22 April 2014

Of Thucydides, Themistocles and Richard Rohmer

Thucydides wrote that Themistocles' greatness lay in the fact that he realized Athens was not immortal. I think we have to realize that Canada is not immortal; but, if it is going to go, let it go with a bang rather than a whimper. 
— Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 30 March 1988
Week fifteen of Reading Richard Rohmer and I admit that we've stalled. Events have conspired, travel has intruded, but more than anything the fun has gone. Seven novels in – PaperJacks would have had me believe it's eight – Rohmer nears something approaching competency. Talk of scheduling, formatting and rescheduling cabinet meetings no longer fill his pages. Where old inconsequential subplots were dropped, the new reach weak conclusion. Facts and figures are few, have relevance, and are repeated less frequently.

Rohmer's first four novels stuck together from being soaked in a sticky syrup of nationalism. They were led by the likes of Colonel Pierre Thomas de Gaspé, an übermensch who might thwart American invasion one month, then launch a hostile takeover of Exxon the next. Indeed, Colonel de Gaspé did these very things in Exxoneration.

And yes, Exxoneration is the title. It was all silly fun… but no more.

Triad follows Balls! and Periscope Red as part of a trilogy that is clearly designed to appeal to the American market. Time was Rohmer risked Canada ending in a bang, but Balls! produces not so much as a whimper (ignore that exclamation mark). The country disintegrates after Quebec votes to succeed, and Prime Minister Peter Lockhard pretty much hands over the keys to the American president. Canada is mentioned twice in Periscope Red,  but only in passing. In Triad, cancon rests with boozer Bud Black, a former Canadian Forces fighter pilot who prostitutes himself as a mercenary. He's no Colonel Pierre Thomas de Gaspé.

I'm stuck at page 130 in Triad, all of which was tackled three weeks ago during a two-hour train trip from Toronto.

Lest you be impressed:

Triad reprints twenty-three pages from Periscope Red. I didn't bother to so much as skim. Rohmer can't be trusted when "attempting to condense and summarize", but is very adept when using safety scissors and paste. His "Note to the Reader"acknowledges an unenviable habit. Separation begins by reprinting the final chapter of Exodus/UK. The very same words appear for a third time in  Separation Two, which is in itself little more than a reprint of Separation. Again, PaperJacks would have had me believe otherwise… so as to grab $3.50 earned through my minimum wage summer job at Consumer's Distributing.

I correct:

In fact, neither province decided to secede from Canada. Quebec does hold a referendum. The "No" side wins.

America is indeed sent reeling by a disastrous natural gas shortage, but it has to do with corporate incompetence and weak government regulation. The Soviets and NATO do not figure.

Rohmer's stab at the American market amounted to nothing. As sales figures slumped north of the border, PaperJacks took pains to remind Canadians of the titles that had once sold so well:

In fact, Richard Rohmer never enjoyed eight straight years of best sellers – and even if he had, it had been done before. All I can claim is two weeks on the Australian non-fiction bestseller list.

Oh, Canada.

Oh, Canada. Remember when we had a prime minister who could speak to Thucydides on Themistocles?

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1 comment:

  1. With God as my witness, Dusty, we're finishing this Rohmer project.