the fate of objects

Nothing is more improbable or subject to chance than the fate of objects

Billie Dyer and Other Stories – William Maxwell

 

Downton Abbey does not sound like a show I would like. I am not a fan of period dramas; I’ve had enough of icy brunettes with mean streaks. I just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day” and it turns out, I am also not a fan of Great Britain in the early 20th century. Or, to be honest, I am just not interested in it.

But there’s a particular escapism in Downton Abbey that I enjoy. I enjoy escaping into a life in which the stakes seem low, but are actually impossibly high. I enjoy seeing the drama of gigantic problems and quiet solutions played out in soft, measured tones. I enjoy the calculations and the hard-hearted stoicism with which they face the unaccounted for incidents of life.

How do you ever know?

Preparation is just pretend. Nothing is more improbable than anything at all.

Billie Dyer kept a notebook. Billie Dyer, the African-American doctor from Kansas City by way of Lincoln, Illinois, kept a notebook that ended up in the hands of a curious Texan.

William Maxwell wrote a story. William Maxwell actually wrote a lot of stories. I read them and thought about aphorisms and why we write and who we hope will read.

I think we hope we’ll read it again someday. That we’ll pick it up and it will have a purpose outside of what it was. I think we hope for eternal life by way of notebooks and notes and write like a motherfucker aphorisms and quotes. I think we hope.

Nothing is more improbable or subject to chance than the whims of a nineteen-year-old carried out by a twenty-something-year old.

Will the object be gone tomorrow? Or venerated later today? I am almost always sure that there is a better course of action than the one I am on, or I’m almost always sure that I’m doing the right thing for me.

Who knows? Who could’ve guessed a Victorian mansion in the English countryside would experience it’s second wind by way of an ITV/Masterpiece Theater drama featuring English ladies in compromising positions with foreign dignitaries, blackmail, revolution, war, Dame Maggie Smith and Shirley Maclaine?

But then again, when I write it like that…

DAY 365. frick, frack, fruck!

In Rocket Science, when Hal Hefner meets up with Ben Wekselbaum, the boy he thinks is going to change his life, Ben turns to Hal and says:

The fights you fight today are the fights you fight for the rest of your life

On January 25th, the day before 365, I resolved to do plenty of things.  The original list, in all its single-spaced glory is here: YO.

On that list, I am most proud of the fact that I kept an open mind and interacted with people who I never thought I would.

I was reading Jay Z’s interview with Interview Magazine and while he spends the majority of the interview commenting on his specific industry I found his lessons learned to be universal.  When you get to a position that you’ve worked for it’s easy to put your life on auto-pilot and stay within the confines of whatever box you’ve created because that’s what works.

I wrote in that first post that I don’t typically make resolutions outside of the whole “To be content” box, because that’s easy.

I feel that the majority of my life is all about maintaining whatever state I’m currently in. Maintain my grades, maintain my health, maintain my sanity, consciousness, drug habit, etc. And I think it’s time for me to finally seek to go past just maintaining.  Besides, to maintain your position is to remain stagnant.  There is no way to ever grow as a person, if you’re not allowing yourself to move past a certain point.

A year ago I wrote that and I still feel that way now.  I still feel that I can push a little harder, that sometimes I rest a little bit longer than I need to; that I get afraid about what I want to do and so I don’t do anything, as if that’s a viable alternative.  But, I know that is always going to be an alternative and it’s up to me to challenge myself.

It’s a fight that I will have to fight within every aspect of my life and I like being aware of that.  It’s fun to see how hard you can push yourself, to look back and see that  you conquered something that seemed impossible.

I can’t give myself the true 365 days because some days I just wasn’t in the mood, but my WordPress Dashboard tells me that overall I wrote 364 posts, which is good enough for me.

Thank you for reading!

I can’t wait to not have to add the stupid numbers at the beginning of every post.

day 178. frank mccourt.

When I’m just reading for fun I buy my books second hand.  Actually, when I’m reading for school I buy my books secondhand too.  I’m cheap, sue me!  Even when I’m dying to read a rare book I’ll search for it on the used section of Amazon before I look in a bookstore.

I found Angela’s Ashes by complete accident.  I bought the hardback version of it for $1.99 and it included a cute little heart bookmark clip.  I read Angela’s Ashes my senior year of high school.  Every second I could I read it— and talked about it.   And these opening paragraphs were what had me hooked:

My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born.  Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four, my brother, Malachy, three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, and my sister, Margaret, dead and gone.

When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all.  It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.  Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years.

Above all—we were wet.

In one of the pages of my journal from senior year I wrote out this entire passage.  I wanted to feel what it felt like to write an introduction like that and I had just read that it could be beneficial to do that as a learning device.

Frank McCourt’s passages moved me.  On the back cover Samuel Freedman is quoted saying: “Any reader with an immigrant in his past cannot help but find his own forebears in Angela’s Ashes”

And as the child of two immigrants I would agree.  I had quite the interesting childhood, much like McCourt.  But that’s a story for a different day.

Frank was clever, witty and wrote with such clarity and grace about this insanely tough life that he lived and I instantly liked him for it, because he never once made himself into a victim.  It was just something that he had to live through and learn from.  And everyone is given experiences like that.  Frank McCourt will always stand as a wonderful example of perseverance and, quite simply, life.

Reading Angela’s Ashes made me so aware of the fact that there are great stories and lessons to be learned everywhere.  And for that, I say:  Thank you, Frank McCourt.  And may you rest in peace with the angel under the stair.

day 155. unforgiven, or last goodbye.

Last night I finished East of Eden and not only is it the best book I’ve ever read, I believe it is the best book ever written.

Yeah, EVER.

One last passage that I connected to and gave me an “A-HA!” moment was this one, about Aron, one of the twins who turned to the ministry looking for answers to his fairly superficial problems:

“Aron’s training in worldliness was gained from a young man of no experience, which gave him the ability for generalization only the inexperienced can have.”

I immediately sent this to Twitter and to my good friend Hannah, who shares many of the same feelings I do about the church.

In true Hannah fashion, she immediately related the song to an Alanis Morisette song called “Forgiven”, and surprisingly, it worked.

The line that I feel most succintly echoes the way I interpret the way Steinbeck was trying to explain Aron’s turn to religion is the chorus:

We all had our reasons to be there
We all had a thing or two to learn
We all needed something to cling to
So we did

But, the line Hannah loved and that I now love too, is when Alanis refers to the priest as an “envious man” ( “…I confessed my sins to an envious man”).

I don’t really feel like getting into religion talk again, but I would like to state that those that I listen to and get advice from are those that have experienced life—to the fullest extent, in my eyes. And, I would never listen to someone who has never actually experienced something but condemns it, or gives me guidance in a life they have never lead.

Generalization should be a sin! And didn’t I just talk about stereotyping and generalizing a couple of days ago?

In other, more interesting and important news (ha! that’s a lie, I never have interesting and important news) I’ve decided to read Kaye Gibbons’ A Virtuous Woman next. I regret reading Steinbeck so early in the Summer, because now everything else will pale in comparison. Nonetheless, I do think this is going to be a good book.

day 139. my real summer treat.

I can hardly tear myself away from Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Yes, the national bestseller that the James McAvoy/Keira Knightley film is based off of.

Ian McEwan is an extraordinary writer. No, not just extraordinary, he’s phenomenal. Inspiring. INCENDIARY.

Yes, INCENDIARY.

I absorb every paragraph I read and am overcome with a desire to mimic his style, form, creativity and overall genius. Jesus, reading Atonement makes me want to be Ian McEwan.

The writing is so smooth, the thoughts flow easily, even as the point of view shifts from character to character. Even though I’ve seen the film, there is so much depth and intricacy behind each and every word that there are still new discoveries to be found in the story.

It’s a life-affirming thing to be reading this wonderful work of fiction. It affirms to me, once again, that I want to be a part of this art. I want to create.

And I will.

So, yes, incendiary.