Winkie is a desperate criminal, on trial for terrorism and related offenses, in prison reliving the life that brought him to this point. Clifford Chase's Winkie is also a tale about a bear; a small stuffed bear once owned by a character named, coincidentally enough, Clifford Chase. Winkie leads a pretty satisfying life for a stuffed bear. Loved in turn by generations of Chases, he doesn't mind so much the time in between children, time spent waiting quietly on a shelf watching the days go by. Winkie doesn't really even notice the day he changed.
What does Winkie do that is so different? He waits and watches a long time, long enough to get bored and curious. Winkie becomes a stuffed bear that moves. He moves well enough to leave his shelf, then leave his home, the Chase's home, and strike out on his own. He even, in a weird kind of ursine parthenogenesis, manages to have a child, one with whom he lives a happy life in the forest. This idyll is interrupted when a hermit living in a small hut notices them, desires the cub, and takes it.
Winkie doesn't react well to this; no parent would. Turn the page and Winkie is living in the hut alone, the cub dead, the old man buried in the forest. The next thing he knows he's surrounded by lights and guns and arrested for the old man's crimes. Still mourning, Winkie drifts through his imprisonment and trial, always polite, always friendly. Winkie wonders why no one will realize that he's a small stuffed bear, with no fingers to build the bombs he's accused of sending.
The prosecution in Winkie's trial is a parade of every major historical thinker, except perhaps Kafka. His lawyer is earnest but ineffective. Any defense his lawyer attempts to mount is over-ruled by the judge, a man who brooks no nonsense and doesn't care much for terrorists. His outside supporters are few and fringe. Once again, it seems that Common Sense is pretty terrible and Good Sense rare indeed. It's hard to see how such a bear could come to this point and harder to see how he can escape it.
Political satire isn't hard to come by these days; there's a lot of ammunition just lying around on the ground waiting to be picked up and used, and some very talented people take on the task. The only question is what form should it take in the end? A gentle parable seems just right to me now. I feel bludgeoned by the lack of subtleness in the daily news, and the amazing amount of Common Sense that surrounds us.
Galley Slave Galley Watch: Harry Shearer is my absolute favorite actor to appear in The Simpsons and Spinal Tap; he is also a pretty darn good writer. Not Enough Indians is a story about a small, failing town, one desperate enough to do anything to get some business. The anything this town chooses is tribal gambling; the fact that no one in the area belongs to a tribe, or is even Native American, does not appear to matter. Not Enough Indians is political and social satire about people just like us, people trying to make a living and good decisions and stay one step ahead of Murphy. Due in October from Justin Charles & Co.