Lack of Particulars Makes the Story
Unrest at work has been put to rest. Negative thoughts met with positive thoughts, a whole lot plummeted into the chasm that had separated them, and there was release.
And a big grinning howdy to my colleagues who read this blog.
What I can tell you about being a college English teacher is this: designing a new course is huge fun, never better than when it’s a literature class. I am completely, zealously happy about my job when I get to promote good words, smart words, crafted words.
I am completely, zealously happy about the parts of my job that actually pertain to what I love.
More specifically, I have recently been osmosing stories, poems, and memoirs in the anthology the class will use when I teach Modern World Literature for the first time next semester.
While the last couple weeks of my work life often felt Pynchonian, in the way they made me clutch my stomach and perplexedly splutter, “Huh?”, the hours I’ve spent reading through the anthology have been Alice Munro-ian in their simple, pure delectation. The works in this anthology (post-colonial literature, which means post-WWII pieces from those whose lives were affected by the colonization of their countries and cultures) have impressed me with their crystalline voices and deft lack of adornment.
When the world is feeling darker and as though there are storm winds knocking down branches all over your yard,
it’s complete bliss to open a book and find calm.
Because they can provide a haven and an escape–this past was not the week for me to tackle Finnegan’s Wake–books remain my most reliable companions.
Imagine that your brain and heart are hurting, and you no longer feel like you know which way is up. Then imagine opening an anthology and reading this accessible, matter-of-fact paragraph written by Armenian-American Richard Hagopian in his story “Wonderful People”:
I saw her and liked her because she was not beautiful. Her chin was not just right and something about her nose fell short of perfection. And when she stood up, well, there wasn’t much to see but her tallness, the length from her hips to her feet, and the length from her hips to her shoulders. She was a tall girl and that was all. She was the first tall girl I had ever liked, perhaps because I had never watched a tall girl get up from a table before; that is, get up the way she did, everything in her rising to the art of getting up, combining to make the act look beautiful and not like just another casual movement, an ordinary life motion.
You’re snared, aren’t you? Then, just when you think, “Hey, I like this,” the next paragraph begins, and you fall limp within its grasp:
Maybe I liked her because when I talked to her for the first time I found out that she had tall ideas too, ideas which like her chin and nose did not seem just right to me, but like her getting up were beautiful. The hung together. They were tall ideas, about life and people, morals and ethics. At first, they seemed shockingly loose to me, but when I saw them all moving together, like her body, they hung together. They looked naturally beautiful. They had the same kind of pulled-out poetry that sometimes defies the extra-long line and hangs together; hangs together when you see the whole thing finished, when you’ve scanned it up and down and seen all the line endings melt into a curious kind of unity, which makes strange music–strange because everything is long yet compact. She was music. I see it now, her getting up impressed me at the time because for the first time I felt poetry in a person rising–music in body parts moving in natural rhythms. I liked the tall girl.
(the entire text can be read at Google Books here: http://books.google.com/books?id=4N9MOy_E5LsC&pg=PA190&lpg=PA190&dq=hagopian+%22wonderful+people%22&source=bl&ots=t3DUtm_2fT&sig=8We8dMyR-p1Fp8ByBAMQKsNy5Q4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=OjmZUJ3sM9H8yAGJwYDYAw&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=hagopian%20%22wonderful%20people%22&f=false)
Not only do I like the tall girl, I like Hagopian and the fact that, the second I started reading his words, the swells and ebbs of my life fell away.
I am left with the sweetest sense
that during every stress and crisis
every dark hour of loneliness or perturbation
books have never failed.