The Jazz June opens a Summer 1998 performance at Chicago’s Fireside Bowl with “His Statue Falls,” a song from their album “The Boom, The Motion, and The Music.”
The band performs “Signal,” a song re-released on their third album, “Breakdance Suburbia.” The song was originally released on their 7″ record “the necessary conditions of currents and signal” (along with the songs “Antiquated” and “Nothing”).
One night last week I was having drinks with a close friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We proceeded to catch up on how things were going with work, with our romantic relationships, our families, mutual friends, the whole standard ticket. At some point in the evening, things turned to talk about writing—as they often do. My friend happens to be an exceptional poet.
We often discuss our struggles, our victories, our works in progress, and so on. He is one of very few people with whom I discuss my writing; however, after our discussions or exchange of notes on one another’s writing projects, I feel more inspired and tend to recognize a spike in my productivity and in the quality and quantity of my writing. This is generally the case when I share writing—or ideas about writing—with other writers as well.
Until recently, my friend spent a lot of time with the NYC poetry community. He volunteered at organizations that held readings, and read relatively frequently at these readings as well as others throughout the city and in Brooklyn. Whenever possible, I would go to these readings in support of my friend, and because I genuinely think his poetry is wonderful and I enjoy hearing him read it.
I never felt entirely comfortable amongst the tightly knit community of poets. Quite honestly, I don’t know how much of that is my fault. Still, it seems like a paradox of self-interest for a poet to knock around town putting on airs that alienate even people who go to readings and are interested in poetry.
Scenes vs. Communities.
Generally, I do not enjoy participating in—or being in the presence of—anything that can be called a “scene.” I am not suggesting that I am against people with common interests getting together and sharing ideas. In fact, I think communities are what give our lives meaning. And on more basic levels of need, our survival depends upon them.
It is this point that stuck with me in our conversation: that communities of people who share common interests and ideas are what give our lives meaning.
I think of Septimus Smith—the “Solitary Traveler” in Virginia Woolf’s—Mrs. Dalloway. An extreme example, he committed suicide because his life lacked any kind of significant communication. There was no meaningful connection.
I think also of Marlow returning from his visit to the Inner Station, no longer feeling like he could relate to ordinary Londoners after having seen the horrors at Kurtz’s camp.
No, they did not bury me, though there is a period of time which I remember mistily, with a shuddering wonder, like a passage through some inconceivable world that had no hope in it and no desire. I found myself back in the sepulchral city resenting the sight of people hurrying through the streets to filch a little money from each other, to devour their infamous cookery, to gulp their unwholesome beer, to dream their insignificant and silly dreams. They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretense, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew. Their bearing, which was simply the bearing of commonplace individuals going about their business in the assurance of perfect safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntings of folly in the face of a danger it is unable to comprehend. I had no particular desire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty in restraining myself from laughing in their faces, so full of stupid importance.
My Dad pointed out this section to me when I was a teenager to explain how he felt when he returned home from the Vietnam War. He could only talk about the war with others who had been there and had seen what he had seen. He knew, too, that there were many who had seen worse. For them, the circle of understanding must have been even smaller.
Working off of Maslow’s model of human needs, a sense of belonging comes soon after the basic needs are met (safety from harm, food, water, sleep, shelter, etc.).
To Bring This Back to Writing.
I am thinking of Hemingway’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech. Particularly the following section:
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
Studies & Meaning.
First, it is probably necessary to disclose that I studied literature and writing, both as an undergrad and as a graduate student. Later, I taught literature and writing at Brooklyn College for a few years. The study of literature is critically important to me. And much of my ability to feel like my life is meaningful hinges on my writing and how that work is going.
Here, I am referring to the kind of meaning that one can only find through some combination of toil, talent, and luck. The clarification that I mean to make is that it is a different kind of meaning than one can find through their children, or their parents, siblings, or friends. It is the kind of meaning that leads to self-actualization when things are going well, and existential crisis when things are going poorly.
Futility & Absurdity.
The first words that came out of my professor’s mouth during my first graduate school English class: “Okay, is everyone ready for another exercise in futility?”
Simple and easy like that. It was something we already knew—or we certainly should have known—but it was something that we (as tuition-paying students) had to necessarily sweep under the rug. If we didn’t learn our lesson with a bachelor’s degree and continued on that path towards advanced degrees, then our capacity for self-delusion must have been strong.
It is true that good writing is far more rare than it probably ought to be. It is also true that there is tangible professional value in writing well-crafted and grammatically correct sentences. However, it is also true—I suggest—that there is an absurdity involved in a life’s work of studying—at a professional level—the language and literature of one’s own country. Particularly when that country violently rejects the idea of secondary languages.
For artists of any medium, I would argue that things angle towards absurdity as the available audience diminishes. There comes a point in most art forms when the artist’s creation is too esoteric, highly allusive, or otherwise difficult for laypersons or casual enthusiasts to enjoy. As you near absolute absurdity, enjoyment is more possible than understanding—the work itself has become incomprehensible to anyone but the creator himself.
The focus of my graduate studies was Modernist literature & postcolonial theory. One of my favorite authors is James Joyce. I’ve written about his works extensively and I have lectured on him both in the U.S. and abroad.
In February 2008, I presented a paper on Joyce at the University Roma Tre, in Rome. Some of the most renowned Joyce scholars—and literary giants in general—were at the conference. These people had invested an even greater portion of their lives to Joycean scholarship. This was probably the first time I recognized the level of absurdity upon which our unfortunate fraternity is bound. I also knew that this would probably be the first and last time that I’d be in a room full of people who wanted to talk about James Joyce and had extensive knowledge of the subject.
So far, it has been.
Studying Joyce is a strange thing to do, and it takes at least a modest amount of willful self-deception. Joyce falls into the realm of Ivory Towerism in the mind of most people. His detractors accuse him of being pretentious and portentous. I’m not sure that I’d bother arguing that he wasn’t pretentious. He did, after all, write a book that only he could fully understand (Finnegans Wake), and then did several of the translations himself. I would argue that that is just entirely too weird to fall into the stuffiness of the Ivory Tower.
After all, you can’t get much more punk rock than having that kind of talent and spending it on writing experimental books that few people read and fewer understand. To properly read Ulysses and Finnegans Wake takes a lot of time and a number of additional books.
Joyce is of the Martello Tower—a tower of inward-looking meaning, manufactured to pillar oneself against outward-looking indifference.
There is a loneliness involved in caring about something that so few care about. Your authority in a given field of study is nothing if not futile if there is no one with whom you can exchange ideas. So, for this reason, I think of Hemingway’s remarks about organizations for writers once again. Writing is a lonely life. Particularly when there is an absence of reciprocal engagement.
Poetry itself is not as arcane as Joyce studies; however, I do think that a parallel can be made. A recent report showed that among adults who read books for pleasure, less than 7% say they read poetry.
If only half of the American adults read books, and only 7% of those people read poetry, the audience becomes critically small. This study doesn’t come as a great surprise to me.
When I first started to write seriously—or when I first became serious about writing—I mostly wrote poetry. At that point in time, I surrounded myself with other poets, went to poetry readings, and even our parties seemed to somehow involve poems or discussions about poetry. It was a really great time in my life.
I mostly write prose these days, but I do go to poetry readings every now and then. I see a similar pattern. For the most part, the community of people reading poems is the same community that is writing poems.
Fortunately for the poets and their battle against isolation and absurdity, there is a much larger community of people writing poems than there are reading Joyce.
For my Joyce friends…if you ever find yourself out on the ledge with no one to talk to. Send me an email, and I will happily shoot the shit about that crazy Irish bastard.
With that in mind, I’ve even linked a paper that I’d written on Joyce, with the hope that it makes us all feel a bit less alone for failing at indifference.
For all of its flaws and it’s destructive influence on face-to-face communication and its negative impact on manners and social grace, this is one area where I am unquestionably grateful for the internet. It is far easier to find people with common interests.
And, of course, any possible kind of porn you’re into…
If you’re into Joyce, that shit is probably pretty weird. If you know what I mean…you know what I mean.
Samuel Butler looked at the large maple-wood clock and smiled one last time before blowing out the candles so that his wife could sleep. It was forty minutes after nine o’clock and he had yet to put the girls to bed. He himself was not tired and had taken it upon himself to set aside time that evening to pen a letter to his brother who had been living for some time now in Pennsylvania. He would wait until Milly was asleep, however, as he knew she would rise at dawn and struggle to awaken their children. She had had a difficult day again. He could always tell when her day had been particularly difficult because she didn’t talk about it and when she no longer freely offered to tell him about it, he was fearful to ask. Hearing her say “nothing” as though her mind had long ago been severed from her voice was worse than leaving her to say nothing. I will kiss her on the cheek and tell her I love her, he thought. It might make her feel better to hear that. With that, Samuel arose from the Windsor chair at his bedside, finished the last of his tea, and placed it quietly on the saucer on the nightstand. The white and gold china teapot, along with the fine English cups and saucers, were given to them by the Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Hayden on the day of their wedding. Milly was wearing the most beautiful of dresses and her hair smelled of lilacs and they made love together that afternoon for the first time on the soft grass. Thomas Hayden was an awfully good friend to him and it pleased him immensely that their friendship had not suffered nor waned with the duties of husbandry and time. Perhaps he would call on the Haydens for dinner tomorrow. Milly too enjoyed the company. She would make a delectable roast and bring warm bread from the oven. She cooked with great delight and prudent industry and enjoyed pleasing others when she wasn’t having a particularly difficult day. After dinner, the men and women would break off and both parties would attend to the natural and appropriate topics of conversation that concerned the interests of their gender.
The Butler family lived in a lovely, substantial farmhouse, with both Dutch and Flemish influences, and was typical of fairly well off families of the time. The Georgian woodwork, with elegant Federal paneling, filled Samuel Butler with pride as he walked from room to room admiring his home in those precious hours when his children and wife were nestled peacefully and happily in their beds, and he was free to attend to his private affairs in the solitude of his study as the light of the fire warmed the room and adorned it with a frugal transient light.
With uninvited sleepiness, Samuel Butler pulled his watch from his pocket, opened it and checked the time once more. The floorboards creaked as he walked down the hall to check on the girls. This is part of the original house, he thought again. Before they had built the addition in ’18. A sadness had suddenly come over him that even the sight of his lovely young daughters could not fully wipe clean.
“You girls had better get some sleep,” He said. “You’ll need to help your mother make the week’s bread in the morning. It’s going to be a long day on the farm tomorrow. A very long day, indeed, my sweet young girls.” Even Mr. Butler smiled sadly, wondering if that was what they meant when they called things irony.
“Goodnight, Father, we love you,” Amy said warmly as her sister clutched her daddy’s leg and said goodnight.
“Goodnight girls, and remember…”
“We know, Dad, sleep tight.”
They all smiled in trite recognition as the girls tightened the rope beneath their mattresses and crawled into the bed. First Emily and then Amy. Samuel Butler walked down the hall, the floorboards creaking.
“Why does Daddy talk like that all the time now,” Emily asked.
“Because he wants to be someone else,” her sister said. Emily did not understand entirely, but she had understood enough to know that it was to be the end of the discussion.
“Goodnight Amy,” she whispered.
Their father descended the stairs and retreated to the carriage house to gather the whale oil with which he would refill the Betty lamps. He found fish oil and animal grease produced a disagreeable odor and he preferred the lighting of the whale-oil lamps, particularly as they worked in concert with the soft flickering glow of Milly’s candles. He was pleased that he had recently cleaned the lamps; not because he didn’t enjoy the task, for he very much did. It had been heavy on Samuel’s mind, however, to write his brother and announce his concern over not having heard from him for so long. He was confident that this time he could put it all in writing and get it right at last. And so, he took the canister of oil into the house and went room to room filling lamp after lamp. As he always did, he thought with pride and pleasure of Mr. Franklin’s innovation as he watched the brilliant flame of the double-burners illuminate the inner chamber of his study.
The study was a fairly large room, but it did not lack the quaintness and warmth one might find in a smaller one. There was a table with four chairs, a rocking chair near the window, and a fireplace, before which lay a large and ornate handmade rug that led out and across to Samuel’s desk. The desk faced the fireplace and so too the window on either side. He could think of no better place to work in the world and recognizing this filled him with familiar dismay; it was inevitable in the way that the ideal is always attached to its counterpart. Samuel took from his desk the empty glass and filled it half full of spirits from the decanter. He took a few sips and a few moments to regain the composure necessary for the necessary composure of his letter. He suspected that the letter would ultimately be a failure; that its interpretation would never elicit a response that was commensurate with his hope. He knew too well as he dipped the long feather pen in the inkwell and paused at length after the sight of the splendidly calligraphic “Dear Daniel” that the stationary and the pen and penmanship would alone only contribute to the unfortunate incomprehensibility of his decision. He knew also that his brother much preferred to be addressed more informally as “Dan,” but these things were among the necessities concerning Samuel’s attempt to gain his brother’s understanding and acceptance of the admittedly peculiar conditions in which Samuel had taken to live.
Samuel Butler worked ardently and passionately as he unpacked the thoughts he had been suffering from relentlessly for some time and attempted to organize them with deliberate honesty and accuracy. He realized as he was writing that the letter was not being written to his brother alone, but also to his wife and their sleeping children. How could he expect them to understand, he considered, and yet for more than three years now he had expected just that. He disagreed that it was a matter of dignity, for him it was a simple case of preference. He had earned as much, given the indignities he endured 40 hours every week for that past 18 years of his life. Samuel explained this at length and with great eloquence in his letter. He felt a sense of relief as he put the finishing touches on his letter and placed the pen back into inkwell. Surely, he thought, if they refused to accept him now, then it was clearly not because he did not seek their acceptance. He carefully folded the paper, melted the end of the bar of wax so that it dripped down over the seam and drove the stamp into it, delivering his seal. SB.
Samuel paused before attaching the postage stamp to the letter and decided instead to place the naked envelope on the empty corner of the desk. It was late, half past midnight, and he had been drinking. That could have affected his judgment, but it certainly accelerated his exhaustion. He decided it would be wiser to sleep on the issue and he would deal with the mailing the letter in the morning. Surely it could wait until then. With that, Samuel ascended the stairs and walked down the creaking hallway and climbed into bed with his wife and lay back to back, as Samuel preferred to sleep on his left side and Milly preferred to sleep on her right.
Milly was not in her nature a morning person and yet she found those hours before her husband and children had woken to be the happiest ones of her day. That morning she awoke at 5:00am and the man beside her barely noticed her absence as she got out of bed. In four hours, the nonsense would start again. It was unclear to her why she agreed to the idea in the first place, but now she could barely contain herself from breaking down entirely and she knew that it was now only a matter of finding the courage. She couldn’t admit, even to herself, that she once enjoyed the performance. At first, if she could pretend to be someone else, some place else, some time else, then she could also pretend to be happy. It was a fine thing to convince yourself that you were happy, she thought, and she would have much preferred to have believed that lie rather than think about losing her family. But what was it to have a family that was itself a lie? It was Sam’s fault, she was convinced. He insisted this would help them escape the endless hopeless drudgery of their lives and bring meaning to their existence. He realized he was an anachronism, he told her at the time. He was born into the wrong world at the wrong time. His soul was never meant to spend 18 years as a clerk in an accounts payable department and he could scarcely believe that he had. The contemporary time demanded he do something to support his family and it was only bad luck and bad timing that landed him in that day job. He had once wanted to be a writer and he was convinced his ideas were good and that he had a talent with the written word, but after several years of failed attempts to complete even a single story he had stored that dream in a place where neither lamplight nor candlelight would ever touch it. Sam blamed his failure at becoming a successful novelist on his job and on his family. There was simply no time to concentrate and get it all out. Milly had known the truth about him now better than he did. Still, she had to give him credit, he could write well. It was his writing and creativity that helped win her over in the first place. He was very charming then, full of hope and aspirations, so confident that he would be a successful writer. Probably he could have been, but it wasn’t time that he lacked, she had long understood.
Milly loved old farm houses and she particularly loved the one in which they lived. She found it odd, however, that the Historical Society would only allow them to purchase and live in the home if they opened the house to the public on weekends and continued the reenactments. It was part of a larger colonial era community that had been preserved and on the weekends it was full of actors and visitors. At first, Milly enjoyed putting on the clothes and playing the part. She relished period films and novels, being particularly fond of Jane Austen and Henry James. Even she once enjoyed dressing up in her costume and parading around the house on days when visitors weren’t there. It was the repetition that very quickly ruined what was enjoyable about it. Her skull now rattled even in anticipation of saying, “Hello everyone, welcome to the Williams Home, I will be showing you how they used to make bread during colonial times.” She knew that Sam hated that part of it too and that for him it was only necessary, as his job had been necessary, so that he could continue his fantasy. He used the evenings to escape what he viewed as the great tragedy of his mornings and afternoons, which were only deemed successful on the 15 days of vacation he received each year, and even then it was rare that Milly could convince him that they should travel and pretend like they were living in the 21st century. The lie of his life was far more tolerable than what he perceived to be the truth.
Milly tried not to think about this on those mornings before the performance. She preferred to walk around the fields or work in her garden. Occasionally, she would drive her car over into town and eat at the local diner; not because the food was particularly good, but because it had a television and it was open. If the girls were awake, she would play with them outside and she still occasionally needed to make it clear that they didn’t need to perform when the three of them were alone together. That morning, Milly was in the garden and the girls came out to help her when they woke.
At 8:00am, Samuel Butler descended the stairs fully dressed. “Come along now, it’s time to get dressed and be ready when our guests arrive,” he announced. The smile washed from Milly’s face as the three stood up and she followed the girls into the house.
One by one, the room began to fill up. It would begin soon. Samuel had already heard one wise guy making fun of his clothing. It wouldn’t be long now. He wouldn’t have had the people over at all if it were up to him. Or, rather, if it weren’t necessary. They took the reality out of the room. By the time it returned, it was time for it all to begin again. True, it was not such a bad living. In the beginning, he enjoyed the guests.
Old man Butler stood tall, straightened his shirt, and with feigned confidence, he addressed the crowd:
“Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Williams House. This is part of the original home, built in 1796…”
Milly watched her husband with sympathetic pity and a diminishingly gentle resentment.
Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon’s painting titled Cain flying before Jehovah’s Curse, c. 1880, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
“Larry,” Glenn said, “I know what this means for you, but I want to die.”
Larry and Glenn were brothers and although they often annoyed one another they were as close as two brothers could be, so naturally Larry was terrified to hear this. Not because it was the first time Glenn had mentioned killing himself, nor even because Larry couldn’t live without Glenn. It was because Larry, unlike Glenn, had never gotten their Catholic upbringing out of his head. In fact, the thought of ending it all had occurred to Larry many times himself, but he knew he could never go through with it on account of his fear of God’s promise that his soul would go to Hell.
Larry turned his gaze away from Glenn. Glenn had been staring at him intently and his lack of emotion over the matter had become too much for Larry to look at directly. He knew that the coldness, the matter-of-factness, of the statement was not apathy, but conviction. Glenn’s conviction was a terminal illness in Larry’s mind. The Kübler-Ross model did not apply to Glenn, but it was a very real thing to Larry.
“Please, Glenn. I know you are suffering. So am I, but you mustn’t think of suicide. It is the one sin you can’t repent for. You will go to Hell, Glenn. You will break your covenant with God and burn in Hell forever. Don’t let vanity cost you your place in Heaven.”
“To Hell with your Heaven. And it isn’t my vanity you should be worried about.”
“Don’t say that, Glenn. I love you. Jesus loves you. Jesus died on the cross for you so that you might go to Heaven.”
“Jesus Christ, can I return the favor?”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain on top of it.”
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
“How many commandments do you intend to break today?”
“To Hell with you and your commandments. I can’t stand to be around you or your goddamn commandments any longer. And anyway, you are a fool who doesn’t understand the same commandments you refuse to shut up about. Taking the Lord’s name in vain means using God as the justification for doing shitty things. You break this rule every day by not shutting up about this after I have asked you a thousand times.”
“I am only trying to save your soul, Glenn.”
“Well you certainly aren’t helping to save my life.”
* * *
The two brothers fell quiet and stared through the television across the narrow room. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was playing, but both Larry and Glenn realized that what was once a tradition had become a painful and pitiful routine. Glenn was more noticiably annoyed by the dullness of the routine, but it was far better than listening to his brother go on and on about God and Jesus and Heaven and Hell. He did not care if his soul was saved any more than he cared about the ketchup stain on Larry’s shirt. Glenn found the idea of both of these things repulsive. He wanted only for the repetition to end and yet he suspected they would have the same conversation over the same meal and watch the same film again the following Christmas. It wasn’t that he wasn’t serious about his suicidal thoughts. His deformity and the limitations it placed on him were an incurable source of depression. He was concerned only about what it would do to his brother, despite how annoying Larry had become to him. Larry was the only family Glenn had, aside from that redneck asshole, Uncle Frank, who they’d only first met a few years earlier.
On unlucky nights, and most nights were unlucky, he would fall asleep and this would be the last coherent thought in his head before he awoke to the same thought again in the morning. Larry had been quiet since the movie came on, however, so there was a small chance he could put him out of his mind. As the two brothers sat side-by-side on the sofa, Glenn closed his eyes and allowed his head to fall to the right, leaning away from his brother. Glenn focused hard so that he might fall asleep and dream of what his life would have been like if he had had a normal childhood with Christmas trees full of presents and parents that stuck around and could look upon him with love. It was a lucky night. Glenn had fallen asleep with a faint smile on his face and it remained there for a time.
Larry was still very much awake. He, too, was staring at the television and his mind was also elsewhere. He looked to his right and saw Glenn’s smile and he knew what he was thinking. The Smith & Wesson Model 4006 pistol that Uncle Frank had brought over to show off to the brothers was loaded with .40 S&W cartridges and lying on the coffee table just in front of them. It was half buried beneath an old issue of Entertainment Magazine, but it wasn’t hidden well enough for Glenn to slip one by him. He knew now why Glenn was smiling. He had been talking about it all day. All day Glenn had been preparing for it and now he was just waiting for him to fall asleep. Larry was finally thinking clearly and he was happy he had not been outstmarted by his condescending brother before he made that most foolish and unforgivable of mistakes. It was no wonder Glenn agreed to watch the movie for what must have been the 30th year in a row. Glenn had sat there without complaining, just waiting for him to fall asleep. Larry knew that his soul was safe in the eyes of God, but he feared for his brother’s. Sooner or later Larry would fall asleep, just as Glenn had orchestrated the ordeal.
Larry remembered the end of the conversation earlier in the evening:
“That’s it, Larry…I’ve told you the last time, one more word about Jesus and I’ll end it tonight. And on that I swear to your God. Just put that stupid movie in the VCR and shut the hell up.”
“Okay, fine. I’ll put in the movie, but remember God loves you even if you don’t love him. He loves you, but if you don’t bring Jesus into your heart, you will burn in hell. Suicide will put you right straight into hell.”
“So be it. Let’s just go watch the movie and shut up about everything for a couple hours.”
We walked into the living room and sat down on the sofa. He had been brilliant about it so far, but he had not counted on me remembering about the gun and he had not hidden it well. Larry was being clever. He was putting all of the clues together. No more of this, Larry thought, he promised he would do it today. If he doesn’t do it today, he could possibly do it when I am caught off-guard. He will do it. He will break God’s law and his soul will spend all eternity burning in the fires of Hell.
Larry tapped his brother’s thigh and confirmed he was asleep. He slowly leaned forward, careful not to awaken his brother. Glenn was out cold and Larry now held the pistol in his hand. He stared at it in awe as he listened to his breath shorten and his heartrate quickened. He knew now what must be done. It was the only way to be sure.
Glenn was alseep and Larry knew that he would not approve of reading the Apostles’ Creed and so he mouthed the creed to himself so as not to leave the rites incomplete entirely.
“This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.”
Larry bowed his head and closed his eyes.
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
Having completed what he could of the Annointing of the Sick, Larry prayed for himself—that he might too be forgiven. There would be time, he had already considered, to repent for the sin he was about to undertake. He knew also that it couldn’t really be an unforgivable sin in the eyes of God insofar as he was saving the soul of another. He would have to be quick afterwards. He would have to be clear of mind. He would have to maintain awareness until he’d completed his Penance. He looked to his brother with love and compassion. A tear ran down his cheek as he placed the pistol to his brother’s left temple.
“I am my brother’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper,” Larry whispered as a mantra to build confidence before pulling the trigger.
It was difficult for Larry to see his brother like that. Glenn had always been the more handsome of the brothers, having beared the lesser extent of their shared deformity. His once handsome face was now gruesome and grotesque. He knew that for his own soul he should begin repenting for his sin, but as their blood poured from Glenn’s body, Larry found it difficult to concentrate. He felt with his powderburned right hand the shared pieces of flesh at their abdomen and he wondered where the dead started and dying began. Most of the liver was in Glenn’s body, but the idea of dying from liver failure seemed absurd now.
Even then, with Glenn dead and he dying, there was the overwhelming fear that this was not about saving Glenn at all, but about cheating the system. He was growing disillusioned and weak so that his motives now seemed incoherent even to himself. Now there was only the hope that God should have mercy if his confession lacked the complete sincerity of true remorse and that failing all else, his death should be penance enough.
“O my God, I am heartily sorry
for having offended Thee
and I detest my sins
above every other evil
because they displease Thee, my God,
Who, in Thy infinite wisdom,
art so deserving of all my love
and I firmly resolve
with the help of Thy grace
never more to offend Thee
and to amend my life.
After having finished the Act of Contrition, Larry recalled the act of Perfect Contrition. It had been described to him by the Monsignor when he blessed them as children in the hospital and later in the orphanage. He was losing consciousness now, and he couldn’t remember the Monsignor’s name. Glenn would remember, he thought, he was always better at that stuff. He used the last of his energy to rest his head on Glenn’s shoulder. He stared down at the table and remembered reading the magazine the night before. He remembered setting it down on the coffee table.
Larry could feel his heart slow down and then stop. He was not thinking then about God or about Jesus. He was thinking only of Glenn. Of how sorry he was. Of how much he missed him. Of how he wished he didn’t have to die alone.
This footage was shot in NYC in the summer of 2000 at Brownies, a once great rock club that closed its doors in 2002. This show was a precursor to the Medicine tour, which kicked off a few weeks later.
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. On July 2, 1961, he shot himself in the head with one barrel of a double-barrel shotgun at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. Hemingway’s wife, Mary, told authorities that his death was accidental, and occurred as the author was cleaning the weapon.
Although Hemingway is famous for the concise style of his fiction and prose, it is less widely recognized that the author also wrote poetry (perhaps in accordance with his own design). Still, an edition of Hemingway’s poems survives, and fans of the author can still find a copy.
Perhaps the most well-known of these poems, his “Poem to Mary (Second Poem),” was also recorded by the author, along with a handful of other works, including his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, which was recorded a later date, as Hemingway was ill and unable to be present at the presentation.
This video contains Hemingway’s original recording of his “Poem to Mary (Second Poem),” along with footage of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Harry S. Truman, WWI infantry films, and as yet unseen footage shot in NYC on September 11, 2001. Other color footage was shot in Central and Southern Morocco, and in Central Pennsylvania.
The video was inspired by Ted Turner‘s apocalyptic preparations for CNN and created as a response that those preparations were insufficient in rendering “something,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald might say, “commensurate to his capacity to wonder.”
*NOTE: Neither “UNIHABITABLE,” nor “into” were written in error.