I know I haven't written in awhile, and there are all sorts of topical things to cover I'm sure, but I found this in my composition book just now, and I know I wrote it for you, Ms Blog, and far be it from me to deny presents in this most giving of seasons.
I stayed in bed all day. My throat was sore and I felt a general weakness in my body, but mostly I just hate my job. We musn't dwell. I'm working on a life of quiet resignation more and more every day.
Kurt Vonnegut called (calls) short stories "cat naps." In sickness, I alternated between the short stories of John Cheever and Mary Robison, cat naps upon cat naps. Presently I want to talk about some things I've been reading and why I like them.
John Cheever is, tragically, dead. He died in 1982, the year of my birth, which I'd like to think means everything. I heard about John Cheever via the New Yorker podcast of his short story Reunion, read by Richard Ford*. (I have helpfully provided a link to the podcast episode. scroll down to the bottom. It's the last one.) Reunion is pretty much my favorite short story ever written and it takes minutes to hear so I really recommend it and I'd love to know what you think.
I got into Mary Robison because my writing workshop teacher likes her, and of course he knows her. (Here's my best Chris Leland impression: Now, the thing about Mary is, she's an absolute genius...) I am comforted by the fact that she's alive and teaching at the University of Florida. I've developed fantasies of completing my MFA in her department, and sort of one day brushing shoulders with her at the chalkboard, where I'll say something really casual and spontaneous that explains exactly how I feel, maybe something like "GIVE ME A LOCK OF YOUR HAIR, YOU WORD SORCERESS! YOU SHE DEVIL! SO THAT I MAY FASHION A LIKENESS TO FUCK." I'll hammer out the details later, because like I said, casual and spontaneous. She wrote this paragraph in a story called In Jewel.
Jack's a miner's best friend. He has a case pending now about a mammoth rock that's hanging near the top of a mountain out on the edge of town. And the mountain's on fire inside. There's a steam of coal in it that's been burning for over a year, breaking the mountains back, and someday the rock's going to come tumbling straight down and smush the Benjamin house, it looks like, and maybe tear out part of the neighborhood.
The whole Benjamin family has seen this in their dreams.
"Hit the company now, " Jack says. "Before the rock arrives."
I can get a little emotional/damn near creepy about writing that really strikes me. John Fante has this one sentence in one of his novels that slays me, just hanging in the space of my head. Every time I think about it I want to die, in the most Shakespearian sense of the word. The sentence: "I got a job pulling weeds, but it was hard and I quit." Big fucking deal, right? Not to me.
The point is John Cheever and Mary Robison humble me. They make my pen feel heavy and clunky, like I have no business reading, writing, eating or drinking. I'm ashamed of my last post. What rude unthankfulness. Not to be dramatic, just saying.
I'm still trying to work on my new website, but trying just means thinking about working on it and not, so we'll see. For now we have each other.
*And I was drawn to Richard Ford's selection because of a short story I heard by him called The Communist, audio link unavailable. It's long, 40+ minutes to listen, but the combination of prose and William Hurt's somber reading of it broke my heart in half on the long stretch of highway between Waterford and Westland (two sister cities if there ever was one) and to conclude, I recommend this story and the hobby of listening to short stories in general.
Interview with Author Erik Marshall
8 months ago