i was looking through the photos on my iphone, and, as it turns out, i had several of the melville house tote bag lying around, so here are three photos of the melville house tote because tonight was the game of totes at housing works and melville house was eliminated in the first round despite a rousing speech.
(tin house won.)
(also, and maybe most importantly, i got me one of the shiny new lit hub totes. :D)
sometimes, i'm surprised by the disconnect between faith and comfort, how, oftentimes, the common immediate response to an admission of suffering or pain runs along the lines of you should pray about it; trust in God; i'll pray for you. it isn't that i don't understand where that comes from because, as a christian, i get it -- there is a need and a place for exhortation -- but that's the thing -- there's a place for it, a time for it, and, sometimes, it's the wrong initial response.
michel faber captured this religious instinct accurately in his novel, the book of strange new things (hogarth, 2014), so much so that i wanted to reach in and shake peter (the main character) for his inability to comfort his wife, to sympathize with her first as her husband, to tap into human understanding for their situation -- he's away on another planet, ministering to aliens, and she's alone at home, dealing with a world that's falling to pieces. she's having an understandably difficult time coping because everything's seriously gone to hell on earth, and, finally, she cracks in one of their communications (done via writing, kinda like e-mail), pouring out her frustrations and vulnerabilities to her husband, only for him to reply with religion.
one might argue that someone's spiritual well-being is top priority, and i'm not here to argue about that because that doesn't negate the fact that part of this thing of being human (and, even, on a religious level, of ministering to each other) is that we have a variety of needs that require tending. and that, sometimes, all someone needs is comfort or assurance or solace. that, sometimes, it's enough to give a hug or ask, are you okay?, and listen -- the spiritual exhortations and appeals can wait for later after the heart has been soothed, the pain abated, but, often times, there's a tendency to skip the heart and go straight to the religion and expect that that is enough and, if it isn't, ooo, bad christian, how small is your faith.
that said, i did deeply appreciate that faber didn't simply stop there but also explored the struggle for peter, too, in being confused and frustrated that his exhortations only further angered bea. religion is his default; he has to wrestle with bea's continued irritation with him because he thinks he's saying the appropriate things; and i appreciated that because, for some people, myself included, sympathy isn't something that comes naturally. sometimes, for some of us, it's a struggle to know how to act or respond in the face of great emotional need, and peter has to try and try again before he finally understands what it is bea needs, and it isn't religious exhortations or rebuke but simply comfort and understanding on a human level from heart to heart, from husband to wife.
you know what phrase i hate? like deeply, passionately hate? "make love." it's so ... prissy ... why not just say "have sex" or go for the wonderfully carnal, visceral, aggressive "fuck"?
anthony doerr's all the light we cannot see won the pulitzer for fiction, and i'm not surprised. i also don't have much in reaction to it? i didn't read it; it wasn't on my list of TBRs; and the pulitzer honestly doesn't further incline me to pick it up. i'm not side-eyeing this one like i side-eyed donna tartt's the goldfinch last year, though, so hey there's that!
this week's poem! or part of a poem! though it feels odd to "excerpt" poems, but what can you do. this is from ted hughes' birthday letters (FSG, 1998), from a poem called "the 59th bear." have a good week, all!
that was our fifty-ninth bear. i saw, well enough,
the peril that see-saws opposite
a curious impulse -- what slight flicker
in a beast's brain electrifies tonnage
and turns life to paper. i did not see
what flicker in yours, what need later
transformed our dud scenario into a fiction --
or what self-salvation
squeezed the possible blood out of it
through your typewriter ribbon.
at that time
i had not understood
how the death hurtling to and fro
inside your head, had to alight somewhere
and again somewhere, and had to be kept moving,
and had to be rested