Friday, January 30, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
With my New Yorker subscription on sabbatical, I was bold enough to check out three books during my last visit to the library. My palms were sweaty, but I did manage to read all three books in three weeks, something I probably haven't done since college (when it was more like three books in one week -- how did I ever graduate?).
Of these three books, I saved The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz for last. I had heard great things, but was not sure of the first few pages. I pressed on, and low and behold, it's the best book I've read in a year. I highly recommend it if you like classic American tragedies in the line of Faulkner and Fitzgerald, but want to read something newer and rougher around the edges. If Faulkner is Southern Gothic, Diaz is Caribbean Gothic.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao tells the story of the Leon family, tracing it's cursed history back three generations from Paterson, New Jersey to the Dominican Republic. Diaz includes copious footnotes that explain his references to Dominican history and culture, since he doesn't expect his readers to know much about Trujillo and what went on behind the Plantain Curtain. For instance, he tells us we shouldn't feel bad that we don't know about the two American occupations of the D.R., since our kids won't know we occupied Iraq. Oh snap! The history major in me really lapped that one up.
It was a compelling read. In the end, I was satisfied in knowing the complete story of the Leons, but sad to let them go. These characters stay with me much in the way that I carry around the Compsons, Sutpens, and Bundrens. Diaz weaves a fabulous tale of obsession, betrayal, escape, and ultimately, murder, all the while managing to keep his characters' profoundly identifiable human vulnerability in the forefront. Oscar Leon's unhappy ending will cause you to be thankful for your luck in having a modicum of good sense in this beautiful and cruel world.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
When I read this poem I was immediately reminded of my mother, even though she would never in a million years feed a nuthatch out of her hand, owing to her fear of birds (a long story without definite origin). I hear my mother in the narrator's logic, her unquestionable commitment to an unlikely and joyful endeavor, coupled with her dignified and reasonable repose.
Today is her 65th birthday. She is still as beautiful as ever. Her age only shows in the size of her heart and the enormity of her wisdom.
I love you, Mom!
Winter and the Nuthatch
by Mary Oliver
Once or twice and maybe again, who knows,
the timid nuthatch will come to me
if I stand still, with something good to eat in my hand.
The first time he did it
he landed smack on his belly, as though
the legs wouldn't cooperate. The next time
he was bolder. Then he became absolutely
wild about those walnuts.
But there was a morning I came late and, guess what,
the nuthatch was flying into a stranger's hand.
To speak plainly, I felt betrayed.
I wanted to say: Mister,
that nuthatch and I have a relationship.
It took hours of standing in the snow
before he would drop from the tree and trust my fingers.
But I didn't say anything.
Nobody owns the sky or the trees.
Nobody owns the hearts of birds.
Still, being human and partial therefore to my own
though not resentful of others fashioning theirs—
I'll come tomorrow, I believe, quite early.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Dear President Obama,
Here is a list of the first 10 things you should do as president:
1. Fly to the White House in a helicopter.
2. Walk in.
3. Wipe feet.
4. Walk to the Oval Office.
5. Sit down in a chair.
6. Put hand-sanitizer on hands.
7. Enjoy moment.
8. Get up.
9. Get in car.
10. Go to the dog pound.
— Chandler Browne, age 12, Chicago
Today is my father-in-law's last day at work. When the five o'clock bell rings, he will officially be retired. He has been feted several times this week by coworkers, friends, and family, but perhaps nothing reveals how well loved this man is better than the party he went to this morning. On his train.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Mike Logan: Tipping point?
Megan Wheeler: The last moment before an outbreak turns into an epidemic.