Tag Archives: The new yorker

Growing Darkness

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Wild + Precious

I just found out that the literary world is dismissive of the poet Mary Oliver, whom I love to pieces. I was thinking of the “sun swinging east” during these “days of growing darkness,” quoting “Lines Written During These Days of Growing Darkness.” Feeling as if I had elevated my experience of a bleak day. Feeling a bit smug to be thinking about poetry as I walked home from the train station as opposed to, say, about the wine I was going to drink when I got there. Turns out my poet of choice was deemed “the kind of old-fashioned poet who walks the woods most days, accompanied by dog and notepad,” per a profile in The New Yorker. The profile also tells me she was a Provincetown girl who wrote about the world but stuck close to home. When asked if she might like to travel she said yes, agreeably, then would “go off to my woods, my ponds, my sun-filled harbor, no more than a blue comma on the map of the world but, to me, the emblem of everything.”

And speaking of everything, take this you also-smug New Yorker profile writer: “There is only one question; / how to love this world,” from Oliver’s “Spring.”

I give you “Lines” which I recited, almost by heart, at the Bowery Poetry Project this past summer (a story for another time).

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing, as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

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The Writing Prompt

I often say to myself: “oh I should blog about that!” But then I don’t, and then I forget the topic, and then weeks pass and I still haven’t blogged.

Writing prompts come closer to assigned work which means—especially with a deadline imposed—I’ll actually write the thing, whatever it is. My TueNight writing worked that way. And it always started like this: “hmmm…the prompt is “sisters,” what could I possible have to write about that? Ridiculous because I have three sisters and they, more than my parents even, were the very structure of my childhood.

It’s like looking at those New Yorker cartoons without captions. I start with absolutely zero thoughts, often end there too, but when I see others’ captions I think: of course! And for proof this is so, what do we make of the police officer in an interview room grilling a kid and then in walks another officer with a  clown wig and balloon animal? Me: hmmm… well… nothing comes to mind really.  Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 12.45.31 PM.png

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In the company of men

Even while men are looking backwards, fearful that past workplace behavior will be mis/construed as harassment (or assault), women I know are reconsidering their acceptance of office-inappropriate words and deeds.

I thought about this while reading “Can Hollywood Change?The New Yorker article by Dana Goodyear, who takes on the same topic. A Friends assistant was fired, she suspects, for not being “game” about writer-room banter. Along the same vein, another source, a script writer who was “game,” now feels ashamed of her complicity, a “betrayer of my feminist values.”

With 30+ years in the workplace, I’ve seen and accepted behavior I now cringe to recall. I wrote about the most egregious incident in an essay called “The Boss of Me,” about my first magazine job (and boss) for TueNight. That was harassment. But what of the years of intra-staff hookups, locker-room banter and, overall, iffy (and icky) stuff I wrote off as part of the landscape of working at Time Inc., a company led by men? Here, a short list of the iffiest, ickiest stuff, some of it as recent as, say, last week. All colleagues referenced, unless otherwise noted, are male.

  • “Snatch canyon” is what a colleague called his office view over a passageway between two buildings, populated, in his opinion, by attractive women.
  • “So should I just take my dick out and slap it on the desk?” Fumed a colleague after sharing an emasculating comment he received from another male colleague.
  • “Is she hot?” Asked a colleague about an intern I was interviewing.
  • “I’d leave my wife on Christmas morning for her,” declared a colleague about a female colleague we had in common.
  • “People are totally banging in that room,” snickered a colleague about a “wellness/nap” room.
  • “Assfuckery,” “Assfucked,” “Fuck me up the ass:” A colleague’s casual profanities about workplace annoyances.

 

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To state the obvious

These days, Facebook seems to be mostly a collection of our obvious observations and rhetorical questions, repeated over and over and over again.

“I can’t believe how much she’s grown!” (said of any/all children who have grown up) and “Where does time go?” (answer: it doesn’t “go” anywhere it just disappears, only to be replaced by more time). These days, there are photos of snowdrifts with obvious captions (“brrrr…” and “so cold!”) and of our president (“such an idiot”). I agree that it is, indeed, cold outside and that Donald Trump is the worst kind of asshole. But that doesn’t mean I need near constant reminders of these facts.

All of this is better and more humorously said in The New Yorker essay, “Oh, Look, Some Time Has Passed!” by Kathryn Kvas. You almost don’t need more after the headline and this purposefully stock-y looking Getty photo of an ethnically diverse trio of women laughing their heads off over lattes.

Kvas-Oh-Look-Some-Time-Has-Passed

For every woman who loves laughing over lattes with friends.

Even so, I’ll quote this paragraph, so perfect: “But, really, I had so much fun hanging out this time! Maybe once some more time passes we’ll do something fun like this again. What do you say? I bet some stuff will happen by the time we get around to doing that fun thing, and then we can reminisce about how much time has passed since we talked about doing that thing that we’ll do! And then I bet that even more time will pass after we do that fun thing, and then some more time after that. And then we’ll keep talking about the passage of time over and over again until so much time has passed that we’ll stop existing as physical beings altogether!”

 

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Jerkish

 

“Humanly impoverished” is one of the ways novelist Philip Roth describes Donald Trump in an email to Judith Thurman for a New Yorker article. Further, per Roth, Trump is:

“…ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

I’ve always admired Roth but, at the same time, felt excluded from Roth’s world, even as a reader: I’m too fond of resolution, kindness and civility. I react to him in the same way I react to overly (in my estimation) sardonic, sarcastic, cerebral but dark-world-view-professing people in my IRL. Why? I don’t know. I’m not the sunniest of all sunbeams. Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence in my own intellect. Insecurity, let’s say, the root cause of so much human conflict.

All that said, I’ll put “The Plot Against America”on my reading list.

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Philip Roth

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Cleanse, Day 6

What people say about me, the cleanse bore, at the office.

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