"Tales of Our Germans" by John H. (Jack) Wiegman

Friday, November 14 2008 @ 08:56 PM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

Sit down at your computer, write down on sheets of paper whatever crops up in your mind and bind them together. And they call it a book. And if some of the readers discover something distinctively new there, and yet, can empathically relate to your story, they call it an excellent book, no matter whether the prestigious code called the International Standard Book Number is assigned to it. The way of sharing thoughts and emotions through publication should be as simple as that.

In reality, however, this is not the way things work in today's publishing industry. Unlike savvy and audacious venture capitalists, publishers and literary agents almost always recoil from a genuinely new idea - so I hear. The agent is so timid that the moment he finds a totally unfamiliar thought in the manuscript at hand, he gets extremely nitpicky over trifles such as a typo or a wrong hyphenation. That is the only way he can turn down the submission and still look like a reputable agent. This is really inevitable because in the days of desktop publishing and e-books, his survival is at stake in driving a wedge between the sender of the message and its intended receiver, instead of bringing them together.

I am not sure if this is the case with John H. (Jack) Wiegman's Tales of Our Germans. But certainly this has something to do with the fact that the brilliant author does not seem to have attempted to obtain a 13-digit ISBN.

Tales of Our Germans consists of 30 anecdotes which are loosely connected to each other, and some 50 faded monochrome pictures from family albums are scattered throughout the book. The central figure in most of these episodes is a German immigrant by the name of Dutch Henry Wiegman, author's paternal grandfather, who settled down in what is now called the state of Washington in the Civil War era. In those days the prairie was inhabited only by coyotes and buffaloes, which made the life of the new comer to the New World extremely difficult. Over time Wiegman learned how to deal with the wildlife, how to mix with different ethnic groups, how to make a family, how to educate kids and how to minimize the fatal damage from frequent thunderbolts and deadly epidemic

In depicting the humble lives of his grandpa and folks surrounding him, some real and some fictitious, author Wiegman displays his uniquely crisp writing style coupled with some flavor of poetry. He portrays his ancestors and their neighbors in a detached fashion, and yet, he can hardly conceal a deep affection for these souls.

Many decades have passed since the last one of them passed away. Gone are the days when these people were living humble, yet dignified, lives with a sense of solidarity finely blended with a sense of self-reliance. These folks didn't wetnurse or babysit each other more than absolutely necessary. They may have earmarked their own livestock but they never expected the President of the United States, or anyone else, to earmark some money to bail them out in case they fell in trouble.

Now it's the talk of the town that some villains in Wall Street caused the once-in-a-century financial crisis and that it is seriously affecting the "Main Street" economy. Although this fairy tale was made up by turning the causal relationship upside down, it quickly spread all over the world because for the people in America, or anywhere else, the hardest thing about the woe of this magnitude is to swallow the undeniable fact that the constant deterioration in the entire politico-economic system and the overall social climate is taking a heavy toll on the financial system, not the other way around.

According to Niall Ferguson, history professor at Harvard, American consumers were indebted as much as 100% of nation's Gross Domestic Product as of 2006. Worse, their creditors are deeper in debt themselves. By 2007 their indebtedness accumulated to 116% of GDP. Taking into account the daunting task of redressing the situation, it's small wonder that 66 million Americans voted for the Harvard Law School-educated Santa Claus who kept saying throughout October that his top priority would be to stimulate economy by beefing up unemployment benefits and food aid for the poor.

I don't know if Wiegman intended to make his Tales of Our Germans Aesop's Fables meant for his contemporaries. But the author wrote this book in the midst of the futile presidential campaign presumably because he felt an urge to remind its readers of the Founding Principles practiced by his Germanic ancestors. That is perhaps why there is something in this page-turner that gives it great relevance to the post-Election America. For that very reason, most publishing companies would hesitate to acquire the publication right. They think readers still expect them to publish ear-tickling, bland, politically correct and easy-to-swallow fairy tales one after another. They may be right. But that's only until Civil War II breaks out.

If you don't subscribe to President-elect's egalitarian theory that reconciliation between different ethnic groups, classes, genders, generations and even countries is possible by redistributing nation's (or nations') wealth, you may want to buy a copy of this book. You can place your order at eBay.com.

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