Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Having recently finished reading Junot Diaz's The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao I've been left to cast about for another book holding language that sizzles. I picked up Driftless by David Rhodes--a fine book, yet I set it down with my itch unscratched. Last night, however, restlessly searching my bookshelves, I found a copy of Barry Hannah's novel Yonder Stands Your Orphan and I was off to the word races! As I am only a few pages into the book I have no summation to offer, but I can offer my enthusiasm for Hannah's craft. As the poet Charles Simic remarks, " Hannah is the only novelist whose sentences I keep underlining and underlining..."
Guess I'll read with pen in hand!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Past Month

Wow, what have I been doing for the past month that was so compelling as to keep me from posting on this blog? Digging into my recollections I find the events pass my attention like so much sand through a timer.

I've done some reading. Only yesterday I finished reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I'd encourage everyone with an interest in literature, language, and story to study this book. The Pulitzer Prize hardly seems sufficient for this narrative. The language crackles with intensity, with passion, and with the bi-lingual/bi-cultural perspectives of the characters therein. The book is very much an elaboration of the Derek Walcott line "...either I'm nobody, or I'm a nation."

I picked up Philip Levine's autobiography The Bread of Time--Toward An Autobiography. Levine first came to my attention when I plucked his volume of poetry entitled What Work Is and read the the title poem:

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may no do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
Shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
Your rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.

I wondered, then, of the man who could write in such a plain-spoken way and direct way about work, about love. I wondered of his upbringing--Detroit, Michigan, his education--studying with John Berryman and other luminaries, and his homes--Detroit, Spain, California.

I think, probably, the most consuming thing I've done in the past month is to have made the decision to return to school. I've danced around that decision for years now having considered a Master's in Social Work, a Master's in Counseling, a Master's in Psychology and finding the idea of specialization too confining, too narrowing at a time in my life when I am more able to have and hold wider perspectives. The Master's Program in Liberal Studies allows for study across disciplines, allows for the energizing clash of differing viewpoints, and allows for the enriching possibilities of synthesis.

I've otherwise occupied my time enjoying the harvest of our small garden, of meals enhanced with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. And how better to enjoy these waning days of summer than in dining on the past efforts of Spring?