October 24, 2013

The Terrain of Sørland

Nice to read a physical book sometimes, especially one so handsome as the Salinger oral biography. Reading about him invariably reminds me of my old high school English teacher who loved Salinger.

Mr. R. seems a puzzlement to me in part because I wonder how he came to such appreciation for an author who wrote books about the modern malaise and the themes of alienation and suicide. He seems so … mentally healthy and with such a superficially uneventful life that you'd think he'd never experienced any sort of darkness. He was sort of a Renaissance man. He coached football - how many Salinger lovers have ever coached football and thus dealt with some of the biggest miscreants, high school boys, on the planet? He's a man of mystery to me, and I envy those classmates who had long discussions about literature with him. I was insensible to symbolism.

Through the miracle of Facebook I learned he has four children, two of which don't share their FB posts. One daughter, a beautiful blonde with his high cheek bones and patrician nose, is married to a U.S. Marine and lives in Japan. She conventionally loves fashion, the Reds, the Bengals. Big on the military as expected. His other daughter is outspokenly political, a libertarian keen on gay rights despite not being gay herself given her marriage and kids. Or maybe not big on gay rights so much as gays not living in the closet. It does seem that Mr. R's deep belief in tolerance was passed on to that daughter even if religious values don't seem immediately evident. (It's not stalking, it's writerly research. Don't judge!)

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Learned Billy Collins has a new book of poetry out today and I'm sorely tempted to purchase it, especially given there's a poem titled “Catholicism”. Probably negatively oriented but ….

Read some of Fox's Pagans and Christians and I was surprised to learn that the word “pagan” was apparently given to the pagans by Christians and originally meant “civilian” because they weren't enlisted by Baptism and soldiering for Christ against the forces of Satan. As the author says, it's an interesting view of the mindset of early Christians. The concept of the “Church Militant” has a long history.

Impossible not to buy a collection of William F. Buckley's essays on Kindle for $1.99 or Ron Rash's highly praised, award-winning short stories set in Appalachia for $2.99. My interest in Buckley has waned since his death and since reading his son's rather unsavory memoir, but $1.99 is practically the price of a cup of coffee so it's sort of insurance in case I feel a Buckley revival coming on.

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Went to Ireland one July, the chilliest and rainiest July I'd ever experienced. Partially ameliorated by the sweetness of the Irish, who repeatedly and humbly apologized for it. I kind of miss olde Ireland, the slight foreignness that was so fetching. As the narrator of the novel My Struggle puts it:
"And it’s these small divergences, these small differences that are almost familiar, almost the same, yet aren’t, that I find so unbelievably attractive.”
"I’ve always felt that attraction,” I continued. “Not for India or Burma or Africa, the big differences, that has never interested me. But Japan, for example. Not Tokyo or the cities, but the rural areas in Japan, the small coastal towns. Have you seen how similar the landscape is to ours in Norway? But the culture, their houses and their customs, are totally alien, totally incomprehensible. Or Maine in the USA? Have you seen the coast there? The terrain is so similar to Sørland, but everything man-made is American.

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