Monday, October 20, 2008

Isn't It Ironic

Jack Cashill--in his quest to determine just who did write Dreams From My Father--points to an unusual maritime metaphor:
If there is any one paragraph in Dreams that has convinced me of Ayers' involvement it is this one, in which Obama describes the black nationalist message:

"A steady attack on the white race . . . served as the ballast that could prevent the ideas of personal and communal responsibility from tipping into an ocean of despair."

As a writer, especially in the pre-Google era of Dreams, I would never have used a metaphor as specific as "ballast" unless I knew exactly what I was talking about. Seaman Ayers most surely did.

And a famous writer seems to agree:
That's what makes me so mad! I could just spit! I could I It's like being in a lunatic asylum and having another patient all dressed up as a doctor come over to you and start taking your pulse or something.... It's just awful. He talks and talks and talks. And if he isn't talking, he's smoking his smelly cigars all over the house. I'm so sick of the smell of cigar smoke I could just roll over and die."

"The cigars are ballast, sweetheart. Sheer ballast. If he didn't have a cigar to hold on to, his feet would leave the ground. We'd never see our Zooey again."

There were several experienced verbal stunt pilots in the Glass family, but this last little remark perhaps Zooey alone was coordinated well enough to bring in safely over a telephone. Or so this narrator suggests. And Franny may have felt so, too. In any case, she suddenly knew that it was Zooey at the other end of the phone. She got up, slowly, from the edge of the bed. "All right, Zooey," she said, "All right."

In the above from the Franny and Zooey stories, Zooey has called his little sister Franny, pretending to be their older brother, Buddy. When Zooey uses 'ballast' metaphorically Franny immediately realizes she's being victimized by an imposter.

Which is an interesting plot twist coming from the WWII G.I., J. D. Salinger who had participated in the Normandy landings, and would have been familiar with ballast from the troop ships he'd travelled on.

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