Must have been almost fifteen years ago. I was sitting down with the chaplain of a prestigious New England prep school, and although he was being incredibly polite about it, he was sussing me out. You see, I was a stranger on campus, brought there on behalf of the para-church organization for which I worked, at the invitation of the school’s Christian fellowship group. He had every right to know where I was coming from before signing off on my presence/involvement, a responsibility to parents and administrators to ensure that students would be spared any high-pressure proselytizing while away from…
When I heard Mary Karr was publishing a new book entitled, The Art of Memoir, I was immediately certain that I’d never read it. Surely if I read this book, I’d end up burning my own recently-completed memoir because I’d realize I had done it all wrong. I’d wasted two years of my life as a stay-at-home mom, stealing moments to write while my son was napping (or yelling at me because he didn’t want to nap). You see somehow, I have accidentally become a memoirist. Ick. It took me three days to write that sentence, and seeing it now…
So much gold in Mary Karr’s new The Art of Memoir. We have a full review coming soon, but for the time being, I thought I’d post a favorite section from the chapter entitled “Blind Spots and False Selves”. (Almost all the chapter titles are ridiculously enticing, e.g. “Interiority and Inner Enemy–Private Agonies Read Deeper Than External Whammies”, “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Exagerration” and “Sacred Carnality”, the last of which was just published as a stand-alone essay in The New Yorker). The context here has to do with the conflict all writers/humans face with various internalized imperatives about Who You Should…
Another Week Ends: St. Paul’s Gift, Princeton’s Fifth Quintile, Biden’s Kierkegaard, Russia’s Soul, Pixar’s SadLab, and the Peak of Television
1) After the seriously powerful interview Colbert conducted with Vice President Joe Biden, Quartz did a closer look on the guiding philosophy that helped Biden endure the loss of his son Beau. If you’ve not watched the interview, well, go ahead and do that, but Biden describes a note that his wife left him on his mirror, which read, “Faith sees best in the dark,” which comes from Kierkegaard.
Apparently, says Joel Rasmussen of Kierkegaard’s phrase, this is the paradoxical power of Christianity in the human occasion of suffering.
“One sees a kind of goodness coming out of this darkness but, as…
September is always a great month for books and music, and this one is no exception. Among the many releases to be excited about is Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir. In celebration, I had planned to reference her 2009 interview with The Paris Review in a weekender, but then I (re-)read it, and Bam. Simply too many sections jumped out, both one-liners and extended exchanges with Amanda Fortini, the interviewer. They talk about writing, family, memory, addiction, God – what more could you ask for? Since she was working on the new book when their conversation took place (not…
Each year I make a hobby during graduation season (May/June) of paying attention to college commencement speeches. We’ve covered quite a few here on Mbird over the years. It’s a rhetorical phenomenon that sheds light on philosophies of the world that are either long on law or lame optimism about human potential: Look inside yourself, follow your heart, failure is just a stepping stone to future success. Oh, the places you’ll go! These are some of the many cliches that are repeated year after year. They’re also often insufferably boring.
Yet, it seems each season a glimmer of hope breaks through the the cracks from…
Published last month over at Commonweal.
Ninety percent of what’s wrong with you
could be cured with a hot bath,
says God from the bowels of the subway.
but we want magic, to win
the lottery we never bought a ticket for.
(Tenderly, the monks chant, embrace
the suffering.) The voice of God does not pander,
offers no five year plan, no long-term
solution, nary an edict. It is small & fond & local.
Don’t look for your initials in the geese
honking overhead or to see thru the glass even
darkly. It says the most obvious crap—
put down that gun, you need a sandwich.
Woah. A devastating one from the new issue of The New Yorker (click here to hear her read it):
What are you doing on this side of the dark?
You chose that side, and those you left
feel your image across their sleeping lids
as a blinding atomic blast.
Last we knew,
you were suspended midair
like an angel for a pageant off the room
where your wife slept. She had
to cut you down who’d been (I heard)
so long holding you up. We all tried to,
faced with your need, which we somehow
understood and felt for and took
into our veins like smack. And you
must be lured by that old…
Another humdinger from Ginger M:
On New Year’s Eve night, my husband and I hosted two other couples for dinner. In my husband’s family, it has been a New Year’s Eve tradition for all dinner guests to come with a question to ask to the table, preferably one pertaining to the previous year. “What was your most awkward verbal exchange of the past year?” proved to be quite humorous, but the question that ended our night was “What will you most miss about 2013?”. Two guests remarked, with nervous laughter, that they were going to miss the substances that they were…
She bore no more than other women bore,
but in her belly’s globe that desert night the earth’s
full burden swayed.
Maybe she held it in her clasped hands as expecting women often do
or monks in prayer. Maybe at the womb’s first clutch
she briefly felt that star shine
as a blade point, but uttered no curses.
Then in the stable she writhed and heard
beasts stomp in their stalls,
their tails sweeping side to side
and between contractions, her skin flinched
with the thousand animal itches that plague
a standing beast’s sleep.
But in the muted womb-world with its glutinous liquid,
the child knew nothing
of its own fire. (No one ever does,…
This week we slip into the mind of George Saunders, contemporary and friend to the late DFW, and colleague of Mary Karr at Syracuse University. “Winky,” a very short story, was published here in the New Yorker for you to read in full (if you are a subscriber), or you could just buy the collection of stories (highly recommended), Pastoralia.
“I’m lost!” You cried. “I’m wandering in a sort of wilderness!”
“Hey, You, come on over!” shouted a girl across the stage, labeled “Inner Peace.” “I bet you’ve been looking for me your whole life!”
“Boy, have I!” said You. “I’ll be right…