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Swirling in the widening gyre, bland corruption mephiticized the mid-twentieth century American novel. Clem Adams, a middle manager in an eastern/midwestern metropolis, was vying for promotion. Meanwhile, you sort of cared that he was cheating on his wife and harboring a secret racist streak! Everything was for sale, needless to say, including ethics and the American Dream. Clem poured himself a gimlet and lit up a cigaret.
"Where's the humanity," you had to wonder, gripping the refurbished maroon library binding.
When you thought about it later, there was actually some religious symbolism in there, too. It was a searing indictment of something, that much was for damn sure.
Date Written: January 13, 2005Comments:
Average Vote: 4.1111
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Hmmm... tempted to give this a five for its vague-yet-dead-on insights into our mid-century fiction. Then again, there may be problems... But then yet again the nutty structure, going from details of Clem's actions (pouring a gimlet and lighting a cigarette) to details of the physical book (refurbished maroon library binding), is treble-mint. Must think.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow (5): Ok.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Not sure about the Yeats ref., though. Seems a little out of place with the mid-century Americana. I suspect it was written first and the short flowed out of it, with not so much planning.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Also, ripping off Yeats is a ripoff.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Isn't anybody going to comment on this one, cuz I could go on for a while. For instance, I'd point out that Clem, at least, lacks all convictions and has never known, I suspect, passionate intensity. (Is this why the reference? Or is Clem slouching towards Bethlehem? Or neither, as I guessed before, and the reference was totally arbitrary?)
01/19/2005 anonymous: It was a pretty arbitrary reference. I just found that particular phrase aptly vague. But you're right, to stay "period," I should have picked a mid-century American poet. Maybe I should have used the first line from MacLeish's "The End of the World." And there, there overhead, there, bland corruption hung over the mid-twentieth century American novel. That would have been sweet.
01/19/2005 anonymous: *The first line from the second stanza, that is.
01/19/2005 The Rid (5): I agree with you, Snow. FU, TREE.
01/19/2005 anonymous: Incidentally, there was some thought given to the Yeats reference as a reference. Namely, the contrast between Yeats' vibrant, apocalyptic view of human failure and the drained, colorless version offered by the mid-century American novel.
01/19/2005 cuntry: hm... well written, but, kind've don't care about the observation as is. i guess i wish it had gone further with something
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: I couldn't disagree more, cuntry.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Author (who I'll pretend I can't guess), did you have a particular novel or novels in mind?
01/19/2005 anonymous: Yes!
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Okay, asshole, what was it?
01/19/2005 Whom: Whom.
01/19/2005 scoop: OK, fine. Whom was it?
01/19/2005 anonymous: Mainly Appointment in Samarra, with a little bit of Revolutionary Road.
01/19/2005 cuntry: well snow, perhaps i don't have the literary background to fully appreciate this. i am capable of admitting knowledge gaps. i make up for them in other ways you see.
01/19/2005 Streifenbeuteldachs: I feel this is Snow's short, and his commentary is his way of intimdating us into not voting unless we understand the deep (yet possibly apocryphal?) literary underpinnings of this short.
01/19/2005 scoop: You're totally right, Streifen. I'm on the phone with Snow now and that's exactly what he's doing.
01/19/2005 Mr. Pony: Scoop, you're lying! That doesn't sound like something Snow would do at all.
01/19/2005 Streifenbeuteldachs: I don't know. I believe A Discourse On West-Hartfordian Sophistry would disagree. Unless you're being sarcastic. In which it would probably agree.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Author, was there an article recently, maybe in The New Yorker, about Revolutionary Road? Cuntry, to be clear, I'm simply saying I disagree, not impugning your intelligence or knowledge. Cuz if I had wanted to do that, I would have made a comment with an entirely different tone, as you know. The reason I disagree, or one of the reasons, is that I think what’s interesting about this short is its odd concision and yet its wandering scope. It could have been expanded upon greatly, but that would have been a different short. The charm of this one, I think, is that it aptly captures something (a class of mid-century American fiction) with a very small set of well chosen details, arranged in an odd way. And given that that is its goal, I think it succeeds (almost) entirely.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: This is qc, asses.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: ...so feel free to vote as you will.
01/19/2005 scoop: BUT I'M ON THE PHONE WITH YOU RIGHT NOW!
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: uh, okay
01/19/2005 TheBuyer: This is miles over my head, I'm completely undereducated. Snow, is this short funny? What I mean is, if I had read all this reference material [with a critical eye] am I laughing right now? Seriously.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Stomach Foot here. Actually, I admit I wrote this. Thanks a lot, scoop. I feel terrible for pulling this stunt. Go ahead and punish me by giving me bad votes on this one. I deserve it.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: The Buyer, no, it's not all that funny. It's interesting, and good, and clever, but only wry-smile kind of funny. Shorts like this generally get bad votes, I've found, if that's any help.
01/19/2005 anonymous: If there is such an article in a recent New Yorker, Snow, I've not read it. Indeed. And I thank you for your on the money encomiums, and curse you for your Acmeish vote-tainting shennanigans.
01/19/2005 Farva: Did someone say Shenanigan's?
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Yeah, well, it's the least I could do.
01/19/2005 TheBuyer (5): This vote is a Reverse Engineered Vote, I promise to figure out why I cast it.
01/19/2005 Jon Matza (5): I din reid thoes exept yates (geting so hamered instied)...etc...plenty to like nonetheless. Gimlet, cigaret, searing indictment of something; strad tone and structure in general.
01/19/2005 TheBuyer: Ya, that's right.
01/19/2005 TheBuyer: That last comment was directed at my detractors, not Matza.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Farva: ha!
01/19/2005 Streifenbeuteldachs (3): I've read and re-read this one, I've compared it to its peers, and I don't find greatness. ça y est.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: QC, what was that movie that came out a couple of years ago that you hated? It took place in Hartford and the wife is friends with this black guy and the husband is gay. Anyway, Buyer, if you've seen it, the type of novel being referenced is similar to that movie -- 1950's suburban American social decay/failure, plenty of cocktails, infidelity, etc.
01/19/2005 qualcomm (5): fucking 'far from heaven.' what a bag of dicks. great short, by the way, ewan.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: Stomach Foot here. Thanks, qc.
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no more hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
The River sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.
Today, the first and last of every Tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers--desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot ...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
01/19/2005 anonymous: What's your point, anon_a?
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: I'd guess anon_a is saying that, because that poem sucks, all poetry sucks.
01/19/2005 qualcomm: in any case, it's a splendid advertisement against anonymous comments.
01/19/2005 Maya Angelou: I do declare youngin' Snow, that is no way to talk to a lady, I declare, I do, I certainly do.
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: I disagree. Without anonymous comments, how would we protect the freedom of stupidity?
01/19/2005 Maya Angelou: I promise one of you fine young boys a chittlin' if you would come clean all this debrises from my titties.
01/19/2005 anonymous: Danko, which amendment guarantees the freedom of stupidity?
01/19/2005 Streifenbeuteldachs: I think it's protected by the 21st amendment.
01/19/2005 qualcomm: are you saying that anon_a knew this was stupid before posting it? why should we stand for shenanigans like that?
01/19/2005 Maya Angelou: Why, good morning mutha fucka's!
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: no, i was making a wee joke.
01/19/2005 anonymous: Goodmorning to you as well Anon_a
01/19/2005 Ewan Snow: very clever, Streifen.
01/19/2005 Dylan Danko: I am not Maya Crapangelou nor am I any of the anons.
01/19/2005 Dylan Danko: I think anon a and maya are Hagit.
01/19/2005 Shane Mahoney (1): At the intersection of science and spirit is the hunt. At the crossroads of reason and the soul is the magnificence of our rezources. At the nexus of will and imagination is the tantalizing bitch goddess Nature. We analyze its soil content, we name and categorize its creatures, we harvest its wheat. But the same eye that analyzes with science's cold glare burns obsessively staring west, to a glorious horizon, enchanted by its Beauty. We alone among nature's children have the ability to simultaneously be the beneficiaries of nature's bounty and the caretakers of that same majestic bounty. We can warm ourselves in the memories of primordial fireside gatherings, exchanging tales after a vigorous day in the hunt. But we can burn ourselves in that same fire by forsaking the very principles enshrined in the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. A model that this short, unfortunately, does nothing to elucidate.
01/19/2005 Dylan Danko: OR Scoop. Or Scoop's main piece. Just my opinion.
01/19/2005 Mr. Pony: Scoop's what?
01/19/2005 Dylan Danko: What part of main piece don't you understand?
01/19/2005 Mr. Pony: I guess the part of it that conveys some sort of meaning.
01/19/2005 Dylan Danko: His trouble and strife, Pony, his trouble and strife!
01/19/2005 anonymous: Just for that, Mahoney, I'm going to dump a 55-gallon drum of DDT-infused nightcrawlers into the pristine Chilliwack River in British Columbia. You can kiss the piping plover and the kingfisher goodbye, scumbag.
01/19/2005 qualcomm: i think shane mahoney is hagit. he's got that conservation jargon down pat, probably.
01/19/2005 Mr. Pony: Relativism?
01/19/2005 qualcomm: his haupia dumpster, pony, his haupia dumpster.
01/19/2005 TheBuyer: Shane Mahoney, it should be noted that the rictus crane does not exist, nor has it ever existed. I thought it might be a clue to your identity so I did some research and found some pretty revealing things. Pretty damn revealing, actually.
01/19/2005 qualcomm: what'd you find? hurry!
01/19/2005 TheBuyer: working on it. first off, he's not Ted Nugent, like I thought at first, more later.
01/19/2005 Shane Mahoney: Human life relies on the renewable rezources of nature, soil, water (H2O), forests and
the rezources found in rivers and oceans. Today these rezources face too many threats,
from pollutants to mismanagement and overexploitation. Two of these rezources are the
planet's natural ocean fisheries and rictus crane hatcheries (located primarily in the taiga biomes of central Asia).
01/19/2005 TheBuyer: not Canadian, at least I don't think so, but he's doing this whole anarchist tree hugger act pioneered by some Newfie. He'll like cowboy movies.
01/19/2005 TheBuyer: lastly, the key is in this comment "As more and more first-growth habitat is destroyed by signs of human existence, the purity of the ancient hunt will be lost for all time. Through the teutonic mists, enchanted by a sourceless, viridian glow, the French horns sound..." whemn he gets his bible in the mail, I hope he'll have the decency to out himself.
01/19/2005 TheBuyer: qc - i jumped into an idiot trap with both feet, didn't I.
01/19/2005 Litcube: Hah.
01/19/2005 Jon Matza: I imagine many of you are wondering whether I think this is by Snow or qc. I'm pretty sure it's by qc.
01/19/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum (4): The "middle manager" thing is pretty damning, no? Who else could it be but QC. As for the MacLeish reference, I charge you to write a follow up best on "the armless ambidextrian" lighting a match between "his great and second toe." This definitely captures a certain sentiment.
01/19/2005 qualcomm: did you mean "based" when you wrote "best," [censored]? that'd be weird.
01/19/2005 Jon Matza: "Weird"? It's an affront to everything that's good, pure and just in this world.
01/19/2005 Jimson S. Sorghum: Actually, yes, I did mean "based." Oops.
01/19/2005 anonymous: Okay, because I can't make a short "best" on something, all right? Can't do it. Not even sure what it means, okay?
01/20/2005 John Slocum (4): I thought this was a reference to Robert Parker's 'The Widening Gyre.'
01/20/2005 John Slocum: This short is like a wine that's 'off the beaten track' and good. 2000 Domaine de Belliviere Coteaux du Loir 'Le Rouge-Gorge' for example. Made from the pinot d'aunis grape (no relation to pinot noir, blanc or gris), which noone's ever heard of, and with completely new flavors for most people. Great and unusual tannic and acidic structure. Not so much pleasurable as stimulating and interesting. So do you dislike the mid-century novel?
01/21/2005 Phony Millions (5): This was funny and smart all at once. And it's very short. It deserves a 5 star because it pulls all that off at the same time. What was smart and fresh about it for me was the author's tone and tense: He is narrating to "you" the reader, but "you" are passively in the past tense, which is strange. When you hear yourself spoken about in the past tense (for example: "Meanwhile, you sort of cared..." or "Where's the humanty, you had to wonder..."), the short has the disqueting effect of rendering "you" part and parcel with its very narrative. It is not clear whether you are the reader or part of the story. Maybe just stating the obvious but that's quite slick. Plus there's a certain world weary aspect to the tone that fits the subject, and the last sentence's casual vernacular is damn funny.