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Sample text

Small wonder, then, that the chronicler concludes, sustaining the metaphor of the execution/History as a drama, that ‘the Rosenbergs and their lawyers were the only ones not rehearsed’ (Public Burning 121). However, if at the political level Nixon’s thinking is constrained by such determinist thought processes, in the personal sphere he recognises the power of the subjunctive – that the course of his life, and that of the Rosenbergs, might have been been different. With this in mind he creates stories concerning Ethel’s childhood, counter-histories that would have led her life to turn out differently.

In so doing Coover, I believe, concerns himself with satirising the manipulative link between, first, the official version of events handed down by the political system and the media, and second, the consciousness/conscience of the media and that of the American public. Indeed, while there is always interplay between politics and culture, rarely can they have been quite so openly and, one might argue, damagingly, yoked together as in early 1950s America. When in 1951 subsidiaries of the Congress for Cultural Freedom set up the American Committee for Cultural Freedom involving thinkers and writers such as Arthur Koestler, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, James T.

Maybe in Russia history had a plot . . I had to step in and change the script’, but then dismally concludes, ‘I was no more free than 34 American Postmodernist Fiction and the Past the Rosenbergs were’ (Public Burning 362, 363, 367). Nixon’s equivocations, and indeed, Coover’s own use of the motif of determinism in the novel, may I think be clarified by the thought of Hayden White and Leo Tolstoy. 42 And indeed through the latter stages of The Public Burning Coover clearly utilises the version that Nixon draws of himself in Six Crises.

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