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Now that it’s Spring here in New York, my mind has wandered to water. I had an overwhelming desire last night to work on a long-laid story set in Michigan, on a lake in summer. The ineffable qualities of Breathe Owl Breathe are many—Andrea, for one, is the most talented musician to be confined to a local, unknown, Upper Midwest band since before Sufjan became famous—but one is their strong evocation of playful weather. East Jordan must be a swell place. Reading Andre Dubus’ “The New Boy” (from The Times Are Never So Bad), a fine water story indeed, reminded me of my brief stay in that house on a nearby lake. So does reading Hemingway’s In Our Time pieces, the ones set there. On no two is the patriarch of the Michigan story so forcefully modeled as on those two bearded gentlemen, powerful and sensitive short story writers. Like “Big Two-Hearted River,” Dubus’ final story in that collection, “A Father’s Story,” is an absolute masterpiece. A wide scope, an entire world, a man’s life against immediate and existential crises, an incredibly earnest treatment of love and guilt, and not a word misplaced. Not too much in the way of sunny weather, but enough compassionate soul to last you at least a few days, until the clouds break.

“I cannot achieve contemplation, as some can; and so, having to face and forgive my own failures, I have learned from them both the necessity and wonder of ritual. For ritual allows those who cannot will themselves out of the secular to perform the spiritual, as dancing allows the tongue-tied man a ceremony of love.”

And, apropos of that, a passage I have recited as ritual in the past:

“It is not hard to live through a day, if you can live through a moment. What creates despair is the imagination, which pretends there is a future, and insists on predicting millions of moments, thousands of days, and so drains you that you cannot live the moment at hand.”

You’ll never hit bottom, you’ll never grow tired of this wonder you’re under…

Andre Dubus


From → Listenings, Readings

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