Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Talk to a Hunter – Pam Houston

Lately it seems that there has been quite a bit written about the role of literature as a teacher.  Perhaps I am just sensitive to it because I firmly agree with this and I intend to make it one of the many teachers of my children.

One of the appealing characteristics of this anthology is that reading these stories gives me the chance to jump into a different reality for about 15 minutes or so.  Then, as I sit and think about what I've just read, I slowly process what the stories could teach me – what lessons do they impart.

Perhaps it’s through the lessons of literature, stories of this type that have given me the tools deal with women throughout my life. 
 I enjoy reading stories by women authors with a woman as the lead character and I enjoyed this little story by Houston.

I thought about the relationships I've had over the years with women and certain feelings they may have felt as a result of my actions – or inaction.
The love, the questioning, the jealousy, the trust and distrust – the hate, the pressure the capture and the freedom.  I remember how I felt in those relationships, and to dial time back and think about how she, the girl in my life felt…and - well, it’s a little tough sometimes. 

This story had a nice minimalist feel to it (my opinion) –clean and sleek – impressively so and later discovering that Houston wrote the story in a burst – 10 hours at the computer – and she states that after those first ten hours – she never changed a word of the story.  She too recognizes the how special it is to drive all the words out into the world in one push and end up with something so perfect. 

The Secret of Cartwheels – Patricia Henley

I've put myself into W’s brain on several occasions and taken a look at my behavior through his eyes.  It’s a fascinating experience.  It’s an exercise where I have to primitivize my thoughts wrestling with the knowledge that I already have as an adult.

Children know much more than we gave them credit for years ago.  And reading this story by Henley, her ability to give a voice to a young girl, opens the door (at least it did in 89-90) to the hurt that a child feels as a result of the failings of adults.

Looking into Henley, I found a short story published by her (Rocky Gap) in Glimmer Train back in 2008.

You can see the full index of Glimmer Train publications here.

I also found a nice little interview with her on the Glimmer Train site where she references a piece by Ted Solotaroff – “Raymond Carver: Going Through the Pain”. 

Well…because she dropped this---then of course I must find it and read it.

Ah…the beauties of working in an academic library – gotta love JSTOR.

And so, with this story by Henley, I find that in this segment of my life I have a special sympathy for the viewpoint of a child.
I take add this to the life that my parents gave me and I wonder if I’m going to drive myself mad sometimes completely over thinking parenting.

And then there are what seems to be the constant reports of child abuse, neglect and murder.

Reading the accounts, I can’t help but see what damaged, imperfect creatures we are.  We have the potential for such beauty and love but at the same time, we destroy and hate.

The fracture in a person’s mind that takes them down this path often times are not self-inflicted – but due to the actions of another – and where did that originate?

Henley wraps the story up beautifully with this –

“I felt exhausted, not the clean exhaustion of after-dark softball but a kind of weariness; I was worn out with the knowledge that life would be different, but not in the way I had imagined or hoped.  I didn’t want to forgive her for being the way she was, but you have to forgive your mother.  She searched my eyes and tried to make some long ago connection, sweet scrutiny, perhaps the way she’d look at me when I was a new baby, her first baby.  I looked away.  Jan Mary gnawed delicately at her cuticles.  Christopher came around the corner of the house swinging his Mickey Mantle bat, his leather mitt looped on his belt.  The new spring leaves were so bring they hurt my eyes. “