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Archives for July 2005


A writer-type friend, one far more accomplished than myself, suggested Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. It turned out that Daedalus had the very book at a typical, fantastically low price, so I jumped at it. A wonderful detail:

“When one of us caught measles or whooping cough and we were isolated in bed upstairs, we wrote notes to each other perhaps on the hour. Our devoted mother would pass them for us, after first running them in a hot oven to kill the germs. They came into our hands curled up and warm, sometimes scorched, like toast. Edward replied to my funny notes with his funny drawings. He was a born cartoonist.”

Are you kidding me? How could you not become a writer after that? These precious missives from a beloved, held prisoner upstairs, arriving in such exotic fashion…

Mercury Radio Theater

Growing up, I spent a lot more listening to old-time radio (recordings, collected by my brother) than I ever did watching TV. Radio was one step closer to reading in terms of engaging the imagination, but it had the drama of live theater. This is a link to online recordings of just about all the old shows – Orson Welles when it was still all genius and promise. Welles as the narrator for Our Town? Oh, my, yes. And of course, the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds that shook the nation.

(Link via Thighs.)

The Unstrung Harp

This is one of the funniest things ever written (and – brilliantly – illustrated by the author) about trying to write a novel. Nobody has, as yet, to my knowledge, composed a similarly brilliant take on trying to write the damnable second memoirish thing. I’ve had a copy for some time, but Maud let me know it was online.

Novel Blog

My machine is still in the shop, so there probably won’t be much today, but here’s this to help while away the time:

Sam Torode, author of several books, book-jacket designer, artist (check his G.K. Chesterton sketch), and, most importantly, cartoonist (okay, maybe not most importantly to everyone), has gone and written a novel. He’s on his third draft. He’s also gone and started a blog about being a first-time novelist: Always Emerging. His website is Do check it out.

If I Were A Ro-Man…

…I’d no doubt be able to make some sort of augery out of this…

There’s a short tree I can see from my window, and every day, it’s crammed full of enormous crows. They look like the tree’s black fruit. But ever since the Cooper’s Hawks returned (as they do every summer) to the neighbor’s ash tree, one of them has taken to daily attack runs on the crows in the tree. The hawk flies straight into the branches, sending crows scattering everywhere. But the hawk never stays to fight with the crows, and the crows return after the hawk’s attack. Nothing seems to be accomplished. And every day, another dive, another scattering.

Terry and Me Redux

Over at the Old Hag’s last week, I blogged about the Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index, in which readers of the man’s fantabulous blog were invited to compare their own x or y? choices with Teachout’s. One that struck me, and that I didn’t mention before, was this:

43. Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter?

Had I read that before my 32nd birthday (back in June), I would have had to disagree (Teachout prefers Mercer). Cole Porter was, um, the top, the Louvre Museum, the top, the Coliseum. I will never forget seeing Kiss Me Kate at the Hangar Theater in Ithaca – too darn hot, indeed. That was the life for me, yessir.

But thanks to Teachout, I bought Nancy Lamott’s Live at Tavern on the Green, and liked it so much that I told friends about it. They, in turn, bought me this collection of Lamott performing Mercer. When I read that Index entry, I started thinking.

Nobody, but nobody, says me, will ever be as clever as Porter, and I likes me some clever in my songs. But I found myself comparing So In Love, one of my very favorite Porter songs, with Mercer’s Come Rain or Come Shine. Here are the lyrics:

So In Love

Strange dear, but true dear,
When I’m close to you, dear,
The stars fill the sky,
So in love with you am I.
Even without you,
My arms fold about you,
You know darling why,
So in love with you am I.
In love with the night mysterious,
The night when you first were there,
In love with my joy delirious,
When I knew that you could care,
So taunt me, and hurt me,
Deceive me, desert me,
I’m yours, till I die…..
So in love…. So in love….
So in love with you, my love… am I….

Come Rain or Come Shine

I’m gonna love you, like nobody’s loved you
Come rain or come shine
High as a mountain and deep as a river
Come rain or come shine
I guess when you met me
It was just one of those things
But don’t ever bet me
Cause I’m gonna be true if you let me
You’re gonna love me, like nobody’s loved me
Rain or shine
Happy together, unhappy together
And won’t it be fine
Days may be cloudy or sunny
We’re in or we’re out of the money
I’m with you always
I’m with you rain or shine
You’re gonna love me, like nobody’s loved me
Come rain or come shine
Happy together, unhappy together
And won’t it be fine
Days may be cloudy or sunny
We’re in or we’re out of the money
But I’m with you always
I’m with you, I’m with you rain or shine
I’m with you, I’m with you rain or shine

Both talk about love ’til death – I’m yours ’til I die vs. I’m with you always. But what a difference otherwise. What gets me in the Mercer song is that one line:

Happy together, unhappy together, and won’t it be fine?

Suddenly, love has left the realm of happiness-inducing experience (or uncurable sickness – deceive me/desert me/I’m yours ’til I die…) and entered the realm of willed fidelity – but we haven’t left the confines of a proper pop song. Nor have we left behind the capricious character of romantic love, with all its joys and sorrows (Mercer certainly isn’t trying to paint love as drudgery, and if you could hear Lamott singing it, you’d see/hear this even more clearly). Amazing. “Days may be cloudy or sunny/we’re in or we’re out of the money” – these are sung wedding vows.

Modern pop is forever talking about things lasting forever, but it’s a house built on sand – the feeling is what must endure, and passion is too slippery a creature for that, too willowy a wisp. Porter presages this with “In love with my joy delirious” – hooked on a feeling, indeed.

I’m with Teachout.


Terribly sorry for the radio silence. The OK computer is not OK, and is in the shop. (They told me OS X was practically glitch-free. They lied. Has anybody made a joke about the audio-similarity of UNIX and eunuchs? I’m grumpy.) This message is being posted by my brother, who may or may not consent to fill in a bit. I haven’t asked him yet. Actually, since he’s posting this, I just did. Either way, I’ll get back to y’all as soon as my titanium-encased darling is up and running again.

[Poster’s note: Happy to help fill the silence. After all, failure to generate new content incessantly is the kiss of death for any website. Being an addict myself, I know how quick I am to write off any site that does not offer something brand new for my enjoyment every time I hit my Refresh button. That being said, I can’t post today…too busy…even to write this…let alone re-work it to make it funnier…ML]

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider —
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

–William Stafford

Hello again.

I just posted a ridiculously long goodbye over at Old Hag. Some of you might be interested. Back next week.

Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson

In one of his guest blogs at Old Hag, Matthew Lickona asked what contemporary novel might portray the current American Catholic scene the way Morte D’Urban succeeded in capturing an earlier era. I confess I haven’t read Morte D’Urban, but I would submit Guterson’s novel as a candidate for a genuine portrayal of the Catholicism in the U.S. today. Read Lickona’s post and my comment here.

Even though Guterson muffs the ending by doing violence to the mystery that has sustained the central plot thread, the Catholic characters in the novel are pretty fully realized, and run the gammet from Marian apparition chasers to half-hearted priests and plain old suffering believers. I read this shortly after reading The Miracle Detective, and found the treatment of Marian phenomena to be complementarily sympathetic.