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.”
In which I get over myself and decide it’s OK to crop a photo I shot with my Nikon.
Italics Mine: Technology -
Patrick and I have gone “screen free” around Bean. That means we aren’t checking our phones or looking at our iPads around him. I was beginning to feel like he saw us online too much. It began to seem like the only thing we did, especially since I rarely open the novel I’m reading around him…
"… 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
Today, during a "Do Critics Still Matter?" segment on KUOW’s The Conversation, I kept thinking that fill-in host David Hyde needed to focus the damn camera, so I think I blurted “Exactly!” almost 16 minutes into the 18-minute segment when a guest tried to make things less blurry:
Jim DeRogatis: Not that I’m criticizing a fellow radio-show host, but I think you never defined your terms. What do you mean by “professional”? What do you mean by “critic”? You know, Douglas was right: We are in a golden age of opinion. But you know what they say about opinions, right? Everybody has one, and everybody has something else* too, right? It’s cheap. It’s easy. To say the new Kanye West sucks, to say the new Kanye West is great, that’s not criticism. That’s just mere opinion.
David Hyde: Our audience here in Seattle, Jim, is really bright. “Professionals” are people who get paid for what they do. And “critics”: You’re a critic; I know one when I see one.
Nifty move, invoking the “really bright” audience to make the show dumber.
* This was a dumb thing to say while trying to make a show less dumb.