When considering the architecture on the SUNY New Paltz campus, I’m always reluctant to choose between the SUB (Student Union Building) and the Sojourner Truth Library as the place most likely to have the waxy but still chipper-looking remains of a lesser member of the late Soviet Politburo on display in the main lobby, under glass, in a climate-controlled coffin.
No, I would not expect there to be much of a line for viewing. In an environment where five minutes ago is yesterday and yesterday is the last century, some old guy under glass is not going to have much appeal. The glorious display would be largely ignored other than as a place to rest a tall Starbucks while texting or, perhaps, in that rarest of moments, having a conversation with someone.
But it is the architectural lump that produces the grim effect in the first place, not the old Politburo hand who could be on display within. That’s not an effect governed by the standard of grand tombs, which can be absolutely lascivious in their expression of things to come, but distinctly governed by the Soviet standard, which clearly says that the dead are far happier here with their expectations than you should be.
Theodore Dalrymple looks into the grand master of the concrete tomb.