JIM SHEPARD

ZANE GREY AND THE BORGIAS

THE THIRD MAN AND THE 2004 REPUBLICAN TICKET

DISCUSSED: Orson Welles, Postwar Vienna, Graham Greene, Frontier Virtues, Callowness, Austrian Orphans, The Danube, Xenophobic Republicans’ Fantasies Of Euro-Perfidy, Joe Lieberman, The Merits Of A Zither-Only Soundtrack, Alida Valli, Dick Cheney, Income Tax, Popeye, Romanticism

Probably no more than a thousand American movies examine, mostly without meaning to, our national preoccupation with, and devotion to, our own innocence. When generalizing about ourselves, we have no great investment in the notion of our sophistication, or even our competence. (Though we’d like to believe that we’re mostly competent.) We’re absolutely unyielding, though, on the subject of our good intentions. Sure, we’ve been willing to admit mistakes—at least before our current administration—as long as everyone understood that we meant well. OK, we concede, we bollox up the occasional intervention, but why? Only because we were trying to help.

And what’s better evidence of that, we like to point out, than our attempt to get Europe back on its feet after World War II? Weren’t we right there, wallets open and hands out, ready to help Gunther and Pierre and Guido out of the rubble almost before the shooting stopped? And did we ask anything in return, besides a little cooperation and maybe some gratitude?

Well, yeah, some European movies, like Carol Reed’s The Third Man, suggest. We did. We do. Even if some of our hearts were occasionally in the right place.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Jim Shepard’s sixth novel, Project X, and second collection of stories, Love and Hydrogen, were published by Knopf last year.

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