Sorry for the radio silence, but I’ve been making my way through Gradeapalooza, and I’m about at the halfway mark. However, I figured I’d treat this as the eye of the hurricane and say a few words in a moment of calm. So…
On Tuesday, I got an e-mail from the publisher of Alive in Shape and Color. (I wonder if it will be Alive in Shape and Colour in Commonwealth countries?) The text was simple: “Well done, Warren!” I’m always happy to receive compliments, but wonder sometimes how — or even whether — I’ve earned them. When I looked at the attached PDF file, I saw that it was an advance version of an article in the New York Times Book Review.
I really wasn’t expecting that. I’ve always thought that mentions in the NYTBR were for Writers of Stature — me, I’m just a guy who writes sometimes, probably less frequently than I should. I mentioned how last year I was floored to meet Joyce Carol Oates, how honored I feel just to appear on pages with folks like her, or Lawrence Block, or Robert Silverberg, or, or, or…
Well, you get the idea. As I’ve said, the universe seems to be telling me to write more. I don’t think I’ll ever be a WofS (to borrow a term from Harlan Ellison), and I wouldn’t even know how to behave if I were one. But for a guy who writes sometimes, this is pretty heady stuff, and I’m grateful.
And speaking of writerly stuff, I’d like to remind everyone that I’ll be at 106 Main in Durham, NC, on 7 December for a Noir at the Bar reading. This one is Christmas-themed, and I’ve got one that might be a little out of place, but it fits the bill. With luck, I’ll even have copies of Broken Glass Waltzes to sign and sell. I’d love to see you there.
One of the highlights of the last week or so was getting to spend an afternoon with William Harris, an undergrad classmate of mine who is now Professor of Mathematics at Georgetown (KY) College. He was in Atlanta for the holiday, so we got together in Greenville last Saturday. I had the pleasure of introducing him to the Pita House (where I also scored some of their legendary hot sauce) and Mr. K’s used media store, where I picked up a few novels and a CD by the Posies. William is as much a music buff as I am — we both spent a lot of time at the campus radio station, and that’s one of the places where our friendship bloomed. He writes small slices of autobiography disguised as music posts at his blog, which you should bookmark.
On a far more serious note, blogger David Salmanson lost his wife a couple of weeks ago. In a blog post from 24 November, he discusses his movement into his Big Noise, and along the way says something I found both true and beautiful.
People keep asking me what they can do for me, and I keep answering that I don’t know yet. People also keep telling me that I seem so composed and that they cannot believe that I can write and think through all of this, but I can. Indeed, I’ve been training my whole life for it, for it’s times like this that the value of a liberal arts education is revealed. Since boyhood, I’ve read and watched Shakespeare and Rostand’s Cyrano and The Bible. I’ve studied history and art and literature. I’ve done science in the labs and in the woods and I’ve stared into the deepest recesses of the universe in the dark of night with astronomers and I’ve stared into the darkest recesses of my own soul with philosophers. So when the unthinkable happened I was ready. I have 10,000 years of human history providing me examples of how to handle myself in the worst times. It’s a handy thing to have on your side.
This, then, is the true purpose of education. We are, again, in one of those moments in history where the liberal arts is under attack for being irrelevant. The calls for job training and “useful” majors is on the rise again.
Majoring in business cannot teach us how to deal with the unthinkable. It may be a path to money, but it will leave you forever poorer.
David, I don’t know if you read this blog. But if you do, I thank you for saying this, and I’m so sorry you had the occasion.
The Spawn and I did the blood donation thing yesterday — we both have an uncommon blood type, so when I get the cards and phone calls letting me know they need me to come in, I encourage her to come along. I got done before she did, so I made a point of heckling her as I waited, telling her that I’ve been doing this for more than a year, and I’ve only seen one person lose an arm — stuff like that. She handled this with her usual aplomb, and as we left the “Blood Vessel” (Yes, that’s stenciled on the front of the bus) with our matching bandages, I was reminded of how proud I am of her.
Well, I still have grading to do, so I’d best close, but as is my habit, I’ll leave you with a bit of music. I had an urge to listen to the Doors this weekend, and I was reminded of the fact that for all the hype about shaman-poets and such, for my money one of the coolest things about the band was their command of dynamics. This track is as fine an example of that as one might ask — the volume drop after the solo still gives me chills. I hope you like it as well.
See you soon!