Picking a title for a blog is like picking a baby name – you don’t want it to be dorky, cryptic, antiquated, or too long. So I went with all the above. The Mouse That Roared is short novel written by Leonard Wibberly during the Cold War. I was a child of the glorious 90’s, when the biggest concern was Oval Office head, and my only real remembrance of the East West conflict was staying up late one night with my (German) parents to watch the Berlin Wall coming down on CNN. I didn’t understand the significance of that moment at the time, and I suppose I never will value it the same way my parents did, but I was old enough to appreciate it as a newsworthy event, or in any event happy enough my parents let me stay up and watch TV that late. Anyhow, my only momento of the Cold War that remains is this memory and a chunk of the Berlin Wall my dad brought home for me on a business trip and is sitting in my bedroom back home somewhere, collecting dust.
My two older brothers, however, born in the early seventies, were more the product of the time period, and I suppose this accounts for my discovery of an old copy of The Mouse That Roared on the bookshelves that I had inherited when my brothers left for college. Being an avid reader growing up, I had moved on from the adventures of Henry Huggins and Dahl, digesting everything from James Dickey’s Diliverance to history textbooks that abruptly ended around the Carter administration, and one lazy summer I happened to settle on this novel.
The book takes place during the 1950s, and revolves around a fictional country named Grand Fenwick nestled in the Alps of Europe (think Lichtenstein). Five by seven miles, with under 5,000 people, the country is suffering economically, and much like Lichtenstein relies on sales of postage stamps, it suffers when its one exportable good – wine – is undercut by an imitationwine produced by a vinyard in California. When diplomatic attempts to settle the conflict come to no avail, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick declares war on the United States, with the full expectation that they will lose. However, they hoped the US would have to invest money in them following defeat and save them from their woes (much like Germany and Japan were rebuilt by US following WWII). I’ll spare you the details, but the little nation ends up being more successful than they intended in their invasion of the US, aided in part by their coincidental landing in Brooklyn during a routine fallout drill. They ultimately use their acquistion of the Q-Bomb to reshift the entire world power paradigm, and establish a global peace.
There is a lot to take from this work, which clearly satirizes the situation at hand at the height of the Cold War, and the phrase has caught on since and gained a greater meaning, but I think what I took away at the time I was reading it was how absurdly close to the truth the book really was, and how exposed we can be to even the tiny Grand Fenwicks of this world. My history teachers always reiterated that the fall of communism was something unexpected, and the Berlin Wall falling was the one final act of many, set off by a chain of much distant events. That chunk of the Berlin Wall, chipped out by some East German, collected by a passerby, and then sold off to my dad in such an opportunistic manner any capitalist would be proud of, ended up thousands of miles away, bringing a certain life to an event I had, along with the rest of the world, somehow managed to have taken part in.
The blogosphere mirrors this, becoming a beacon and forum for the most snoopy to the most educated among us. At any moment, the latest in news is not spread to the masses via the traditional media powers, but by a savvy 25 year old grad student, a stay at home wife, a man with a passionate hobby. It is through these voices, distant but instant, that our culture will revolve and evolve around, and it is happening at an unbridled pace.
So this is my baby, and after much deliberation (ok, well…clearly not) I am naming it The Roaring Mouse in honor of these sentiments.