I’ve been hors de combat for the last week, lingering in one of those establishments Hans Castorp inhabited for so many months in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.
I exaggerate slightly. I had’t been sleeping out under the stars with our unhygienic friends at OccupyFatuousness, so I haven’t come down with TB, “Zucotti Lung,” or any of the other maladies to which carelessness, ridiculous political posturing, and bad sanitation are heir to.
No it was an ordinary case of appendicitis–well, not entirely ordinary, since the blasted thing had ruptured before I sat down for a free and frank discussion with the pleasant doctor from a local emergency room. He, scrutinizing the Kimball interior as portrayed by a CAT scan, was quick to introduce me to his good friend, the surgeon, before resuming his search for the victims of motorcycle accidents, drug overdoses, and whatever else emergency-room doctors do to beguile an idle hour.
I speak lightly, but it would be paltering with the truth to say that I have been at my chirpiest this past week. I won’t burden you with the details. It should indeed be a guide to aspiring novelists and other romantics that there are plenty of things that may be vividly present to your experience which, when worked up into narrative shape, bore the pants off your audience. Beach the Butler, of Blandings Castle fame, found this to be incontrovertibly true whenever he collared a guest and began on the saga of the lining of his stomach. The story failed to grip, and it wasn’t two minutes before even the most sympathetic soul was shuffling his feet and wondering how he could contrive to be elsewhere.
Anyway, Beach, though a sensitive soul, dilated on the physical or material side of the plight. The Engineer Hans Castorp embodied one of the signal spiritual coefficients of protracted illness. It has to do with the experience of time. An hour, a morning, seems to take forever to battle through. Could an afternoon take longer to drain away? But suddenly days, weeks, months have slipped by without anyone’s have noticed. I’m home now. And I wasn’t cooped up anywhere near as long as Hans Castorp was. But already after several days the curious dispensation of illness, leaved by a compact of boredom and debility, has given a strange sponginess to my experience of the day’s unfolding.
Not that I was beyond noticing things. The GOP debates, for example. Or Herman Cain’s women trouble. Or sudden shift upwards in the political fortunes of Newt Gingrich. Back on November 4, I emailed a pal suggesting that I was almost ready to embrace Newt as the “sole plausible possibility.” The next day, Byron York reported that Newt had “won big” in Iowa. On November 9, Dorothy Rabinowitz explained in The Wall Street Street Journal “Why Gingrich Could Win.” “I think I can represent American exceptionalism, free enterprise, the rights of private property and the Constitution,” Gingrich said, describing the sort of debates he looked forward to if he were the nominee, “better than [Obama] can represent class warfare, bureaucratic socialism, weakness in foreign policy, and total confusion in the economy.”
Others are thinking so, too. Also on November 9, Steven Hayward weighed in on Powerline with “The Case for Newt.”