Of the twenty-five or so remaining Rohmers, the one I most want to read is How to Write a Bestseller, because Balls! has planted an idea: Rohmer begins his books with the ending in mind, but has no clue as to how he’ll reach same. This hardly matters because every false start and each dead end contains something he wants to impart. I doubt the man has ever cut so much as a sentence in his entire career.
Balls! is the least Canadian Rohmer thus far. The novel’s hero,
A queer anti-government vein runs through Rohmer's big Balls! (his biggest novel thus far). TransState shuts off the heat in 350,000 homes before bothering to inform New York's Governor Sharpe. Company president Sam Harris is kind enough to offer advice: “The question of how to handle this from the people’s point of view – emergency measures, the National Guard, the Army, the federal government, police, traffic, telling people what to do and getting them organized – that’s your bag, sir.”
Uncle Mike talks back to the TV, demanding that Sharpe fix an hours-old crisis that is the fault entirely of private industry. Meanwhile, nephew Joey announces that he will not - will not! - take his wife and infant twins to an emergency government shelter. He gives his brilliant middle finger to the Governor, Sharpe's advice and his offer of support, then takes to the road in a dangerously overloaded station wagon. Minutes later, finding himself stuck in a supernatural snowdrift, Joey expects government rescue. It never comes. So much for the Nanny State.
I wonder whether Joey’s lack of faith in Sharpe might have something to do with the fact that Rohmer's leaders of men, businessman and politicians exclusively, are forever throwing hyperbole into hyperdrive:
- “What we’re listening to is probably the most important decision outside a declaration of war,” says swinging bachelor Angelo Grazzi as his company shuts off supply lines.
- Governor Sharpe considers the loss of heat in 350,000 homes “the most profound crisis and emergency the country has ever seen.” He will later describe same as “the worst single disaster that has ever occurred in this country.”
- Vice-President Mark James tells the President that the country may be at “its weakest point since the Revolution.”
The greatest tragedy in Balls! is that the Buffalo Disaster could have been avoided if only the President had chosen a career the energy industry instead of politics. Don't take my word for it - no less an expert than Petro-Canada president Bill Hooper describes the politician's off-the-cuff tanker plan as “Clever, very clever. Ingenious!”
What is that plan? Purchase and retrofit underused ships to carry natural gas.
Of course! [head slap]
The United States government will do what the private sector won’t. It will spend billions to get gas to Americans, righting a dangerous situation created by the energy companies. Lest you think that the country is descending into socialism, Vice-President James reassures: “We believe in the free enterprise system. So we’ll get out as quickly as we can.”
God Bless America.
Q: If, as Governor Sharpe states, the lives of close to a million Americans in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York State are at risk, how is it that loss of life is limited to the City of Buffalo?
And on that note, the revised Richard Rohmer Body Count:
Exxoneration: 200 (approx.)
Separation Two: 1**
* 17 according to Separation;18 according to Separation Two.
** does not include deaths first described in Separation, which is “the same book, yet different.”
*** may or may not include the 40th President of the United States.