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You have to remember this isn't your land.Similarly, Levine salutes his grandfather in "My Fathers, the Baltic" for
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside and thought was yours.
your gall, your rages,Possession and money may entail self-delusion, but Levine is enough of an appreciator of humanity to capture buoyant industrial workers on payday in wartime Detroit, leaning against Ruby's Rib Shack, elated to have "finished a short workweek, and if they're not rich they're as close to rich as they'll ever be in this town."
your abiding love for money and all it never bought
The center of historical gravity in News of the World is the wartime '40s in Toledo, Buffalo, Flint ("the places are the same except for the names," Levine writes), and, as ever, Detroit, with its small machine shops and colossal factory citadels, today all but stilled. In "Dearborn Suite," Levine spins a fantasy of Henry Ford, "supremely bored" in his mansion, deciding to head down to the shop floor:
Hell is here in the forge room where the giant presses stamp out body parts....Similar flights of magic realism capture other lost worlds, in an arc tracing from Brooklyn to Barcelona. News of the World broods upon time, decay, loss, and death imbricated within history, labor, and nature. Levine's is a world where men and women "buy and sell each other." It is also "an immense, endless opera punctuated by the high notes of sirens & the basso profundo of trucks & jackhammers & ferries & tugboats."
The old man, King Henry, punches in for the night shift with us,
his beloved coloreds and Yids,
to work until the shattered windows gray.
"This is the world,"--Christopher Phelps
I think, "this is what I came in search of years ago."
THE HEART OF OCTOBER
Dusk south of Barcelona, the slopes
leading up to the fortress, a city
of wooden crates and cardboard shacks
staggers up the mountain as the rain
runs down, a black river. The final night,
I whisper to no one. A patch of red,
the single moving thing, comes toward me
to become the shirt of a young girl,
eleven or twelve. Bare- legged, picking
her way to avoid the sharp stones,
she reaches me. Through perfect teeth
in her perfect mouth she demands a duro,
one hand held out. Only one duro,
she insists, stamping a naked foot,
browned and filthy on the filthy earth.
When I pay up and turn for home
she is beside me laughing as the rain
streams down her forehead, her short hair
a black cap plastered in place. "A duro! "
she demands again. "Another?" I say.
"Yes, of course," she laughs into the face
of the rain, "and after that another."
Even a child knows the meaning of rain:
it is the gift of October, a gift
that arrives on time each autumn
to darken the makeshift shacks and lighten
the hillside with a single splash of color.
NEWS OF THE WORLD
Once we were out of Barcelona the road climbed past small farm-
houses hunched down on the gray, chalky hillsides. The last person
we saw was a girl in her late teens in a black dress & gray apron
carrying a chicken upside down by the claws. She looked up &
smiled. An hour later the land opened into enormous green meadows.
At the frontier a cop asked in guttural Spanish almost as bad
as mine why were we going to Andorra. "Tourism," I said. Laughing,
he waved us through. The rock walls of the valley were so
abrupt the town was only a single street wide. Blue plumes of
smoke ascended straight into the darkening sky. The next morning
we found what we'd come for: the perfect radio, French- made,
portable, lightweight, slightly garish with its colored dial &
chromed knobs, inexpensive. "Because of the mountains, reception
is poor," the shop owner said, so he tuned in the local Communist
station beamed to Spain. "Communist?" I said. Oh yes, they'd
come twenty- five years ago to escape the Germans, & they'd stayed.
"Back then," he said, "we were all reds." "And now?" I said. Now
he could sell me anything I wanted. "Anything?" He nodded. A
tall, graying man, his face carved down to its essentials. "A Cadillac?"
I said. Yes, of course, he could get on the phone & have it out
front— he checked his pocket watch— by four in the afternoon.
"An American film star?" One hand on his unshaved cheek, he
gazed upward at the dark beamed ceiling. "That could take a week."
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted May 28, 2012
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