Recent events in Ferguson prompt me to write this now
Through most of elementary school, my best friend was Leslie. I loved her. We were a couple of nerds who didn’t really fit in with anyone but each other. She was very quiet and shy – that is, with everyone but me. We endlessly played jacks. We were the rulers of the game at our school – we mostly just played against each other because no one else could really challenge either one of us. Leslie was black.
John McPhee’s greatness lies in his ability to make the real world and its inhabitants as interesting as if they were fictional…
The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee (image courtesy Goodreads)
Here’s one from the 2014 reading list that I’ve been looking forward to reading. I have been a John McPhee fan since I was an undergraduate. My composition class “reader” had an excerpt from Oranges about fighting a frost in Florida with smudge pots that hooked me on his approach to nonfiction. (Some of the more hoary of you working through this piece may remember those books called readers. They were books of essays by great nonfiction writers assigned in 1st year composition classes to provide “writing models” to callow 18 years olds in the quaintly delusional hope that some of the greatness of an E.B. White, Lewis Thomas or John McPhee would enter our heads and come out through our pens back in those halcyon days when we rode dinosaurs to classes.) The use of these has been widely discontinued – an act, I suspect, owing as much to the despair writing teachers feel of ever encountering a writer who could, to borrow a metaphor from Rogers Hornsby, at least “carry the bat” of a White or Thomas – or McPhee – as to changes in the pedagogical approach to teaching writing.
The Survival of the Bark Canoe is a brief book, only 114 pages. That is often the case with McPhee; he does not write long pieces because he actually writes pieces suitable for inclusion in magazines. The magazine he is most closely associated with is the same one that E. B. White and his contemporary James Thurber helped make famous: The New Yorker. Given that magazine’s history for stellar writing – and occasionally writing that manages to be pompous and precious at once – one can easily jump to the conclusion that McPhee has that ironic, wittily condescending style many associate with the nation’s premier “high brow” mass market magazine (though these folks might disagree with that assessment). Nothing could be further from the truth – and therein lies McPhee’s greatness. His ability to immerse himself in the stories he explores and bring to life their characters draws readers along as if they were reading fiction. Continue reading →
Kromer’s novel of The Great Depression was his only fully achieved work…
Waiting for Nothing by Tom Kromer (image courtesy Goodreads)
I realize I have been remiss.
Despite two updates to my 2014 reading list (see here and here) I have still more books that I’ve added. So once I finish this essay on a rather singular work of literature from The Great Depression, I suppose it’s incumbent upon me to write a short piece to still further update my reading list.
But writing about the books themselves is ever so much more enjoyable, so let’s get to that first, shall we?
Waiting for Nothing by Tom Kromer is one of those books that rattles around in the halls of academe periodically as a “lost classic.” I first encountered it in my first full time college teaching job back in 1987 at Salem College. A now “lost and by the wind grieved” colleague, Pete Jordan, asked me if I were familiar with the work. When I told him no, he thrust a copy into my hands and told me in no uncertain terms that it was a book I should know.
I took it home and read it in an evening. (That’s not a prodigious feat – the book is more a novella than a novel and the edition I reread for this essay, a very nice remounting by the University of Georgia Press, logs in at only 130 pages). It’s an alternately engrossing and wrenching narrative based on Kromer’s time as a “stiff” (the term refers to the many hobos who spent their time drifting from town to city across the country looking for work during the depths of the economic crisis in the early 1930’s). Continue reading →
Daffy Duck and Robin Williams will never die, not really…
Robin Williams died yesterday, and when I heard the news I immediately thought of this collection of Daffy Duck toys I keep in an old-fashioned hanging bird cage in my basement. I have kept these toys in this way for years, collecting dust in a dark room, locked away like the picture of Dorian Gray.
It’s like I have collected iconographic bits of my own particular madness and put them in a teeny jail, though I have always thought of it as a shrine to Daffy, my God of Insanity.
You know those events where people always remember where they were? Like Kennedy’s assassination. The Challenger disaster. 9/11.
Well, 40 years ago today was another big one: on August 9, 1974 Richard Nixon became the first American president to resign from office, finally bowing to pressure in the wake of the Watergate scandal. And yes, I remember where I was: Continue reading →
I remember so vividly the very first hint I ever had of her yet-to-be existence. I was in a store with my youngest sister and was suddenly so overwhelmed by fatigue that I was leaning over the shopping cart, unable to stop yawning, too weak to stand up on my own, afraid I would be unable to even drive us home. My sister, who already had two children and who knew that my husband and I had recently deliberately stopped using any birth control, began to laugh merrily and then dance circles around me, chanting “You’re pregnant, you’re pregnant, ha-ha, you’re pregnant….” It took three home pregnancy tests to finally confirm her suspicion.
The image of the first girl I fell in love with seared into my memory a minute after I met her. I was in a college-town bar, where a belly full of 7-and-7’s gave me gumption enough to ask her to dance. Under the ultraviolet lights, the contrast between her black hair and white sweater proved unforgettable.
Throughout high school and up until then, I had struck out with girls. I was shy and assumed girls didn’t like me, so I acted like a jerk. In college, I was still shy but didn’t know any girls well enough to be a jerk.
So here I was, an immature 19-year-old college sophomore, and a nice-looking girl was dancing with me. Dancing turned to dating that fall, and I fell in love. How could I not? Kathy was smart, funny, and an artist who was studying to become a schoolteacher. I was a smoker, drinker, pothead and slacker. She was none of those but went out with me anyway. Continue reading →
I found this disappointing, because I thought at the time that the USDAC was a new Obama Administration initiative for encouraging citizen activism through the creative arts. And I liked the idea of participating in a government program which the GOP, Tea Party, and Christian right wing would have regarded as an unholy liberal waste of government spending.
Since a friend asked a question or two, I’m going to share them. I truly look forward to your responses.
The long and the short of the questions boil down to this: what more are we as Americans expected to do when it comes to helping/saving all those in the world that need assistance? We already do so very much, and we have needs right here at home that go unmet. In particular, the question was asked in the context of Christian faith, in exploration of a longstanding bit of guidance…when in doubt, ask, “what would Jesus do?” Even more particularly, it was asked in regard to our moral and ethical obligation to the children, not necessarily the teens/gang members, etc. that may be among them, but the actual children (however you define that) who are arriving at our borders in grave need.
A personal perspective from the front lines of the war on women
Oh. I see. Share this if you get it.
Source: name withheld for safety
In the quote that follows, “I Blame the Patriarchy” blogger Twisty addresses a question I, like all feminists, have SO often been asked: “Don’t you think you could win more men to your cause if you were nicer?” And now, now, in my late forties, my answer is a firm “NO! NO I FUCKING DON’T.”
In my thirties, while I was also busy volunteering at and raising funds for battered women’s shelters (did you know the most requested item at a women’s shelter is hair dye, to make the women harder for their abusers to spot? If you ever run across a great sale price on hair dye, buy some extra and donate it to a women’s shelter, please – they always need it) and I was volunteering at the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant, and producing “The Feminist Papers” and “The Vagina Monologues” on my campus and marching in “Take Back the Night,” and taking the stage at “Speak out against rape” and being active in my campus Women’s Studies club and writing and editing the biweekly social justice newsletter for my church, and going to college with a near-perfect 3.9 grade point average, and raising a female child under the patriarchy, often as a single parent having to bring my daughter to classes with me as my military husband was frequently deployed during this period, I was also willing to take precious time to talk to men, both online and off, who demanded that I explain feminism to them, convince them – and it was required to be sweetly, nicely, patiently, with a smiling, pleasing feminine demeanor, and I complied, used up lots of time complying. Continue reading →
The yips plague athletes in many sports, and even musicians. Hopefully sports psychologists can find a cure.
Golfers know all about “the yips.” If they’ve never experienced it themselves, they’ve probably played with someone who has. And they certainly know the stories of famous golfers whose careers were challenged, if not devastated by the phenomenon. This list includes Tommy Armour, who coined the term to describe the condition that forced him to abandon tournament play. He was hardly the only one.
Golfers seriously afflicted by the yips include Bernhard Langer, Ben Hogan, Harry Vardon, Sam Snead, and Keegan Bradley, who missed a simple 6 inch putt in the final round of the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship due to the condition (although he may also have been suffering from Strabismus).
This type of curry is comfort food to the Japanese the way macaroni and cheese is to Americans…
I love to cook, and I am told I’m pretty good at it. The one thing I cook for people most often is this Japanese curry. I’ve been making it for nearly a decade, but I really got serious about it after my wife and I went to Tokyo in March, 2008. I make it four or five times a year. Amongst my neighbors and friends it has become my signature dish. If you are familiar with Japanese curry at all, you know the basic dish is wonderful during colder weather, the spicier the better.
It’s been 15 years since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire.
I don’t have anything new to say, but I thought that we ought to pause and reflect on that day and all that has transpired in its wake.
Through the years I’ve written about Columbine several times, attempting to make sense of it, perhaps create a bit of context and perspective. The first in this extended series, “Columbine and the Power of Symbols,” which was written shortly after I visited the site a few days later, is still very hard for me to read.
You know how schools sometimes have assemblies where outside speakers or entertainers put on a show for an hour? Right.
Well, when I was in first grade my school, Wallburg Elementary in sleepy little Wallburg, NC, had a musician come in. I don’t remember much about the show, except for this one thing. He said he was going to do something amazing. Then he draped a blanket over the piano, put on a pair of boxing gloves, sat down and went to town on a rag of some sort.