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Of bears and bobcats stars and stripesSmall Wonderby Barbara Kingsolver282pp FaberBarbara Kingsolver is one of the few American writers who have refused to join George Bushs cheerleaders A writer who reminds her readers as Kingsolver has done that every war is both won and lost would hardly seem extreme over here but in the US such talk can receive some pretty nasty responses One writer in the Wall Street Journal suggested that a reasonable response to Kingsolvers articles would be for bookstores to refuse to stock her novelsNow that those articles Kingsolver wrote in response to September 11 have been republished - together with other essays on family life and wildlife - they can be judged in a more reflective contextSome novelists came a cropper by suddenly trying to pontificate about politics last year but you might think that a writer such as Kingsolver who has always worked within a visible moral framework would find the transition easier than most That the author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Prodigal Summer is something of a pacifist and an environmentalist is hardly a surprise But although I was rooting for these essays from the first page over and over again just as Kingsolver was heating up the rhetoric I would find myself turning coldPerhaps the most admirable essay of all and the one I most wanted to like is And Our Flag Was Still There It was a version of this piece that drove the Wall Street Journal to such anger and it was brave of Barbara Kingsolver to speak against her countrys belligerence in September 2001 Even if it doesnt have the same shock effect nine months on and outside the US it is still heartening to read a mainstream American writer saying In my lifetime I have seen the flag waved over the sound of sabre-rattling too many times for my comfortAt the heart of this essay is an attempt to reclaim patriotism for
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