2010.12

Saturday, 12.04:

Books in brief

I finished John Daniel’s Looking After last night, wishing I liked it better but determined to stick through to the end. In brief, here’s why (Goodreads review). 

But here are some passages I did mark for re-reading, to ponder further: 

[p 82:] . . . Sadness is not what I felt as I watched their windup toy in the basement when I was nine. And it was something more intense than sadness I felt later that year, or the next year, when they called Jim and me into the living room one night and told us they were going to divorce. I walked toward my father in my underwear, crying “Don’t go.” And later I lay awake a long time, staring out at the ceiling light in the hall through the bedroom doorway that I’d asked my mother to leave open. This happens to a lot of kids, I remember thinking, my head cocked on the pillow. This happens all over America. I stared at the light and kept thinking and thinking–already generalizing, already abstracting my pain, already withdrawing to a watchful distance where I could sit by myself, sit quiet and still, feeling not too happy, not too sad, and maybe–if I was quiet and watchful enough–maybe safe. 

[p 163:] As I write this book I’m filling in details I can’t be sure of. I’m adding to remembered events people and things that might not have been part of them. I’m filling out scenes with crickets and barking dogs. I’m even putting into mouths–Marilyn’s, my mother’s, my own–words that probably were never said. All this, yet I insist I’m telling the truth. I’m writing from what I remember into what I don’t remember, not away from the truth but toward a fuller realization of it–or at least that is what I’m trying to do. Truth means conformity to fact, but it also means fidelity, faithfulness. I owe fidelity to events as they happened. I gather all I can; I wouldn’t want to misrepresent them. But I also owe fidelity to the wholeness of the story of which those remembered events form only a part. I owe fidelity to what memory can’t provide. I owe fidelity to imagination, and what can imagination be but memory entered with faith and encouraged in its form-seeking ways?

And yet there are certain liberties imagination must not take. When I was eight or nine my mother said something very hurtful to me. I know she did. Actually, I don’t know she did. Memory may have conjured the entire scene, complete with a sense of something hurtful having been said, out of some childhood resentment, or out of nothing. But I have a sure belief that she did say something cruel, and to know what she said would help me understand who she was and who I am. It would be highly relevant to this story. But I simply don’t remember, and in this instance it would be unfair to imagine words into her mouth. I don’t recall, and I will have to be satisfied with that.

[p 229:] . . . I wasn’t patient enough with our mother. I wasn’t flexible or imaginative or generous enough. I was too self-absorbed. There were moments I’m not proud of, moments I’d revise if I could, moments I’d try hard to make different if she were still here. I’d make myself a bigger person if I could. But . . . I’ve reached limits I’m unlikely to transcend. I am the man I am, lesser than the one I’d like to be–and, like a poem or an essay or this book, lesser than the one that might have been. I’m like the work I do, flawed and good. . . . I took on something hard, something important, and I did a job both flawed and good.


I suspended the Free Book Friday giveaway because–well, because I wasn’t getting reimbursed for the postage. Which isn’t a huge deal, but could become one if it continued. May bring it back later; we’ll see. Meanwhile, there’s always paperbackswap.com, where I’ve already given away about 70 books, most of them traded for poetry or quilting books, which makes me very happy. It’s like a perpetual birthday at the post office these days.


If you’re a Goodreads fan (and if not, you should be) and have any favorite LGBT poetry titles, please consider adding them to this list. I set it up late last night after searching and not finding one in their Listopia section. It’s woefully incomplete, and I will add more titles, but I can only tack on about 25 more before reaching the limit and the ones I’ve posted already are more alphabetical than in any order of “bestness”–so please do add/vote for your favorites.


We’re having Indian for dinner. The house smells incredible. I mean, I-could-lick-this-smell-off-the-walls incredible.