Thursday, June 23, 2011

Carey on "Alexis de Tocqueville's prescient Democracy in America"

"I dedicate this account of our lives and travels to Olivier-Jean-Baptiste de Clarel de Garmont in pretty much the same spirit that his mother, or more likely the AbbĂ© de La Londe, offered him comfort during the fearful nights of his childhood.  To him I say, in the fullness of my heart, sir, your fears are phantoms.
"Look, it is daylight.  There are no sansculottes, nor will there ever be again.  There is no tyranny in America, nor ever could be.  Your horrid visions concerning fur traders are groundless.  The great ignoramus will not be elected.  The illiterate will never rule.  Your bleak certainty that there can be no art in a democracy is unsupported by the truth.
"You are wrong, dear sir, and the proof that you are wrong is here, in my jumbled life, for I was your servant and became your friend.  I was your employee and am now truly your progenitor, by which I mean that you were honestly made in new york by a footman and a rogue.  I mean that all these words, these blemishes and tears, this darkness, this unreliable historyalthough written pretty much as well as could be done in Londonwas cobbled together by me, jumped-up John Larrit, at Harlem Heights, and given to our compositor on May 10, 1837."

Parrot (Perroquet), in his Dedication to Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America (New York, NY:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 381.  As for any irony, or at least studied ambiguity, "This novel began when I read Alexis de Tocqueville's prescient Democracy in America" (Acknowledgements, [383]).

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