He names his photo — a green floor, a yellow wall, a white baseboard, a pair of Mary Janes with heel enough to hint at good trouble — “where Mom left her shoes.” A truer title might be “where Dad left Mom’s shoes” or “how Dad forbid any of us to move Mom’s shoes” or “grief freezes” or “Dad froze” or “how a skidding station wagon jumped a curb and turned the pulsing movie of my pulsing childhood into a pulseless snapshot” or “slick, bare feet on a dewy lawn” or “would Mom have been able to dodge that fucking station wagon if she’d had her shoes on?” or “could Dad have thawed someday if Mom had died wearing those shoes instead of leaving them on a green floor by a yellow wall three strides from our kitchen counter?” or “why did she have to be out there in the rain?” or “would it have killed her to go a day without weeding?” or “nobody ever weeded again” or “vines strangled her marigolds” or “saving her marigolds by weeding every day might have saved us” or “weeding is a saner way to honor a gardener’s life than forbidding motherless children from moving a pair of shoes” or “soil might have healed us” or “we never healed” or “does any language use the word ‘orphan’ for a motherless boy whose father might as well be dead?” or “the possibly irrational fear that a rambunctious friend would trip over the shoes and knock them across the green floor is the reason the orphan never invited any friends inside ever again” or “the possibly irrational fear that a girlfriend would say ‘cute shoes!’ and pick the shoes up is the reason the orphan never invited a girlfriend over” or “the shoes were just a symptom” or “the only person I’d bring into the mausoleum formerly known as our home is a person I wanted to scare away” or “I never wanted to scare anyone away” or “girlfriends went away anyway” or “the universe doesn’t care that your mother is dead. expect to lose again and again” or “when Lisa dumps you for a varsity benchwarmer, you will hold your head high so as to not notice what shoes she’s wearing” or “shoes imprison” or “sacred objects” or “the ugliest scene you will ever see in the mausoleum is tear-streaked Grace, three years your elder, screaming ‘Dad, if you can’t even care enough about life to come to my graduation, I swear to God I’ll throw these shoes in the river’” or “Dad skipped graduation” or “Grace didn’t throw the shoes in the river because the shoes were back at the mausoleum and she wasn’t ever going back there” or “Grace must have known Dad would skip graduation because she packed all her clothes and stuff in her Chevette before she drove me to school to hear her give her valedictorian speech” or “Grace’s speech didn’t mention Mom’s shoes or Mom or Dad or the past or even the present” or “Grace lived for the future” or “‘shut up! sorry. just be quiet, Jimmy. just please be quiet.’ is what Grace said whenever I started to say, ‘Gracie, remember how Mom used to dance to that super-fast song called …’” or “Grace was still in her graduation cap when she hugged me goodbye, pointed the Chevette south, and didn’t let the engine cool until she finally found a town with low enough rents and fat enough waitressing tips to get herself a basement apartment with a little flowerbed outside” or “shoes are no substitute for a sister.”

He names his photo — a green floor, a yellow wall, a white baseboard, a pair of Mary Janes with heel enough to hint at good trouble — “where Mom left her shoes.” A truer title might be “where Dad left Mom’s shoes” or “how Dad forbid any of us to move Mom’s shoes” or “grief freezes” or “Dad froze” or “how a skidding station wagon jumped a curb and turned the pulsing movie of my pulsing childhood into a pulseless snapshot” or “slick, bare feet on a dewy lawn” or “would Mom have been able to dodge that fucking station wagon if she’d had her shoes on?” or “could Dad have thawed someday if Mom had died wearing those shoes instead of leaving them on a green floor by a yellow wall three strides from our kitchen counter?” or “why did she have to be out there in the rain?” or “would it have killed her to go a day without weeding?” or “nobody ever weeded again” or “vines strangled her marigolds” or “saving her marigolds by weeding every day might have saved us” or “weeding is a saner way to honor a gardener’s life than forbidding motherless children from moving a pair of shoes” or “soil might have healed us” or “we never healed” or “does any language use the word ‘orphan’ for a motherless boy whose father might as well be dead?” or “the possibly irrational fear that a rambunctious friend would trip over the shoes and knock them across the green floor is the reason the orphan never invited any friends inside ever again” or “the possibly irrational fear that a girlfriend would say ‘cute shoes!’ and pick the shoes up is the reason the orphan never invited a girlfriend over” or “the shoes were just a symptom” or “the only person I’d bring into the mausoleum formerly known as our home is a person I wanted to scare away” or “I never wanted to scare anyone away” or “girlfriends went away anyway” or “the universe doesn’t care that your mother is dead. expect to lose again and again” or “when Lisa dumps you for a varsity benchwarmer, you will hold your head high so as to not notice what shoes she’s wearing” or “shoes imprison” or “sacred objects” or “the ugliest scene you will ever see in the mausoleum is tear-streaked Grace, three years your elder, screaming ‘Dad, if you can’t even care enough about life to come to my graduation, I swear to God I’ll throw these shoes in the river’” or “Dad skipped graduation” or “Grace didn’t throw the shoes in the river because the shoes were back at the mausoleum and she wasn’t ever going back there” or “Grace must have known Dad would skip graduation because she packed all her clothes and stuff in her Chevette before she drove me to school to hear her give her valedictorian speech” or “Grace’s speech didn’t mention Mom’s shoes or Mom or Dad or the past or even the present” or “Grace lived for the future” or “‘shut up! sorry. just be quiet, Jimmy. just please be quiet.’ is what Grace said whenever I started to say, ‘Gracie, remember how Mom used to dance to that super-fast song called …’” or “Grace was still in her graduation cap when she hugged me goodbye, pointed the Chevette south, and didn’t let the engine cool until she finally found a town with low enough rents and fat enough waitressing tips to get herself a basement apartment with a little flowerbed outside” or “shoes are no substitute for a sister.”

HOW REQUESTING SOME LESS REDACTED HEMINGWAY FILES FROM THE FBI LED ME TO GOOGLE “HARLOW SHAPLEY ACE UP HIS SLEEVE”

Months ago, maybe longer now, the FBI responded to my request that they revisit their Hemingway file and, hopefully, conclude that they don’t need to redact quite so much of it. The bureau pointed me to this 122-page file, which is part of the really pretty amazing archive at http://vault.fbi.gov.

Life got busy — and fun, frankly. So I let the updated file launguish, thinking I’d get to it any day. Today (after waking from an exhilarating dream about being a reporter again) I decided to give myself the gift of a journalismish activity. So I read the Hemingway file. Rather, I compared it with the previous version of the file, which formed the basis for the Hemingway chapter in Herbert Mitgang’s 1988 book Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America’s Greatest Authors.

Whole paragraphs and pages are newly visible in the updated Hemingway file. But the FBI continues to redact the page that I wrote about here. That’s disappointing. I’d still like to know who, presumably at the Mayo Clinic, was talking to the FBI about Hemingway’s ostensibly confidential hospitalization for serious mental and physical problems.

My first read suggests that the updated file is not so useful to those interested in new Hemingway information but a potential boon for anyone interested in Gustavo Duran. He’s the focus of the bulk of the newly available material in the Hemingway file. I know almost nothing about Duran, so I’m just throwing his name out here in the hopes that someone with an interest in him has set up a Google Alert triggered by mentions of his name.

I did a bit of research on Duran this morning. Maybe I’ll return to it. But I ended up being at least temporarily more curious about other material on the same page as a 3/15/50 NYT report about Duran denying claims he was a Communist.

There’s a brief about the death sentence imposed on a man who wanted to kill his wife and decided that dynamiting a Canadian Pacific Air flight carrying his wife and 22 strangers would be a good way to make that happen. In 1949!

Then, on the same page, there’s an item labeled “Astronomer Says He Has ‘Ace Up His Sleeve’.” It deals with Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley, who denied “charges by Senator McCarthy that he was a member of numerous Communist front organizations.” It includes:

The astronomer said that he had “an ace up my sleeve” if the Senator did become specific in his accusation. He then added that “if it comes to a fight, I shall speak out strongly and fearlessly.” He did not elaborate on the “ace” he professed to hold.

And so that’s how I came to Google “harlow shapley ace up his sleeve.” The search led to a snippet from an oral history, which “may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission” of People Who Put Interesting Stuff On The Internet And Tell Other People Not To Quote It.

The interviewer says “I’m curious to know what was the ace up your sleeve. Or was this just a bluff?”

Shapley answers: “I don’t know. It sounds like a bluff. I don’t remember what that referred to, there was a good deal of tumbling around.”

The same "harlow shapley ace up his sleeve" Google search also turned up this, which is less germane but more interesting:

According to Dr. Shapley, he and Frost met at an annual faculty get-together during one of Frost’s stints as poet-in-residence at Harvard. Frost sought Shapley out, tugged at his sleeve—figuratively, if not literally—and said something like, “Now, Professor Shapley. You know all about astronomy. Tell me, how is the world going to end?” [1] Taken aback by this unconventional approach, Shapley assumed Frost was joking. The two of them chatted for a few moments, but not about the end of the world. Then they each became involved in conversations with other people and were soon in different parts of the room. But a while later, Frost sought out Shapley again and asked him the same question. “So,” said Shapley to his audience in 1960, “I told him that either the earth would be incinerated, or a permanent ice age would gradually annihilate all life on earth.” Shapley went on to explain, as he had earlier explained to Frost, why life on earth would eventually be destroyed by fire or ice.

"Imagine my surprise," Shapley said, "when just a year or two later, I ran across this poem." He then read "Fire and Ice" aloud. He saw "Some say" as a reference to himself—specifically to his meeting with Frost at that gathering of Harvard faculty. "This personal anecdote," Shapley concluded, "illustrates one of the many ways in which scientific knowledge can influence the creation of a work of art and also elucidate the meaning of that work of art."

And here’s Frost’s poem.

These are the least unintelligible of the many no-look, deliberately overlong, every-ten-seconds photos I shot on a walk from Piazza San Marco to Zattere last Tuesday. Sloppy as they are, they really do capture my experience of our walk and of that beautifully delusional/hypocritical touristic itch to flee places packed with a bunch of damn tourists.

"… said one senior FORMER prosecutor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the Justice Department." Come on, NYT. I just don’t buy that there’s general confusion out there in the world about whether former employees are the officially authorized voice of their former employers. So the “spoke on the condition of anonymity because …" rationale feels hollow. Hollow words make my faith in a story go all wobbly. Moving on.

"… said one senior FORMER prosecutor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the Justice Department." Come on, NYT. I just don’t buy that there’s general confusion out there in the world about whether former employees are the officially authorized voice of their former employers. So the “spoke on the condition of anonymity because …" rationale feels hollow. Hollow words make my faith in a story go all wobbly. Moving on.

You don’t write as a writer, you write as a man—a man with a certain hard-earned skill in the use of words, a particular, and particularly naked, consciousness of human life, of the human tragedy and triumph—a man who is moved by human life, who cannot take it for granted. Donne was speaking of all this when he told his congregation not to ask for whom the bell tolls. His learned listeners thought he was speaking as a divine—as a stoic. He was speaking from his poet’s heart: He meant that when he heard the bell he died. It’s all in Keats’s letters—that writer’s bible which every young man or woman with this most dangerous of lives before him should be set to read. Keats is already a poet in these letters—he is certain, in spite of the reviewers, that he will be among the English poets at his death. But they are not the letters of a poet. They are the letters of a boy, a young man, who will write great poems. Who never postures. Who laughs at himself and who, when he holds his dying brother in his arms, thinks of his dying brother, not the pathos of the scene. You can put it down, I think, as gospel that a self-advertising writer is always a self-extinguished writer.
- from the how-should-a-person-be section of Archibald MacLeish, The Art of Poetry No. 18 in the Paris Review