I finished my novel on 30 June 2009: stopped making changes, diddling, froze the text. I had wanted a complete draft by 30 June; instead, I had a completed book. So my husband and I then went into town: some bourbon for him, some rosé for me, some meat and veggies and fruit, including two pounds of fresh figs. I am surprised I have not yet eaten all of them.
I ended up wandering around Costco looking at all the drugged people. Now, I was pretty much non-compos mentis, but I had an excuse. I had completed a 230,000 word book in a year and a half, along with 42,000 words of nonfiction essays, not to speak of expanded commentary. I’m not sure I had an active brain cell.
What shocked and horrified and disturbed me was that most of the people there, certainly the 50+ crowd, were clearly drugged, mostly on psychoactive drugs of all sorts, but also heart drugs that cause dizziness. And many people were fat, and by that, I do not mean a little overweight. I mean fat to the point of making it hard to move, thus hard to circulate oxygen to the brain, which helps with all kinds of cognitive issues.
One of the things that comes with writing a novel set in Russia is that I find myself making some disturbing comparisons, and I am not someone who believes in moral equivalence. The more so since this book was fundamentally written from the perspective of siloviki, a Russian word meaning “people of force,” derived from silovye struktury, or “structures of force,” which is to say politicians with a background from the uniformed services, such as the Army, the KGB/FSB, and related agencies, not dissidents.
Wandering around Costco, looking at all the fat and drugged people, all my fellow Americans, I thought, we didn’t need a KGB to forcibly medicate us. We’ve done it to ourselves in order to avoid facing what is happening to our nation. And then we eat to console ourselves, far past the point of satiation, to the point where the excess weight overeating generates damages our bodies and our minds. And we don’t need a KGB to tell editors what to print, we’ve dumbed ourselves down, too.