Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Leading Critic on Sympathy

Principal players: Emily, Adam Thirlwell, Oscar Wilde, Milan Kundera, Simon Wiesenthal, Hermine Brausteiner, assorted other Nazis, Queen Elizabeth, the cast of "Stella," Morgan

So Emily gave me this book Politics, by Adam Thirlwell. Much better than its title would indicate, Politics is this dirty little meandering story based on, I'm guessing, on Oscar Wilde's assertion that politics permeates every part of life — from rimming to Bollywood. But it's not needlessly political. And it's partially written in this weird, Kundera-like second person. I like it.

Anyway, the book has a Jewish character who makes a disparaging remark about Simon Wiesenthal, whom I had never heard of before. I looked him up and found out that he was once a Nazi hunter — that is, a hunter of Nazis and not a hunter who is also a Nazi. "Nazi hunter" has to be one of the coolest jobs ever. Shit, what a resume builder. Wiesenthal is also a concentration camp survivor, which is a less cool job to have, but still entirely respectable. I guess.

This Wiesenthal spends his whole life tracking down the people responsible for the Holocaust. And he catches them. He finds them and gets them to trial and sees them put away. The best of them, by my call, is Hermine Braunsteiner, who oversaw the execution of children and was living as a hausfrau in Queens when Wiesenthal caught up with her.

So he gets famous and stuff gets named after him and Queen Elizabeth knights him and all that. And then, in 2003, he stops. He's old, of course, but he decides that he's caught everyone he wanted to catch. All the Nazis. In jail. That's what Simon Wiesenthal says, that's what goes, I guess.

The weird part of my whole Nazi hunter research is that I did it with the background of the first episode of "Stella," the new show with Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and some fat guy with glasses. I'm not sure what to make of the show. Somehow, the combined influence of "Stella," an IM conversation with Morgan and the life story of a Nazi hunter evened out to zero. In the show, however, the main three characters get kicked out of their apartment by their German landlord, who has a heart attack and dies when the guys botch open an heart surgery. They feel bad, until this Jewish guy shows up and tells them that the landlord was actually a Nazi war criminal.

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