Saturday, May 31, 2008


I have to say that I'm writing this under pretty perfect conditions, all things considered. I had planned on spending my Saturday at Central Park with some friends, until the weatherman proved that his predictions were correct: that around 1 pm a major storm would roll into the New York City area. I was able to walk around Prospect Park and enjoy a little bit of my street's block party before everyone ran for cover, and now I sit. My window is open and I'm facing the rain and the lightening with a cup of tea. So.

A few weeks ago I finished Saturday by Ian McEwan. He is also the author of Atonement, which was one of my best reading experiences of last year. So needless to say, I was a little disappointed to have a hard time getting into the plot of this story, which follows an English neurosurgeon through one, whole Saturday. Interestingly enough, by the end, the themes of the book were so interesting that I wished that I had read a bit more closely and considered them throughout. I feel like I should know that by now.

The book is mostly about precision: scientific precision, emotional precision and the desire for control over any given situation. McEwan is painstakingly detailed at times, which reveals the persona of our neurosurgeon narrator Henry Perowne. His professional life is difficult yet methodical, scrupulous, sterile yet life-giving, and above all, controlled: "Once a patient is draped up, the sense of personality, and individual in the theatre [operating room], disappears. Such is the power of the visual sense."

A minor traffic accident changes the course of his entire day and causes Perowne to carefully examine his life, and he struggles to maintain emotional control: "to forget, to obliterate a whole universe of public phenomena in order to concentrate is a fundamental liberty. Freedom of thought." This concept was extremely interesting to me because I feel like we live in a culture where people do try to actively forget things--it is much easier to forget than to deal. I wonder, though, if this forgetting really is freedom? Yes, in an ideal world, our minds wouldn't have to be bothered with our carbon footprint and terrorism and poverty. And yes, sometimes I need to remove myself from the world and be mindless for a little bit. But to forget is to ignore. To sit back.

Perowne is trying to compartmentalize the emotions of the human experience scientifically as he reflects on his day. Ironically his son is a jazz musician and his daughter a poet--two specific professions far from the controlled environment of surgery and science. And yet, they both seek out emotional precision...trying to name through words or notes what is so difficult to name; they delve into what cannot be ignored

It's difficult to talk at length about this book without everyone having read it, but my bottom line is that to strive for precision in every aspect of life is exhausting. Sometimes you just have to fall into the jazz and the poetry and feel the world around you. But at the end of the day, neither science nor art can be exactly, lastingly precise...and that is ok because the Story of Life does not end with us in charge.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

a poem or two; mine or not.

three bouts of rain this day
and a girl with a poem
i should have guessed
i'd get caught
in the middle of it

to share:
Streets by Naomi Shihab Nye
A man leaves the world
and the streets he lived on
grow a little shorter.

One more window dark
in this city, the figs on his branches
will soften for birds.

If we stand quietly enough evenings
there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.
Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.

Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

the witching hour ends before my very eyes.

the stone of the steeple
is brighter somehow at dusk
when I can barely see the sun;
just the colors it leaves behind
across a darkening blue
and the trees
they are suddenly full
disoriented leaves
one way and the next
and the backdrop from this 4th floor window
seems like a canvas-
and when I take a moment to look up
it all just catches-
but it's not white,
somehow more brilliant
as the clock moves closer and closer to nine
and the sun has passed
and its message
is no longer
it sounds like a storm is coming?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

best album title ever for a rainy, poetic, pensive kind of day.

If Songs Could be Held by Rosie Thomas


or, Ohio by Over the Rhine.

Because let's be honest. That title just conjures up everything, especially sitting looking out a 4th story window in Brooklyn.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

C.S. Lewis reminds me again

"If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing iself, but ony the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things--the beauty, the memory of our own past--are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not yet heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. " from The Weight of Glory

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I washed my hair
with the same travel size shampoo I haven't used since England
a surprise--
my senses highjacked
because I haven't been breathing
all that deep
these months.
I wanted
to be
all at sea,
and realized it wasn't just there
but northern Virginia's pines
and the creek in my hometown
and the roads that lead to Oxford
and their cool pockets of air between trees
that i just can't seem to find right now
even though i keep looking
My perceptions, maybe, are playing tricks on me.

Friday, May 9, 2008

On Hiatus.

A friend has been in town, my mom is in town now and then I'm taking 30 teenagers to Washington, D.C.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Lost and the Postmodern Hero?

As I've been studying the hero's journey (see link in post below, think Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: a single character rises to the challenge of a quest set before him/her and goes through many trials in order to acheive that quest), I've been trying to think about how this relates to postmodern story telling ( Pre-postmodern literature often sees a quest for meaning in a chaotic world, where the postmodern rejects or parodies this singular quest. So my question is what does the post modern hero's journey look like?

This question came about while watching Lost this week. All of the characters seem to be on their own "journey"--mentally, as well as the obvious physical one. However, there doesn't seem to be one clear "hero" (despite the hero complexes that many of the characters portray). Each of the survivors on the island are facing individual "roads of trial," emphasized by the flashbacks and flash-forwards.

The modernist side of my brain wants to make it all linear: that there is one "answer" for what is going on and that all of the characters stories weave together in a single, satisfying narrative strand. But as the episodes of this season progress, I find myself being frustrated at my inability to connect everything together. The postmodern side of my brain is loving the complexity of the empathy I feel for Ben and the vastness of Juliet's motives. It is grappling with letting go of the desire to have one, clear answer that explains everything that has happened on the island.

It appears that there are multiple levels of "quests" that are happening and have happened on the island--they include high stakes conspiracies as well as individual odysseys. Do I need to let go of the dream that they are all intimately connected? Do I need to embrace this portrayal of the potential post modern hero? (Would all characters qualify as such?)

Well, after that potentially inarticulate rant, at the very least, Lost serves as a distraction to the things I actually need to accomplish today. Sigh.