A few things about this volume.
Overall, I enjoyed the selections Beattie placed in this volume. I think if I had read them closer together as a larger bunch, I may have appreciated the flow of one story to the next as she intended the reader to experience. Beattie decided to present the stories in an order outside of the normal alphabetical by author which should be appreciated because she took the time to think outside of the individual stories and more towards the whole volume. I enjoyed the selected author’s notes at the end of the volume which shed some light into the sparks that ignited their stories or gave us a glimpse into their style of developing their composition.
There were 13 male authors and 7 female authors.
5 stories from The New Yorker – 3 from Esquire and two from The Atlantic. The remaining stories were drawn from known/established literary journals.
A little breakdown of my reading.
I began this volume on the date of the introduction post November 7, 2011 which was
4 months 12 days
Another record breaking time span for a single volume. Although I don’t think it’s the longest, (pretty sure 1978 was the longest), but it’s right up there.
I’m finishing the volume with this post – today March 19, 2012.
That works out to (including the introduction – 20 stories +1) a post and story every 6.33 days.
Let’s move on.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Back in2009 I was chomping at the bit for novels coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 1977 edition contained Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien from Ploughshares Spr ’76 and since I was still feeling the guilty sting of not having read The Things They Carried, I thought I’d dip my toe in.
As I remember, I enjoyed the story. I didn’t dwell on it nor did I consider it as I do these stories.
When I came to Carried the other evening, I felt the memory of Cacciato tapping at my brain. The writing style was familiar and I fell into the rhythm rather easily.
I can understand the draw of this story for so many from my parent’s generation, and I can see why so many courses may have taught with this story, and traffic to this post over time will bear out if it’s still being taught (I mentioned the tile and author enough to have the Google-bot index it).
But what does this story do for me?
We all carry things through our days. Some of us are in Iraq, Afghanistan…Vietnam or maybe we are in New York, Des Moines or Oakland.
We carry our friends, family and memories on smart phones, in notebooks and in the deep pockets of our minds.
We read a story or email, hear a song or a smell is carried in on a breeze and a memory of a person or a time long past comes flooding back.
O’Brien wrote his story and educated me as to what a grunt carried on his person while humping through ‘Nam.
Now, in 2012, I can see what “Anna-Bee” from San-Fran carries in her messenger bag to campus each day.
In this time we live in of over sharing, there is a Flickr group pool with over 22,000 members and over 14,000 photos of what people allegedly carry with them on a regular basis.
and then, to make a little link to this story, there’s even the below Flickr pool with over 3,000 members and just as many photos.
The Items We Carry - and according to the group administrator, these photos will be of “the essentials we need to function daily at a basic level.”
One of the myriad of worries that causes a few sleepless moments is the thought of mental illness striking down on a loved one. I have this vision of a dark cloud descending down on them and their whole mental being is altered from what was the person I loved into a being that is completely unrecognizable. I leave for work in the morning and come home to a stranger occupying my wife’s mind.
I would be fortunate to see it hit them like that because I feel that if it were to happen, it seems that the pattern it follows is that it will sneak up slowly and I will miss early signs – either through the blindness of my unconditional love or because as that time can hide mounting trouble.
My failure to recognize it in them…but what if it hits me, and I don’t see it? Can one see it alone or does it have to be pointed out to them?
It took some time before my father accepted what we were telling him concerning his failing memory.
He did what I will probably do. Deny it, fight it – until…there it is, right in your face.
Yes, I am becoming more concerned about what lies ahead for me and what could be my descent into lost memories.
I suppose that it’s good to create the memories while I can remember them. I can enjoy them while I have that ability. To share with M and W in a few years when I can say: “Hey man…when you were 16 months old do you know what you did?” When and if the disease hits me, perhaps I won’t notice that there was a certain memory I once had about something. It’ll just be wiped clean. No fragmentary parts of a scene distorted and jumbled. If I can’t remember the memory then it’ll be like it never happened…right?
In addition to the many purposes that this project is serving, one that I didn’t readily pick up upon until reading Kleon is that I believe that this space provides a nice platform to study my favorite authors. If one were to analyze post length on an author or a particular story, you would see that Gardner, Oates, Updike, Carver and Wolff all receive much more attention than others. If I were to narrow that list even further, I’d say that Oates, Gardner and Updike are my top three.
A writer that I have included in my top five that I intend to apply my microscope to is Tobias Wolff. There are a couple collections of his shorts that look well worth purchasing.
My attraction to him? Not sure yet. Just one of those writers I really enjoy. I enjoy listening to him talk as well. I suppose I can say that about all five of my favorite authors. Carver’s smoke battered throat, Updike’s excess spittle slipping through the small spaces in his teeth, Oates’ sing-songy sentences and Gardner…well, his voice surprised me – it was nasally and higher pitched than I imagined.
Perhaps I am reaching out to Wolff through some of our shared education. Military school during developmental years leaves a lasting impression that colors and enormous parts of your life years after leaving it.
So – The Other Miller.
A decent little story. I don’t know if I’d call the ending contrived but…yeah, it wasn’t hard to see it coming.
There is a scene towards the end of the story where Miller is waiting for two other soldiers as they have their fortune told by a gypsy. It’s a period where Miller has the chance to think back on his life – specific points and how they solidify his view of the future – his future. It’s a space where he is alone and with his thoughts. He is moving forward in time in silence – something that is lacking in this world.
Quiet thinking. Doing nothing. I need to do more of that. My head is too full of noise; I always feel the need to have something being fed into it. Simple quiet pondering is missing.
So, in a way nothing is what is missing.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
This is my third encounter with Baxter. First was in March of 2010 with “Harmony of the World”, then in April of 2011, with “Gryphon”.
This story didn’t really hit me as the other two did. I’m fine with that; I can’t expect to enjoy every single story.
This story is one of those that allowed me to venture into the “what if” of my life. Specifically, what if I had another sibling out there in the world.
If the brother or sister ever made contact with me, how would I feel? What would I do?
On first thought, from this chair, I think that upon discovering this new sibling, I’d be pretty pissed. I doubt that it’d matter if the parent of this sibling was my mother or father, I’d be equally upset with both of them.
Then, I think that some of the anger might be tempered with discovering what this sibling was like. It wouldn’t be fair to be upset with them. They were born…they didn’t have a choice in the matter.
Which brings me to my next set of thoughts stirred by thinking about this story.
Choice, fault, patience, pace and priority.
It’s funny where these stories can lead you. Honestly, I was a bit worried a few posts ago about running out of commentary or thoughts after reading. I think I was just out of practice.
Work has been keeping me pretty busy lately and I feel that I haven’t been firing on all cylinders 100% of the time.
There has been a cloud in my head…a fog that I’ve had trouble seeing though – not hazy enough to cause too much concern but noticeable enough that I can remark on it. Noticeable enough that I feel conscious actions could be taken to clear it away.
I believe I need to create a bit of a better pace in my life…slow down a bit, have more patience with myself and family, assign priorities in both my work and home life, choose what is really important and finally, stop looking for fault in others and myself.
And the first step of that is to be aware of my consciousness throughout my waking hours. I need to be in the moment. Not in the past, not consumed by the future. I need to settle down with the time that I am living in at that instant.
Easier said than done.
The awareness of this lack of awareness is a step in the right direction and I believe that it will allow me to work on the five points outlined above.