August 21, 2010


The hotel room here in Gualala has a collection of slightly-campy old books in it; one of the ones I ended up reading was a Reader's Digest condensed version of four other books, published in 1952. The condensed version of Paul Brickhill's "The Dam Busters" is nicely taut and laconic (even if Guy Gibson's black dog's name is given as "Sambo", an interesting show of sensitivity for 1952); an enjoyable couple of hours' Boys Own sort of read.

But the real surprise in the book was Pearl Buck's "Hidden Flower". Not the condensed story itself (which went on and on and on in a formulaic and telegraphic way, and that probably even then felt phoned-in from the past as a background / atmosphere piece from another world), but the fact that in several places it unaffectedly referred to the US Japanese citizen relocation camps as "concentration camps".

Even in the early 1990's, calling the Manzanar Relocation Center (a place I've visited at ground level many times over the years, even if there's not really much to see any more) a concentration camp was taboo, likely to incite verbal or even physical violence in the locals (as I know from personal experience — it's amazing how an Australian(ish) accent will often get you out of a lot of trouble in this country…). Doing it right after the war had to be brave….

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