Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Forget that human life is priceless

"The West won't permit a war to last more than a few weeks these days," she continued without an audible change of direction. "They put a stop to wars these days before bankers and brokers start hurling themselves through windows. The United Nations already has soldiers here. For Croatia, of course. But they will have to get their hands dirty in Sarajevo, too. Vietnam, Afghanistan. Capitalism, Communism--the big isms learned their lessons in those petite shit holes. They'll let the little brats of the world make their point, then clean up their mess. That's why Kuwait, Panama, Haiti were short wars. War burns money. For each bomb you see, imagine a million dollars in cinders. For each body you see--and, I beg your pardon, I am thinking of your mother, too--imagine someone who can't buy a thousand more Cokes. Losses add up. The West might let killing creep on in Ethiopia or Somalia. People there don't have two rubles to rub together for a Coke." Mrs. Julianovic slapped her hands against her wrists for emphasis. "But they're in the Dark Ages. We are in Europe. We have Benettons here on Vase Miskina Street. Richard Branson sells music next door. Forget that human life is priceless. Consumers' lives have market value. In the end, it's a better guarantee. My mottto: you can't sell Volvos to dead people."

--Scott Simon, Pretty Birds


  1. When S.S. stopped here on his book tour, he read this passage, and people were blown away. This is definitely on the TBR list.

  2. It's definitely a pull-out quote, isn't it?

    Did Simon come to the university or to the Regulator? You know, I had two people ask me about this book at the library last night. One, a co-worker, had heard him talk about the book on NPR, and another just happened to like the cover.

    And another asked me about the de Botton and said she'd read the first three volumes of Proust.

    And that's all that anyone's had to say about my reading material out at the desk for the entire summer!

  3. Actually, neither - WUNC radio sponsored his visit, and he talked in the auditorium at the new Durham studios just after they opened. There were about 110+ people there. He's apparently related by marriage somehow to Alexander Julian, so he comes here now and then to hang out.

    When I'm checking out books from the campus libraries and SILS students are working, I can tell they often want to talk about my selections, but aren't supposed to comment, according to library policy. Sometimes it's pretty obvious they really really want to say something. Only a couple ever have.


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.