13 December 2007 • 12:11 pm
Letter to the London Review of Books
Nicholas Guyatt, in his piece on the US Christian right, mentions that at the funeral of the notorious religious huckster Jerry Falwell, one lamb from Pastor Falwell’s flock was caught with homemade bombs in his car, claiming that he’d brought them in case liberal protesters threatened the cortège. In the event, the protesters weren’t ‘liberal’: they were members of an even more extreme religious sect, the Westboro Baptist Church, which denounced Falwell as a ‘corpulent false prophet’. The WBC, whose members believe the Iraq war is God’s way of punishing America for its permissive attitudes towards homosexuality, have weathered years of denunciation by more moderate clerics, such as Falwell. Yet when I interviewed them at one of their demonstrations, WBC members said they regard the US Constitution, including its provision guaranteeing freedom of speech and religion, as one of God’s greatest blessings. It’s a melancholy fact that many US Christians appreciate their Constitution only when their own beliefs are the ones ridiculed and suppressed.
Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
Filed under: London Review of Books, Paraguay, religion, United States
12 December 2007 • 12:13 pm
The American (online)
Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System
By Roberto Saviano (translated from the Italian by Virginia Jewiss)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pp., $25
On his Vespa outside Naples, Robert Saviano once blew a tire by riding over a splintered human thighbone. The setting of Gomorrah, his gripping new account of the city’s vast criminal business empire, is so unrelentingly brutal that this grisly inconvenience takes up just a couple sentences. And by comparison with the ends of other players in Naples’s mob drama during the last decade, the lonely roadside killing of the thighbone’s owner seems hardly grisly at all. If slow deaths by shooting, stabbing, gouging, poisoning, burning, strangling, garroting, choking, kneecapping, and slicing happen with anything like the frequency suggested in Saviano’s book, then every Neapolitan gangster should carry a suicide-pill hidden in a false tooth. There are fates worse than death, and many of their colleagues seem to have met them.
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Filed under: American, books, crime, Europe, history, Italy