December 06, 2002

Peggy Noonan's latest
"Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plane, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves." So wrote James Joyce at the end of his great short story "The Dead." They are famous words; it's a famous passage. Joyce's snow didn't fall over the house, or the city, or over his sensitive characters in a neighborhood in Dublin. Snow was falling all over Ireland, and touching everyone, as if they were together.

Bad weather, bad news makes you part of something: a community of catastrophe. You see your neighbor, and this time you don't just nod or keep walking. You call over, "Wow--you believe this?" And you laugh. You make phone calls. Weather makes you outward.

And then when the storm passes or the earthquake is old news, people retreat back into their aloneness with their own thoughts. They get quiet again. It will take another snowstorm or a hurricane before the ad hoc community of catastrophe springs up, and makes them a member of something.

On a totally unrelated matter, it looks like ol' Emerson is firmly in Shelby Foote's camp of art uber alles as far as one's priorities.

Artists must be sacrificed to their art. Like bees, they must put their lives into the sting they give.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, via Mirari

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