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e hot new newsletter from full-time agitator Jim Hightower. ib3new rackIteeql Nona up in rtrir iicsigncr MO. dyc mak Wan cargo Hightower gives you the lowdown about what’s happening in our country. And how you can help take our country back from the GREEDHEADS of Wall Street and the BONEHEADS of Washington. Get a year of The Hightower Lowdown for the ridiculous, unbelievable price of just $10 for 12 issues. Send a check or money order along with your name and address to: The Hightower Lowdown P.O. Box 20596, New York, NY 10011 Or perhaps there is no reason at Of all the bad mistakes you can make in this place, this is the first one: ever to imagine there is a pattern, a logic, to any of it.” The war that Cuny saw in 1995 was horrifyingly absurd, a war of unclear origins which in two years would leave maybe as many as 100,000 Chechens dead, and which might best be explained, Anderson points out, by referring to the likely insanity of both Russian president Boris Yeltsin and self-proclaimed Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev. On his first trip to Chechnya in February, 1995, Cuny tried to broker an extension of a five-day cease-fire, in order to get 30,000 ethnic Russians out of Grozny before the Russian military resumed shelling the city. He couldn’t do it: “the Russian generals had been asked to choose between life and death… of their own people. For no identifiable reason save indifference, they had chosen death.” After that Cuny came back to the U.S. a changed man as a colleague would put it, “I think in Chechnya he saw the mask of civilization slip. And it scarred him.” He also saw how grave the risks were in returning there; either side was likely to suspect him of being allied with the other. His leave-takings of friends and family preceding his second trip to Chechnya were atypically reluctant. A few days after his arrival in the Caucasus, Cuny, his interpreter, and two Russian doctors vanished, somewhere near the town of Bamut. Anderson’s account of the search conducted by members of the Cuny family, and then of his own later efforts to discover what happened to Fred Cuny in Chechnya, is reminiscent of Jennifer Harbury’s story of trying to find her Guatemalan husband in the way the searches cut treacherous, often surreal, paths through a war-diseased region. As did Harbury, the Cuny searchers go back and forth between foreign officials who traffic in lies and intimations, and U.S. officials who have no information, sorry, but are doing everything they can. Neither the Cuny family nor Anderson is able to determine with certainty what happened to Fred Cuny; Anderson suggests it was probably Dudayev who ordered the killing, so as to keep Cuny from spying on a former Soviet nuclear missile base in Bamut. The Man Who Tried To Save the World must have been a very hard book to write, including as it does the biography of a complex man, snapshots of multiple war zones, the mystery of Cuny’s disappearance, and the narrative of Anderson’s Chechen journey. It took a good deal of courage, or foolishness, or both, for the author to travel to Chechnya to begin with; Anderson himself came close to death several times. The one question he never really addresses is why he undertook such a dangerous project at all, but this is understandable because the book is about Fred Cuny, because Anderson did in fact address this question eloquently in a 1997 Harper’s essay, and ultimately because to explain why a man risks his life to travel through a war zone he need not go near, you’d have to tell his whole story, and even then you’re more likely to end up with a great story than an answer. “Monica,” from page 29 father and smiling wife at hand; but babble like Dubya Shrub’s “compassionate conservatism” is calculated to anesthetize good, simple souls who otherwise might think or even act. At the least, such verbal abuses defy the notion, stated by Veninga and popular among conservative hypists, that “language is a sacred trust.” Presumably, God has more worrisome things to worry about than the purity of English or even its corruption by foundationese. Being unconcerned with such questions as in what language or languages God and the serpent addressed the original sinner, most linout of their disquisitions; but once Veninga has raised the issue, it has to be dealt with. His addresses and Monica’s Story invite the judgment that that sacred trust has been violated. In notable similarity amidst dissimilarities, both books are badly written. Andrew Morton, Author of the Year True Story, is a master of irrelevant detail and overblown diction. “It was a weary and emotionally drained Monica who arrived home at the Watergate; by way of consolation for not being able to attend the court, her anxious mother had bought her favorite Chinese dish, chicken chow mein.” “It has been her fate to be a pawn in a power struggle between two mighty foes, President Clinton and Judge Starr. One broke her heart, the other tried to break her spirit.” For comic relief after such high drama, savor a choice example of information most readers could live without: “she stopped off at the Starbucks coffee shop for her usual brew, a large latte, skimmed, with sweetener and a shake of chocolate and cinnamon.” To match Morton’s strange verbal concoctions, just one more example of Veninga’s foundationese will serve: “…humanistic studies are invaluable…in helping to ensure the stimulation of imagination of what might be possible as society seeks the good, the true, and the beautiful.” It would be a powerfully stimulated imagination that could envision the Texas Legislature hot to trot after goodness, truth, and beauty. James Sledd, professor emeritus of English at U.T.Austin, is curmudgeon emeritus at the Observer. 32 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 22, 1999