Tuesday, November 24, 2020

1,001 Nights: 5


"Life Sentence" by Matthew Baker (story)

What happens here? A man returns home after being away for a crime. He tries to reintegrate into his family life with his wife and daughters, only he doesn't remember much about his family or even why he was sent away for his crime. He knocks that he was due to serve a life sentence, though. Again, what happens here? I ask. Is life with his family the life sentence? What to make of the ending?

"I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background" by Morgan Parker (poem)

A poem about the experience of being black in a predominantly white world. Sympathetic with the message of the poem, the plight of the poet, but the song is one-note, and I won't pretend to understand any of the metrical choices.

"The Reading Life" by Sven Birkerts (essays)

Candidly captures the experience of what it's like to choose to be a reader. Choosing to be a reader doesn't make you brave, it doesn't give you resolve in the face of life's challenges, it's not even clear what it does provide for you, but being a reader is a worthy life to have. Birkerts describes his start with the Hardy Boys, and his later embarrassment, not only because later he had more refined tastes but also because he realized after revisiting those books while reading to his son that he had remembered them as sharper books, yet when confronted with the words right in front of him, he could see how two-dimensional the characters were, how dull the dialogue was. Memory and personality play the crucial role in how we perceive what we read. Contrary to conventional apothegms, texts are not dynamic, they are in fact fixed, it's we who are dynamic creatures, and it's our protean consciousnesses that force breath, hence life, into the gills of books.

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