programs in zoology and in medieval history. Throughout, she was a dedicated reader of fiction. When she finally turned to writing, she brought all of this background with her. The stories in this book are woven around actual historical scientists (Carl Linnaeus, Gregor Mendel, Charles Darwin); scientific theories (the migration of swallows, as an example); and historical events such as the Irish potato famine.

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite among the stories but, if pressed, I guess it would be “Rare Bird.” In the 18th century, the prevailing theory, supported by Linnaeus, was that swallows hibernated underwater in the winter – sounds unbelievable now. Two women, a spinster and a widow, make their own attempt to disprove this theory showing themselves to be as elusive as their subjects.

The novella of the title, “Ship Fever”, takes place during the period of the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century. It turns out that the largest emigration from Ireland was to Canada (rather than to New York as we may have come to understand). But having left the starvation of their homeland, the voyageurs had still another struggle on their hands while in transit: an epidemic of “ship fever” which we now call typhus. Very little was understood at the time about the ways in which the disease was transmitted. As a result the passengers arriving in Canada were quarantined on an island until they could be examined and judged disease-free. The conditions on the arriving ships and on the island were more than deplorable. The story is that of a young idealistic doctor who volunteers to serve on the island.

The story raised several troubling questions for me. Why was this part of the Irish potato famine history so little known? How would we react today if or when there really were a global outbreak such as SARS? Would we be able to control the suspicion and paranoia? How will we deal with the same dilemma in the story: the allocation of scarce resources among a population of greater numbers? Who will be the real heroes and heroines?