August Meeting: Short Selections

At our upcoming meeting on August 6 we are going to try out something new we have not done before. Instead of discussing a single selection of one of our members, we are going to ask each of our members to recommend a single short selection for us to read. This selection can be an essay, a short story, or a poem. It can be something the member has authored themselves, or something authored by someone else they would like to share with the group. The only restrictions are the following:

1) It has to be something that can be read in less than 30 minutes.

2) The selection has to be made available by sending a copy to me. I will distribute to everyone in our group. The selection needs to be in the format of either an electronic copy of the actual document (a word or pdf file or some other format that is generally accessible to all of our members) or a link to a site where the document can be found that is either free or available for viewing for a nominal fee (<$2).

I will send out the documents to all of our members and also put a copy here on our blogsite as a comment to this posting.

Ron

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About Ron Boothe

I am a retired professor of psychology living in Tacoma Washington USA.
This entry was posted in 2013 Selections, Short Selections and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to August Meeting: Short Selections

  1. Burk Ketcham says:

    Unfortunately, I will be in New York for the August meeting and in Italy
    for the September meeting. But I do have a short story, “The Christmas
    Letters,” I wrote a few years ago that I have attached.

    https://retiredmensbookclub.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/the-christmas-letter-2.doc

    It can be read in 30 minutes or less. The story was inspired by the rather long letters some friends often send me with their Christmas cards.

    The group can inform me if they think this is or is not an appropriate
    format for a short story.

    Burk

    • Jim Robbins says:

      Burk,
      I found your fictional short story based on the real Christmas correspondence carried on between you and long standing friends to be capitvating. The triumphant lives some individuals lead certainly deserved some form of record and note to others.

      I don’t know exactly where actual facts end and artistic license takes over in this piece, but the road for a women in the wine business was a long and rough one during these years in the Napa Sonoma valleys. Viniculture was a man’s business in Northern California, and for a woman to succeed would have required a very gifted, visionary, hard working and committed soul. The fact that your character and the woman I am about to cite had families and very young children made it all the more a daunting task. For those wishing to read the short biography of the one women who succeeded in this quest for supreme excellence in the art and science of wine-making, I refer you to this website:

      http://www.merryedwards.com/merry/

      Jim Robbins

    • powersron says:

      Burk,
      Thank you for sharing this creative, compelling, and tender tale. Using letters to tell your story was such an ingenious idea! There is a long line of epistolary novels in the history of fiction, from “Pamela” to “The Color Purple,” but I’ve never read a short story using that technique. The story tugged at me because our family also began our journey through time together in the midwest, Chicago to be specific, before moving to the west coast. Three childen, a painful divorce, a new career for our mother out west, a father who was in sales, but not a philanderer! With admiration for your writing skills, I say again, thank you!

  2. Ron Boothe says:

    Burk,

    Reading your selection reminds me of the old Charlie Brown episode in which Linus is annoying Lucy, pleading incessantly with her to read him a story. Finally, simply to shut him up, she grabs a book, randomly opens it to a page and says, “A man was born, he lived and he died. The End!” Then she tosses the book aside.

    Linus responds something along the lines, “What a fascinating story. It really makes me wish I had known the man.”

    Ron

    • Ron Boothe says:

      Peter,

      Brings back many fond memories from High School Literature when our teacher had us spend a week or so trying to make sense of that one. Wonder if any still do that?

      Some interesting possibilities for anagrams in the poem’s title, including some that almost contain Peter Farnum 🙂

      Ron

    • pmunrafp says:

      Against my better judgment, but since everyone else is doing it, I’ll write and offer to the group, a short introduction to “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.”

      I first read this poem in my freshman or sophomore year in college in an introductory course on poetry. The other Eliot poem was of course, “The Wasteland.” I liked Prufrock better simply because it was so much more accessible, though the images in the Wasteland are just as powerful.
      “You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
      They called me the hyacinth girl.”

      I may as well come right out and say it (though Prufrock wouldn’t), I don’t like analyzing poems. I responded to Prufrock because the images moved me deeply. For example:

      “Like a patient etherized upon a table”

      “Streets that follow like a tedious argument
      Of insidious intent”

      “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes…
      Curled once around the house and fell asleep.”

      “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

      “I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
      Am an attendant lord, one that will do
      To swell a progress, start a scene or two.”

      “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
      By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
      Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

      At the age of 19 I did not yet have a bald spot, but I knew Prufrock. His fear of social situations where he felt something was at stake; his reluctance “to force the moment to a crisis” because he might be brushed off as one who did not understand; his self -perception as a person in a secondary social position “an attendant lord;” his unwillingness to “presume”.

      I never analyzed this poem; I just let it wash over my emotions. I was cleansed by that, I knew I was not alone. Critical analysis was the last thing on my mind.

      By the time I reached middle age, and did have a bald spot, this cleansing took the form of not being able to read this poem without crying. (If someone is to read it at our meeting it won’t be me.)

      If you want analysis you can access plenty at Google. Have fun; I’m just content to know Prufrock as a person.

      I chose “Prufrock” for this meeting because while reading “Let the Great World Spin” I saw that I was not alone in knowing him. Claire, at the moment of her crisis, when the doorman is announcing the guests at her Park Avenue apartment, is at her wits end, she says
      “I should have been a pair of ragged claws.”

      Ironic, and telling. Here we have a woman at the top of the social ladder in New York, and Prufrock, who can’t decide whether he should eat a peach, and they both feel the same: like a crab, a bottom dwelling animal,
      “scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

      I don’t think there is a need for analysis of this poem; there is only a need to open up and feel it.

      ———————————————————
      “In a minute there is time
      For decisions and revisions which a moment will reverse…

      Would it have been worth while,
      To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
      To have squeezed the universe into a ball
      To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
      To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
      Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—

      If one, settling a pillow by her head,
      Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
      That is not it, at all.”

      I hope the members of our club won’t say that so me.

      As I think about you I ask. Is all that Eliot did was to write a poem about an effete, horny, and confused old man?

      Or perhaps did he care about poetry itself, what it was, had been and could become.

      There are those in our club who know and care about those things, and they can rightly say to me:
      “That is not it at all.”

      Please do:
      Though I have fasted wept and prayed,
      …I am no prophet – and here’s not great matter.”

      Please do say, “That is not it at all.” I’m more than ready to learn.

      Peter

      • gil4or says:

        What a wonderful expression, Peter, of your relationship with a famous Eliot poem. You seem to have taken Prufrock”s anxiety to heart and Eliot would have been happy to know that a late 20th-century reader found his poem moving and relevant. Many poets wish to think their poetry vatic, prophetic and visionary. Obviously any author who alludes to great poems, as you perceptively describe in the case of Claire in McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, is aware that a phrase from such a poem can speak volumes. Claire you explain nicely as a conscience-ridden, heartsick Prufrockian character. She lacks confidence in every ticking moment of her being. Two pages before the “scuttling” and “ragged claws” allusion, she also implies the importance of lining up the coffee and tea cups: “Can’t indulge this heartsickness. No. Spoon the coffee out and line the tea bags up.” (p.84) Subtle, but a foreshadowing of the “scuttling ragged claws.”

        Poor gal, Claire, the secret smoker, living high up in the rich ether, the polluted air of New York’s posh Park Avenue, but one who wishes to engage, to have connection with the people of the street. Class consciousness, especially in a cosmopolis, is a terrible burden when one wishes to meet the people who vibrate normally, not second- guessing their every thought or action. Every peach has a prickly pit.

        The Luscious, Lubricious Peach
        Some of you know that my expertise in ancient classical poetry was focused on erotic poetry, mostly of elegiac verse. The Greek poets, e.g. Sappho, Alcaeus, Callimachus, but, save Sappho of Lesbos, the names may mean nothing to you. My main focus, though, was the amatory poetry of the Catullus, Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid. Therefore, playing with imagery and diction was my personal enchantment in matters of interpretation. The subject of my papers and theses had to have mattered to some Classicists, for nary a one said, “No, that isn’t it at all.”

        Dare I explain my thoughts on Prufrock’s vacillation about eating a peach? Why not! The large peach, red-globed, delicious and juicy, I ate yesterday brought it back to mind: “Do I dare to eat a peach?”
        What keeps a proper person from eating a peach? Why is it daring? “Well,” I thought, “it is a bit messy and some would not want to risk staining a clean shirt or blouse, then go about in polite company with the juice drip showing.” At one point well into the messy enjoyment, I had to cup my chin to catch the juice and finished scarfing the sloppy sweet morsels around the pit over the kitchen sink. After licking my smeared fingers, I washed up in warm water and gasped a sigh of contentment.

        When I was growing up, many proper British people had to be given license to eat with the fingers. Perhaps in the politest, snobby company, then, it’s daring to display oneself in public eating a juicy, somewhat unmanageable fruit—all that unseemly sucking and slavering.

        (We dare eat peaches today, but there are cautions. Nowadays, because of pesticide sprays that preserve such fruits’ appearance, even an unblemished peach might first be washed to reduce the fuzz or altogether peeled to avoid the toxins retained in the skin, before one dared to taste of its flesh. The fruit-meat might even be pared in case the lips and tongue get a rasp from the rough, abrasive pit. Also, the brittle pit could crack a tooth. Lots of sensible reasons not to wittingly ravish a peach too eagerly. How meticulous and dainty we fruit lovers have become!)
        Prufrock’s Fear of the Lubricious Peach

        So, to continue, perhaps it’s the juice that will drip down the chin if the fuzzy fruit is especially ripe, picked from the tree, or–heaven forbid!–picked super-ripe from the ground, a fallen fruit. At an afternoon picnic, dressed in one’s summer whites (I can imagine prissy Eliot or Prufrock so decked out) the spilt orange-colored juice would show up boldly on the breast or on the lap of one’s trousers. Ugh! That wouldn’t do, would it? Then again, there’s that fuzz to deal with, the hair around the balled ambrosial fruit. That fuzzy feel of breaking into the pinkish-orange meat–uuhmm!–quite sensuous and sensual–to feel as it meets the lips and makes them tingle? For Prufrock, in his age, I suspect it was the public display of eating finger food of a juicy nature, during the munching of which, however delicately performed, something might go terribly wrong and someone might titter at one’s inept manners or deride one’s poor table manners. Imagine such an awkward lubricious display, resulting in sticky fingers and a greasy mouth. In amatory poetic imagery, the rosy, globed, creased peach is not hard to imagine as a Mons Veneris, and so both mouthing the balled fuzziness and accepting the “venereal” slaver down one’s chin are partly what make eating such a fruit a daring experience. Eating a peach might remind Prufrock of the loss of erotic joy. This is my imagination going to work on Eliot’s verse. What would McCann’s characters think of it? Tillie would simply laugh at this idea, having already had a taste of Rumi’s tavern poetry, not to mention other peachy tastes. Claire might be aghast at this wild, lavish interpretation of mine, but still secretly delighted. Gloria might smile knowingly: “Well, well, If you say so. To each his own peach, darlin”

        Enough of that fun!

        Salt of the earth Gloria meets classy Claire in her peachy-keen penthouse. Gloria and Claire, but no clear glory anywhere. Claire dares to acquaint Gloria unto friendship, willing to pay for her presence. It is such a vital need Claire desires in her longing to have a moment of genuine connectedness–to ground herself—a craving to make Gloria a friend. She dared express her need. What a risk to suggest payment!

        For every rare bird who wishes to float and dance on a nerve edge in the aerial realm, millions of others wish to join the great chain of being, those that walk together in pain upon the earth.

        Peter, I loved your quotes and appreciated your choice of Eliot’s poem that is far from “The Waste Land.” The invitation to go together to see how this world keeps spinning. Eliot’s poem is like McCann’s invitation to venture forth, to join a society of various characters, not fearing to check out the lives of others, low and high. – David

      • powersron says:

        Peter,

        I appreciate your comments, Peter (and yours, David!).

        When I was 17, my favorite uncle wrote a letter to me telling me he had seen a wonderful movie called “Night of the Iguana,” starring Richard Burton. He asked me to promise to wait to see it “in about ten years,” implying, of course, that I was too young to understand Tennesse Williams’ work. I reluctantly agreed (isn’t it a hallmark of youth to think we’re more mature than we really are?), and before I was 30 I watched Burton as the defrocked minister drive a busload of women tourists in Mexico to their celluloid destination. I understood and appreciated the movie. My uncle, by that time, had already died of a heart attack at the incredibly young age of 40. We never got to discuss the film.

        Youth doesn’t prepare us very well for understanding death, alcoholic ministers, or T. S. Eliot poetry. I was 19 when I took “Introduction to Poetry” at Tacoma Community College, and it was taught, thank goodness, by Dr. John Terry (one of my favorite instructors), who not only understood poetry but also what it meant to be an undergraduate in college. He was most patient with us in explaining Eliot’s work when we got to it, something I’ll be forever grateful for.

        I went on to major in English and went on with reading poetry, all my adult life. I have bookshelves filled with poetry, some of which I like very much. I have a theory that many people dislike reading poetry because they were “taught” at an early age that T. S. Eliot, for example, is one of the great poets of all time. As a young student in college with no real life experiences behind you, how do you comprehend middle-aged bald spots, life’s disappointments, the “burnt-out ends of smoky days”? It’s nearly impossible.

        And so, to please our teachers and others, we talk ourselves into believing that something we don’t like very much is “great.” We pretend to be sophisticated in our tastes. Pretty soon, our pretenses not only fool the world, they fool us as well. We find ourselves walking down “streets that follow like a tedious argument/of insidious intent.”

        Thank you for re-introducing this poem to our book club. I don’t think it’s a practical idea to wait ten years to take “Introduction to Poetry” when you’re in college, but I do think it’s a good idea to re-introduce ourselves to some of these chestnuts as we grow older to check out our truer feelings for what they might mean to us now.

      • Peter,

        I’d never read ‘Prufrock’ in high school, college, nowhere. Like Ron Powers, I taught both high school English for a time and one of the things I disliked most was trying to teach poetry. What did the poet mean by this? by that? Why did he/she choose that image? What is the real meaning here? All that analysis (or aborted attempts at it) drove me crazy. And I was always certain I didn’t have it ‘right’. But, see, I wasn’t really an English teacher, anyway. I was a math teacher who in mid-school year could only find an English teaching job. Fortunately, Prufrock wasn’t part of the curriculum at that high school, otherwise I would probably have had to leave town. Finding the right answer to a math problem, playing the right note on my clarinet–these were much more comfortable activities. And I got to be pretty good at both of them.

        I’ve always felt that the minute you put words to an emotional feeling you change it into something else. You diminish it. Something is taken away, something important. Most especially this occurs listening to music. And I heard you say that about Eliot’s poem. Trying to analyze it would change it into something else, lessen it in a way you don’t want. The images you listed provide a pleasure you don’t want to lose. As you might guess, your commentary meant more to me than the poem you encouraged us to read.

        Sometimes, I think, us guys in this book club really think we are in a college seminar and spend more time on literary analysis than on how the selection touches our lives, on how to translate our thoughts and feelings into actions our in the ‘real world’. I have found it easy to revert back to graduate school thinking, trying to come up with things to say that will please those I’m saying them to. There’s a task for me to work on.

        Thanks for ‘Prufrock’.

        Neil

      • gil4or says:

        This is a Response to Neil’s denunciation of expressing oneself in the interpretation of poetry, as though one must keep emotions and images of enchantment inside, keeping it to oneself. “Poetry makes nothing happen,” said Auden. And “nothing” happens in most wonderful ways through poetry. No “thing,” once experienced as “something,” is cheapened by expression and interpretation. Interpretation or explication (“how I see it”) may be an enhancement, an.unfolding, another enchantment. Whatever experience a reader initially has with a poem, rolling its verbal images around the mental circuits of Broca’s Brain and finding a decent psychic place for its meaning deep within, all this is the special personal inner experience that cannot be changed or depreciated. Something happened.
        As an extrovert, unafraid of letting go spontaneously about thoughts and emotions–passionate intensity introverts chalk up to a human failing–all one can possibly do is add something of variation in interpreting or explaining lines of poetry. Making nothing happen is a penchant of mine. Perhaps I live to irritate, to provoke, to encourage. At any rate, I’m not afraid to say what I feel and mean, and I do not intend to weaken or depreciate poetic meaning, simply to add power to words and images in thoughtful expression. Poetry would cease to exist if people did not discuss it or write about it. Most poems of the world are forgotten or never read, and all poems, especially the serious and classical, would have ended up as “thumbs down” if the world’s public were arbiters.

        Please do not stop discussing poetry or other literature. It’s one thing to post things in our Men’s Club blog, but who knows if anyone gives a damn? As a former English teacher and Classicist, from my rare engagements with former students, I found out the few weeks spent with poetry–presenting, explicating, questioning, and generally discussing the various effects of poetic sentiments on our being–were the periods of mental and emotional excitation that students remembered best. Others remembered the time spent with a short story. Most, a handful who dared to express themselves about their learning, have mentioned with gratitude they were turned on to poetry for the first time in the English course they took and some have continued to read poems whenever they found them in magazines or in other media. Poetry may die without exposure. I’m really pleased several of us showed an interest in poetics. –David.

      • I have responded to David in a separate message regarding both his personal and his public response to my comment on Peter’s statement about his Prufrock choice. David’s statement was based on a misunderstanding of my remarks.

        Neil

  3. Neil Bergeson says:

    https://retiredmensbookclub.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/spinthe-war-wasn27t-all-terror-and-violence-2.pdf

    This if one chapter from Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kindle Edition, 1990) a book I seriously considered last fall as my choice for the book club. It’s not my favorite chapter but it is about the right length for the August discussion. It does give you a flavor of O’Brien’s style and why he is considered one of the foremost writers on the Viet Nam War. He lives up to his own beliefs about war stories. In my Kindle edition, the following can be found at locations 824-832:

    A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil. . . . You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you. If you don’t care for obscenity, you don’t care for the truth; if you don’t care for the truth, watch how you vote.

    I highly recommend The Things They Carried as well as one of his others, Going After Cacciato, (First Broadway Books, 1999). It is also available in a Kindle edition.

    • Ron Boothe says:

      Neil,
      I find it fascinating that war stories have such a deep-seated, archetypal appeal. This makes it easy for those who want to promote war to use them as propaganda tools; Consider how easy it was for the neocons in the Bush administration to warp 9/11 into a mobilizing force for support of the Iraq War. Much harder to use a war story to tell the truth about war. I have not read any of Tim O’Brien’s books, but your selection makes me want to.
      Ron

    • powersron says:

      Neil,

      Since I first heard of O’Brien’s book, I’ve believed that “The Things They Carried” is one of the greatest titles to a memoir that I’ve ever encountered. Haunting, poetic, metaphorical, and so much more, in four simple words. Powerful choice. Thank you for carrying this gift to us.

    • gil4or says:

      Neil,
      A good chapter to remind us about the happenings in the jungle of Viet Nam, the crazy, stupid things that people do out of boredom, like Azar, when there’s no purposeful killing to be done. Of course, there’s the beauty and ugliness of moments of reverie. Some images of abstract beauty compare with passages of Great World Spin: the elephant grass blasted in the copter’s down draft, waving chaotically, then popping up as though nothing happened. The disturbance of nature, the insane rattle and clatter of war, then the setting sun returns tranquil and the puffy drifting cloudlets float in the blue.
      Such contrasts, of war and peace, peace in war, are detailed in Claire’s frantic wait for the arrival of her brunch group, thinking back on her son Joshua’s life at home, his shaving cut staunched with a corner piece of the Wall Street Week, but then his unstanchable wounds from the blast in Saigon.

      “My big tall boy, shaving. Long ago, long ago. The simple things come back to us. They rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward.
      No newspapers big enough to paste him together in Saigon.” (p. 81)

      In the midst of regular city life, there is the horizon of war and decay:

      “Dearest Gloria. Up there in her high-rise every night and day. How in the world did she live in such a place? The chainlink fences. The whirling litter. The terrible stench. All those young girls outside selling their bodies. Looking like they would fall on their backs and use their spines for mattresses. The fires in the sky—they should call it Dresden and be finished with it.”(p.82)

      The use of fragments in O’Brien’s story helps to describe the fractured schizoid world of war–mixed-up imagery, simultaneous contrarieties, the disjunction of inner life and the outer. Good choice, Neil, as follow-up to McCann’s novel of the New York world in full tilt.—David

  4. Bill Hagens says:

    My dear katzenjammers,

    I’ve attached my piece of fiction:

    https://retiredmensbookclub.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/he-can-get-the-job-hagens-aug-6-2013.docx

    Bill

    • Ron Boothe says:

      Bill,
      When we get to my selection for next month you will discover that the narrator of “George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time” asks us readers to participate in several exercises, one of which is to create a work of music. I did not think anyone in our group would be up to that task, but having read your piece, I now think you are the one! — Even though I think he had in mind Jazz instead of Classical.
      Ron

      • Bill says:

        I’m not sure I’d be up to the task. But if we would accept an adjunct,
        Nicholas, might be a good appointment..

    • powersron says:

      Bill,

      I noted, with pleasure, that one of the books your protagonist kicked over in his morning stupor was one by J. D. Salinger, my author of choice for this month’s reading. At least Salinger’s books were small enough that you wouldn’t damage a toe if you kicked one, unlike, say, a hefty tome by Stephen King! Fun spoof here.

  5. David Gilmour says:

    Dear All,

    https://retiredmensbookclub.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/paranoia-revelation.docx

    Attempting a type of dialogic story made popular by Raymond Carver (RIP), I composed this out of personal reminiscence of a working life once lived and, perhaps, little examined. Following Burk and Bill, I assumed the August offering was from one’s own writing. I was happy to see Prufrock exhumed, carbuncles and all.

    Here, to preface my piece is a quote from Mark Kingwell’s essay (August Harper’s) “Beyond the Book”:

    “We experience selfhood as a story, however, haphazard, repetitive, and inconclusive. While the hypothetical narrative of self may be an illusion, it remains a necessary one. This peculiar experience of human consciousness will change. It is already changing. Individualism is neither woven into the fabric of the universe nor strictly necessary for human survival. In 2035, following the determined attempt to sideline it with that centuries long glut of bourgeois novels, with their biofascist insistence on the importance of families and relationships and whatnot, critical philosophy may triumph as the most popular form of reading in history. But even if that happens, we will continue to argue about all this, just as Socrates and Phaedrus argued the relative merits of reading and speaking more than two millennia ago.” (Harper’s, August 2013, p 19.)

    –David

  6. David F Smith says:

    My submission:

    The Whitsun Weddings
    By Philip Larkin 1922-1985

    That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
    Not till about
    One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
    Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
    All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
    Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
    Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
    Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
    The river’s level drifting breadth began,
    Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

    All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
    For miles inland,
    A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
    Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
    Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
    A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
    And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
    Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
    Until the next town, new and nondescript,
    Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

    At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
    The weddings made
    Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
    The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
    And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
    I took for porters larking with the mails,
    And went on reading. Once we started, though,
    We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
    In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
    All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

    As if out on the end of an event
    Waving goodbye
    To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
    More promptly out next time, more curiously,
    And saw it all again in different terms:
    The fathers with broad belts under their suits
    And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
    An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
    The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,
    The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that

    Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
    Yes, from cafés
    And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
    Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
    Were coming to an end. All down the line
    Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
    The last confetti and advice were thrown,
    And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
    Just what it saw departing: children frowned
    At something dull; fathers had never known

    Success so huge and wholly farcical;
    The women shared
    The secret like a happy funeral;
    While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
    At a religious wounding. Free at last,
    And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
    We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
    Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
    Long shadows over major roads, and for
    Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

    Just long enough to settle hats and say
    I nearly died,
    A dozen marriages got under way.
    They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
    -An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
    And someone running up to bowl-and none
    Thought of the others they would never meet
    Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
    I thought of London spread out in the sun,
    Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

    There we were aimed. And as we raced across
    Bright knots of rail
    Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
    Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
    Travelling coincidence; and what it held
    Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
    That being changed can give. We slowed again,
    And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
    A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
    Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.
    Philip Larkin, “The Whitsun Weddings” from Collected Poems. Used by permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.

    Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)

    • Ron Boothe says:

      David,
      Pure poetry! Beautiful to behold and to savor as I sit reading on my deck on an August morning. Trying to use words to express any thoughts about this poem feels somewhat akin to uttering vulgarities in the midst of a high mass. Admitting that, I would like to nevertheless mention a few striking associations between images evoked and themes elucidated in our novel from last month, LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, this poem, and Richard’s short story selection, THE SOUTHERN THRUWAY.

      Individual lives intersecting with a common experience, but not always being aware of that fact (although we, the readers are acutely aware of it);
      “Awe inspiring” experiences evoked from unexpected, sometimes even seemingly hum-drum, sights and sounds (a tightrope walker, a train ride, a traffic jam);
      Traveling (not necessarily on a linear trajectory — spinning, curving, starting and stopping) towards a known, or unknown, destination as a metaphor for life;
      A strong sense of having left something important behind, but a focus on the unknown that lies ahead.
      Ron

    • powersron says:

      A marvelous poem, David. Larkin at his best. Much to discuss here. I hope we can get to some of it at this August session. Thanks for submitting such a gem.

    • gil4or says:

      Hey Smithy,

      What are you thinking about? How Larkin made the English world spin? “Whitsun Weddings” is such a glorious display of British matter-of-fact poetry. Brass tacks. Larkin had an eye for the miserably tragic and the tawdry ridiculous. The way the world swizzles in Jolly Old? Like Larkin, when I think of marriages, I think of something tragic and –in expense, if not in emotional extravagance—farcical. Sorry folks, too few last. E.M. Forster: “Love in a church, love in a cave—what does it matter?”

      Thinking of McCann’s allusion to Larkin in Let the Great World Spin: the old, sad men of the rest home whom Corrigan takes on his outings to the parks and other spots for recreation: “The men sat rooted like Larkin poems.”(p.34) Bloody sad that rootedness!

      I do remember Book Club member Richard complaining how Henry Miller, that flagrant original, seemed weak in the comparative mode, regarding his inept poetic simile of the proper French people seated in the opera house, “rooted like carrots.” What was not apt about people, men especially, rooted like carrots in rows in theater seats? Their wieners dangling as they sat in rows, stiff, all in a straight line, not budging much; not one worth plucking. Did Richard want orange heads sprouting and hair or hats of fuzzy green tufts? No, Miller was just concerned with the fixedness, the rootedness, of unmoving people in straight rows. Not an elaborate simile, but apt in terms of the stiff root vegetable.

      “Rooted like a Larkin poem”? Now that’s a complex simile. Who is to judge the aptness? David Smith has given us a chance to judge what McCann is hinting at. Though, I can’t say it’s a rooted poem, the narrator on the move, stopping and going, in a train, travelling southward through town after town, noticing the companies of wedding parties flouncing about on the Brit-Rail stations during the Whitsun Holiday. How Philip Larkin’s poems were rooted in cynicism!

      And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
      Just what it saw departing: children frowned
      At something dull; fathers had never known
      Success so huge and wholly farcical;
      The women shared
      The secret like a happy funeral;

      Yes, for our sallow-faced narrator, the weddings are dull in the eyes of children, farces to the fathers, happy funerals in the eyes of the women. Larkin, never a happy man, a truly Prufrockian type, was the Head Librarian of Hull University. Ugh, dullsville! On his train trip through English towns, he describes the horror of ordinariness:

      At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
      The weddings made
      Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
      The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
      And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
      I took for porters larking with the mails,
      And went on reading. Once we started, though,
      We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
      In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
      All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

      As if out on the end of an event
      Waving goodbye
      To something that survived it.

      Ha! He thought the “whoops and skirls” were “porters larking with the mails.” [Hmm! What did Larkin do with the mails?] They turned out to be “girls in parodies of fashion, heels and veils, all posed irresolutely.” An adverb packed with meaning. Poor devils, those skirling girls, so unsure of themselves, posed without resolution—ditsy, wavering, without faith. Larkin was not sure marriage—and they came in scads on Whitsuntide–was good for anything. The men in McCann’s story were rooted like a Larkin poem, fixed in sadness, critical of anything and anyone. Albee’s snarling “Pussy!” Nothing left to long for. Waving goodbye at the end of an event of something, as if anything is going to survive it. What a moving poem, riding the rails, stuck on track, chug, chug, chug, right to the end of the line. Life! Ha! What a fucking joke!

      Who can be rooted downer than a Larkin poem? Find a Larkin poem that looks up, and I’ll give you a washed, peeled Henry-Miller carrot as a treat. In many other poems, Larkin is right on. If you ever lived in Blighty, in the 1950s and 60s, it is possible to agree and sympathize with his cynical attitude toward British culture. Larkin wasn’t larking in his poems–no undue swoops, wild whoops, and frilly skirls. Great poet, poor bugger!–David
      UxP5VEbSC5!X

  7. Ron Powers says:

    Fellow book club members,

    On a winter morning many years ago when I was in my 9th grade English class, my teacher surprised us by electing to read a short story to us that morning rather than having us turn to a page in our grammar books and complete–from 1-20–another boring grammar lesson.

    I happened to sit in the front row, center aisle in that class that quarter. Mr. Rice, a tall, red-haired southern gentleman in a dark suit, stood almost directly over me with a copy of “Nine Stories,” by J. D. Salinger, in his hands. He announced to us in his soft, elegant drawl that he was going to read one of his favorite short stories, one entitled “The Laughing Man.”

    From the beginning of the story, I was transfixed. This coming-of-age tale enchanted me as I imagined what it must be like grow up in New York City.

    I’ll never forget what happened as Mr. Rice neared the end of the story. As he stood above me, reading to all of us, I was staring down at my wooden desk top when a single teardrop silenty
    exploded in front of me on my desk. No one else saw it, I’m sure of that. The story ended. Mr. Rice walked back to his desk, put the book away on his book shelf, and the class ended. Somehow I knew as I left the classroom that morning that I would never, ever, be quite the same person again.

    I went on to become an English teacher myself. Though I only taught at the high level for three years, I trace my inspiration for making that career choice to Mr. Rice, that class, that book, that story, and that single tear.

    Here then is your first installment of “The Laughing Man.”

    http://derosaworld.typepad.com/derosaworld/2010/01/jd-salinger-the-laughing-man.html

    My best,

    Ron Powers

    • Richard says:

      I found J. D. Salinger’s “The Laughing Man” immensely entertaining, not only for the content, but also for the style. One of my favorite paragraphs is just after Mary Hudson knocked the ball over the left fielder’s head in her first at-bat. Up to that point the narrator and the other boys on the all boy team were quite unhappy that the Chief made them play with a girl on their team. The narrator expresses a complete transformation.
      “When my astonishment had worn off, and then my awe, and then my delight, I looked over at the Chief. He didn’t so much seem to be standing behind the pitcher as floating over him. He was a completely happy man. Over on third base, Mary Hudson waved to me. I waved back. I couldn’t have stopped myself, even if I’d wanted to. Her stickwork aside, she happened to be a girl who knew how to wave to someone from third base.”
      Imagine a different telling.
      “I was astonished that a girl could hit like that. I was also filled with awe for her talent. I was also delighted that she could contribute to our runs. After these feelings wore off, I looked at the Chief. He was so happy about her hit that he seemed like he was levitating. Mary waved to me from third base. I waved back. It was not something I would normally do. But I couldn’t help myself. Actually I wanted to wave back. Her batting was impressive. But most of all I enjoyed that she waved to me.”
      What I enjoy about Salinger’s version is how by not spelling out the narrator’s feelings completely he forces the reader to make the inferences which I tried to spell out in my version. Salinger forcing me to make these inferences causes me to be a participant in the narrator’s thoughts. My favorite sentence is “she happened to be a girl who knew how to wave from third base.” What is it about that sentence that conveys the idea that the narrator has fallen in love? Out of context it is a pretty ordinary sentence with nothing to do with love. In this context it seems out of place, until it hits me that the narrator is a young boy unable to put in words what he is feeling and this sentence is the closest he can get. For a moment I am a nine year old boy.

      • powersron says:

        Richard, thanks for your comments. You selected the passage to comment on that is perhaps my favorite in the story. “…she happened to be a girl who knew how to wave to someone from third base.” I’ve spent my life trying to write a sentence that good!

      • gil4or says:

        Ron,
        You have a personal reason for choosing this Salinger story which was a surprise to me. I mean the 1949 story, not your personal reason, was a surprise to me. My sentimentality is withdrawn or neutralized from this story; I’m not a baseball fan, number 1, and, number 2, I never liked the boy scouts or any of the youth fraternities. A street kid, I was lucky to have survived intact. It is possible, though, for kids to learn a lot in scouts and sports team affiliation. I was a soccer coach for 17 years in Tacoma. My feeling was to train kids to stay fit and to learn the skills of the game; then, to play fair and to support your team-mates to the best of one’s abilities, tribally—one for all and all for one. The Chief of the Comanches, the un-laughing man, was a good guy to help kids out in their fraternal tribe. Trouble is, in time, the tribal braves will totally suss the nature of the Chief, their main feeler.

        Grown-ups who use scouts leading, priest guiding, sports coaching, or any kind of mentoring, to shore up their regrets about facing mature responsibilities or to keep in touch with childhood joy, should be careful. Those who attempt to make up for going forward—i.e. “going forward,” McCann’s theme of Great World Spin–should beware giving their emotions free rein. Salinger’s Chief reveals his emotions through his narrative of “The Laughing Man.” Kids are mighty savvy, especially when on the cusp of adolescence, like the young narrator of Salinger’s story. Salinger was mentor to writers who wished to push the coming of age story. But he was a cynical commentator when he wrote his later works; everyone was so miserable. Addicted to his own neurosis, whatever it was, Salinger was eager to push his young readers out of juvenility into adolescence. In my experience of reading Catcher in the Rye when a 14-year-old émigré in America in 1958 or 1959, Catcher was an eye-opener. I’m indebted to J.D. for helping me to feel the comfort of an outsider. I didn’t have a little sister or brother to help out. Catcher was still a good ache, an awakening. My greatest awakening as a youngster in high school, as a 16-year-old outsider, was Camus’s L’Etranger.
        I’ve read about the Glass family for a few years since Ron Boothe chose Franny and Zooey as the first selection of the Tacoma Retired Men’s Book Club. The commentator of the site in which Ron Powers found “The Laughing Man” is quite astute in his remark about Salinger’s reluctance to write admiringly of a mature protagonist. The grown-up son of the Glass family, Seymour, is killed off by suicide on his honeymoon in “Bananafish.” Seymour seemed not to have matured, for in that story, sad at the situation he has made for himself, he hankers to play at the beach with a little girl, as I recall. Interpreting that story, I sensed Seymour felt that childhood and the joys of innocence are gone for good. Franny is also a distinctly depressive character. Perhaps they lacked purpose. Perhaps Salinger was looking for purpose, too.
        Interesting in the story of romance in “The Laughing Man,” we are offered the juvenile point of view. The boys are outsiders to the reality of the affair between shy Chief Gedsudski and the lovely beaver-coated Mary Hudson. It is within the frame of the story of masked Laughing Man, the chief’s persona, that Salinger implies the lack of experience at work in the boys’ mentor. The career of the comic book story, the love-connection of horribly scarred laughing man for his wolf sidekick Black Wing, compounded with the sentimental help of the dwarf Omba—with the eagles’ blood that could save our hero–is the emotional force of the story. And, yes, it makes one sad for John, for he, too, is in dearly in the reader’s heart and mind.
        All we get of the outside description of the Comanche Chief as a good guy and storyteller is: “The Chief was John Gedsudski, of Staten Island. He was an extremely shy, gentle young man of twenty-two or -three, a law student at N.Y.U., and altogether a very memorable person.” And, besides the baseball stuff: “The Chief’s physical appearance in 1928 is still clear in my mind. If wishes were inches, all of us Comanches would have had him a giant in no time. The way things go, though, he was a stocky five three or four–no more than that. His hair was blue-black, his hair-line extremely low, his nose was large and fleshy, and his torso was just about as long as his legs were. In his leather windbreaker, his shoulders were powerful, but narrow and sloping. At the time, however, it seemed to me that in the Chief all the most photogenic features of Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, and Tom Mix had been smoothly amalgamated.” O.K. None of those cowboy guys won their gal. They saved the rancher but could not marry the rancher’s daughter; too much adventure ahead.
        My take in the story is that John was shy and not the totally handsome kind of guy who could woo Mary Hudson in the way Mary wanted to be wooed. There’s a life for John Gedsudski out there and maybe as good wife, following a fine romantic affair. Who knows? For the narrator, it hit home. Something potentially beautiful failed. The kid felt something! Hey! Let the great World Spin.
        Finally, poor D.J. that he never wrote more. Left the message from Seymour to Zooey to tell Franny that the fat lady with the querulous face in the front row was Jesus, to be thought of as Jesus, and one should perform before people one thinks as kind. The problem of the Glass family’s kids is that the parents, in the desire for American success, pushed them to hard. The American dream is the tragedy of much that is intrinsic in American life. They became radio and TV quiz show experts. This I think was Salinger’s warning. The Glass kids, like Salinger, were thought geniuses, protegés, or infants terribles, far too early in their lives. They lacked the maturity of mind, heart and soul to deal with life once they were cast into the great whorl of society. Unfortunately—and we’ve seen it time and again–they were done in by celebrity status when adolescence arrived. From times past, I’d bring to mind Jackie Coogan, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland. Too quick the success. Think today of Britney Spears and Miley Miles whatever. Hell, even Elvis never really grew up. I still think that the greatest problem in American culture is making of people, too early, too quick in their development, celebrities and heroes. Horace, the Roman poet, said one should be slow to honor, to be careful whom one makes a hero.
        In some respects this story reminds me of James Joyce’s “Clay” from his Dubliners. Maybe John Gedsudski wasn’t good looking enough for Mary. Maybe Mary wanted more of John’s time and he was giving too much of his energy to the Comanches. Should one mix one’s love life with one’s job or recreational boy-scout outings? Was Mary like sad Franny: over-privileged, depressed, a beautiful wreck? Let’s go back, remember: shed a tear for the Laughing Man. Penny Dreadfuls are deep in my psyche.– David
        UxP5VEbSC5!X

  8. Jim Robbins says:

    Greetings all,

    It would be hard to match a preface like Ron’s, so I will keep my lead-in to 17 syllables – with pictures of course.

    The reading is George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.”

    Just 6 or so pages.

    http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit/

    Also, inspired by David’s sterling suggestion for more poetic reading material
    I wish to cite the following poem to be read on the completion of the
    Orwell essay “Politics and the English Language”.

    http://www.oocities.org/nerudapoet/captain/thetiger.htm

    There are many unique associations that link these two craftsmen of words and life.

    Jim

    • powersron says:

      Jim,

      Thanks for a dose of Orwell. Mixed metaphors are a pain in the neck and out to be thrown out the window. Also, it behooves us to avoid archaic expressions, doesn’t it?

  9. Stirling Smith says:

    This is my addition to next month’s discussion.
    Stirling

    http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15609

    • Ron Boothe says:

      Stirling,
      One of the most genuinely patriotic poems I have ever read. It expresses a sentiment not often appreciated by those of us growing up and enjoying the privileges of white middle class America. And it resonates in our age (an age when a young black man can still be shot with impunity for the crime of walking to the grocery store for a snack).
      The poem appears to start out with a (rightfully so) cynical attitude about America. Then midway it unexpectedly (at least for me) swerves towards what appears to be a paradoxical urging that we should try to keep the faith, despite all evidence to the contrary. Not sure what to make of this, but it will resonate with Kierkegaard’s FEAR AND TREMBLING that we are scheduled to read next month.
      Ron

    • powersron says:

      Stirling, this is a poem that is as timely now as it was when it was written, perhaps even more. While so many poets today are insular, narcissistic, safe, it’s powerful to be reminded of poets like Langston Hughes who weren’t afraid to speak to our nation about greed and injustice. This poem is a gift to America. Thank you for sharing it.

    • gil4or says:

      Stirling,
      A very tough subject for dreaming again. We’ve spilled across the frontiers into every reach of the planet. However, yes, dream–what America’s been about–and let’s redream planet Earth and remake it, then redeem America who weighs heavily on the planet. Can we get it together, to get it back, to remake America as it once was dreamed? “Redeem the land, the mines, the plants, the rivers” … and the “green states,” and the red and blue states, and tan states, from sea to shimmering, encroaching sea.
      How this poem makes one’s head spin! The pain of wishing to go back—nostalgia—is now the angst of knowing there’s no going back, for America, the Americas, for all the continents, for Mother Gaia. Geologic reality—Gaiology– itself is dawning on the living consciousness of the dreamers. It’s like asking the mountain glaciers—“Please, come back!” The rumbling answer resounds: “Our epoch is quick to run out. I think Great Takobud* is coming to life again.” (*Native Indian name for Mt. Rainier.) Like Whitman, Nisqually Glacier asserts: “The past and present wilt—I have filled them and emptied them.” One time for all time, “I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” (from Allen Ginsberg’s “America.’)
      O, America, Where are you, What are you, Who are you?

      Good choice to follow up Let the Great World Spin. People came to America with their different dreams of improving their lives. McCann was implying the inter-connectedness of people struggling in life, from all walks of life, all classes and ethnic backgrounds in his New York scenes. His characters circle one another in interlocking scenes, some of them melting into one another’s lives through relationships. Following the pattern of Philippe Petit’s daring forward slide off the edge of the known, slide-stepping onto the cable between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the melting pot of America is not a melting backward to an old mythic paradigm, but rather going forward to a new admixture, a new blend of life experiences. Once certain strides have been made, there is no going back. There’s only “going.” As Rhoetke said: “I learn by going where I have to go.” Knowledge is movement, going forth.

      Hughes’ poem does take me back remembering my disruption from England, coming to America in spring 1958 by ocean liner, traveling by Trailways bus across the states to Utah, where life began fresh. My parents had emigrated to America second-hand; first we were set on Australia, within months of sailing. Then it changed by strange luck to be Utah by visitation of distant relatives, family-seeking Mormons. We had no interest in Mormonism or religion for that matter, but we came to America. My parents wanted out of that etherizing smog of England, out the physically debilitating working-class grind; my father was ruining his health working 72 hours a week as bricklayer in the pollution and heat of open-hearth steel-works’ chimneys. He also smoked like a chimney and coughed up his black phlegm every day-shift morning and every night-shift evening before his bike-ride with the herd of minions to the works. Something somewhere had to be better than that back-and-forth ritual, day-in day-out, dragged about on the great unseen corporate fisherman’s line, unable to get the hook out of one’s jaw. He didn’t know what America held, except, he hoped, outdoor fresh-air bricklaying work for a living, possibly union, wage. Later my folks said they emigrated in hopes of my getting a better education, or greater opportunity of occupational choices. The dream-hope narrative often got revised as the years went on.
      It’s hard to say what they honestly dreamed about America. Its geographical dimensions and occupational diversity staggered the imagination back then. I’d learned I was going to the land of the Cowboy Westerns. For us, at first, there was naturally a good bit of roughing it in Utah-America. My parents never owned their own home, moved about the West for work frequently until the later years, and my father retired, by necessity, after a three-storey fall from faulty scaffolding when working on the inside of the Eugene City Jail. That was the end of his boldly walking onward. On hobbled feet, he did, however, walk in pain bravely forward, and was able, though less nimbly, to ballroom dance with my mother. Dancing, my parents’ greatest joy in life. Dreaming ended in 1973.
      America, the United States, which grew from forty-eight states to the fifty of present time, still seems too large to imagine, too diverse to nail down. It was far too large for me to imagine once I arrived on the docks of New York in 1958. During two head-spinning years of my early adolescence in a desert town of Utah, America united further, growing greater by two states. Now we are in the age of divisive states.

      Today we have mental pictures of divisions into red and blue states because of the importance of allegiances and party affiliations in the all-year-round and everyday campaigns of politicians. Of classes, it’s a good question who constitute the so-called diminished middle-class of the 99% economic peons and plebs who are contrasted with the 1% plutocracy. Classes we have, atomized throughout our hundreds of millions, but people hardly know one another distinctly as classes. No one dares call for community to show itself, lest no one shows up. No cohesion shows in appearance. A balance of various gross inequalities, such as Langston Hughes could reflect on, will be very difficult to return to. Religions, of which many groups who early came to America’s shores were ardent believers, have changed by doctrine and dogma, some sects now almost obsolete, new ones—Buddhism and Islam—statistically in ascendance. Many new splinters of traditional sects have added to religious denominations. Religions have continued to grow in number in American society and the non-theistic believers, agnostics and atheists, desire their intellectual caste of mind to be classed in the same category as religions. There is no going back to dyed-in-the-wool dogmatism. We grope forward splintering through factions into fractal diagrams of division, spiritually and intellectually. The simplicity of a garrulous newspaper-reading American society that Alexis de Tocqueville described eons ago—no going back to that real, broad-daylight, activist, face-to-face engagement of society.
      Many tipping points have tipped, and perhaps it is appropriate to use “paradigm shift” to describe the cybernetic digitalized culture that has dawned and spread globally much faster than print culture did. At once, simultaneously, with the Computer Age in its early dawning there is a monstrous democratizing of information and an emerging totalitarian control of information vying for ascendant power or, wishfully thinking, seeking a fair balance. How much power can one hand to the people, all people, the billions, in our age? Now the difference in power and control has been handed to a new elite, pace C. Wright Mills (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_Elite). Those who compute and network in zyzabytes from personal satellites are in the lead, way beyond the ken of most of us who are still working with low gigabytic machines, much like simplistic “crystal sets” used to be for a clever 20th-century child interested in wireless transmission. With the freeing-up of information, the trend now seems to be directed toward hiding important information, keeping information secret and locked-up securely. Franz Kafka, whose writings foreshadowed the ailing paranoid social psyche, would be laughing himself sick were he around today. Oh well, Orwell!

      The word “pioneer” seems a weak metaphor today. What can one do pioneering these days? The frontiers are all inward to seek out humanity. As Karen Armstrong argued in The Case for God, we need to find greater compassion for one another. My friend of 40 years who grew up in Beirut, saw the bitter years of its civil war first hand, brought with him from his father’s office, a piece of silk tapestry, the embroidery reads: Al Deen, al mooaamalah: “The religion, the treatment.” Namely, one’s religion shows in how one treats other people. We have to go onward to kinder, better treatment of our own American society, and certainly to treat foreigners with greater compassion. Pity the planet.
      David G.

  10. Richard Smaby says:

    Here is one of my favorite short stories: “The Southern Thruway.”

    http://latinamericanshortstories.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/the-southern-thruway.pdf

    It has a similar effect on me as “Let the Great World Spin.” It
    was originally written in Spanish: “La autopista del sur” in 1966. The
    author is a famous Argentine author, Julio Cortázar (1914-1984). If you are
    curious about the Spanish version, you can find it here:

    http://www.literatura.us/cortazar/autopista.html

    Richard

    • Ron Boothe says:

      Richard,
      I have been in that story many times, in my dreams. I had always wondered how the story ended because I was always woken up by my alarm clock before the dream was over, had to get up, get ready for work, and drive off on my daily commute. Thanks for the revelation.
      Ron

    • powersron says:

      As in “Ship of Fools,” wherever people are joined together due to circumstances, an artist can find a story to be told, as Cortazar did here. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing this, Richard.

  11. Ron Boothe says:

    Wilfred Owen – The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

    So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
    And took the fire with him, and a knife.
    And as they sojourned both of them together,
    Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
    Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
    But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
    Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
    And builded parapets and trenches there,
    And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
    When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
    Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
    Neither do anything to him, thy son.
    Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
    A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

    But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
    And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

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