By Scott Sullivan
Parts is Parts, Part 2
Remember “family values”? The political catchphrase cooled after some of its most-strident advocates were caught literally with their pants down. Whose family? The Mansons? Kardashians? You can’t have a family if someone’s not making whoopee.
Anyway, they’re back. We talked here in 2016 about Michigan’s Art Rathburn, who with his wife was busted for renting out diseased human body parts. All for medical research, naturally.
Art’s warehouse, described by an FBI agent as “filthy,” held parts infected by hepatitis, tuberculosis and HIV. It was full of dead flies and other insects and had no running water. Bodies were dismembered with power saws and stored frozen, requiring crowbars to separate them. In one case Art shipped a cooler full of Listerine-soaked heads to Israel.
Turns out their mom and pop chop shop was not a Pure Michigan phenomenon. Evidence collected during the Rathburns’ prosecution — including severed heads, limbs, torsos and fetuses — led the FBI to their suppliers. Donald Green Sr. and Jr. of Illinois have been charged with withholding from customers test results showing remains they were buying had tested positive for infectious diseases.
In the old days skilled artisans handed down crafts through generations. I can hear the Greens now:
“Who ya sawing this time, Pop?”
“Beezus and Ramona.”
“Didn’t know they were dead.”
“They weren’t before I got started.”
“Didn’t die of infectious diseases anyway. Aren’t they fictional?”
“So? They share genes. We should make a fortune!”
Which brings to mind Franz Kafka. The Czech author (1883-1924) supported his writing working for the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute of Bohemia, investigating and assessing compensation for worker injuries such as lost fingers or limbs,
Once they’re gone, why not use them? Organ and corpse donations sustain others’ lives and research. The process only becomes Jeffrey Dahmer-like when bad actors like the Rathburns and Greens compromise their parts in it.
Kafka, who published little during his short life, bequeathed his writings to friend Max Brod saying burn them. Brod didn’t. The world is more Kafkaesque because of it.
Not the least of Brod’s challenges was putting together fragments that turned out into Kafka’s posthumous novels Der Prozess “The Trial” and Das Schloss “The Castle.” The author’s style was such they might fit in any order; each piece on its own had that much integrity. Neither “The Trial” nor “Castle” had an apparent ending.
As a lawyer, Kafka especially loved depicting the legal process as surreal, baffling and upside-down. A Zurich district court ruling last week about his remaining manuscripts, scattered since Brod’s death in 1968, proved fitting.
The court upheld past Israeli court rulings that safe deposit boxes of Kafka’s writings could be opened and shipped to Israel’s National Library. There they’d join works the Israeli Supreme Court stripped from a family’s collection of unpublished manuscripts, some of which had been hidden in a squalid, cat-filled Tel Aviv apartment.
“The absurdity of the trials,” said Benjamin Balint, author of “Kafka’s Last Trial” which chronicles the ruckus, “is they were over an estate that nobody knew what it contained.”
Experts speculate the cache includes endings to “The Trial,” “Castle” and other key works. Assuming Kafka meant them to end.
“It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves,” Kafka wrote of authorities, all mysterious, in “The Trial.” “Everything you say,” he went on in “Description of a Struggle,” “is boring and incomprehensible. But that alone doesn’t make it true.”
Since I’m not Kafka, I should end this. “United we stand, divided we fall,” said some cut-up. “You can’t have a hole without parts,” I say.