Yes, I’m still around. I spent Saturday through Wednesday in Kentucky, as preparations continued for my brother’s trial. Jury selection begins on Monday, and I’ll return to Kentucky after Labor Day, in time for opening statements.
How grim have things been? As I told a colleague today, dark enough that I’ve been reading Housman as a pick-me-up.
I’ve spent the week feeling pummeled, gearing up for a month that will literally be a matter of lives and deaths, both past and future. Obviously, it’s the biggest thing in our lives here at Spackle Manor, but it’s also alien territory to me. I feel like a time traveler from a science fiction story, afraid that on his trip to the past he’ll step on the wrong bug and return to a world he changed beyond recognition. Writing is part of who I am, and has been for all my life, and as someone (Irwin Shaw?) once said, everything a writer writes is in some way a statement of “This is how the world looks from here.” That’s particularly true of blogging, I think. But at the same time, I’m afraid that anything I write for public consumption could itself influence the ultimate outcome of the trial in one direction or another.
Meanwhile, of course, words become harder for me to find as the trial draws closer. When I talk to my kids about Wordsworth, we talk about the balance of “spontaneous overflow of emotion” and the aspect of it that is “recollected in tranquility.” As I tell them, when you drop something large and heavy on your foot, you will have a spontaneous overflow of emotion, but it probably won’t be terribly poetic. It’s only after the initial experience of pain that the victim starts forming metaphors to describe it, that creative work begins. In ways I hadn’t realized, I’m experiencing a different version of the enormity that struck me four years ago, and it took me ten months after that to start this blog and start writing again, and only after months of that did I begin to mention the original experience. I fear being struck mute again, or being too drained to write, or for the things I want to write being off-limits for the time being. And of course, I hear Wittgenstein’s seventh proposition in my head as well.
And so I do as I have done, and read, and write, and wait. What (or even if) I will write in the coming days, I don’t entirely know. But I appreciate your choosing to accompany me in this obscure portion of my journey.
On a lighter note, in my reading of Housman today I found his 1910 lecture/essay on Swinburne, which strikes me as a work of literary criticism that is wise, scathingly funny and finally written with a degree of sympathy. To the extent that we have moved away from this sort of criticism, I suspect that we in the humanities may have betrayed what we do. I do hope you’ll give it a read.