2011 Comin’ Up!

Funny how a year goes by so fast these days – can we blame that on global warming? No, of course not. I have these wishes for all Gridley-ites in 2011:



  • Don't make any resolutions you wouldn't keep anyway (I promise not to by a dirigible…)
  • Have fun at the year end bash
  • Have someone sane drive you home
  • Don't start drinking again until the football games begin 
  • Get a good night's sleep
  • Get up early for work
  • Buy a good book to read next week




Memoir Fiction

The Hare’s Mask, by Mark Slouka


Once in a great while I read a short story published in a mass market magazine that proves interesting and entertaining. Slouka’s story appears in the January 2011 issue of Harper’s Magazine. (It’s available online.)


What intrigues me about this story is its resemblance to a memoirist’s essay. Memoirs are in vogue now, and the shrewd, market conscious writers are likely turning their talents in the direction of Slouka’s story here. It’s mostly narrative, the tone reflective and somewhat sad.

The story, in a nutshell: the narrator – a man – thinks back to his boyhood relationship with his father and how he used to watch the father tie trout flies. The hare’s mask is a certain type of these, aptly described by the narrator. But there’s a catch – to make the fly complete requires a couple of particular tufts of rabbit’s fur, and the boy knows his father had trouble killing rabbits for meals when he was young. Now the boy’s sister wants a rabbit for a pet. Knowing the father’s inner conflict between his desire for those particular tufts of fur and his aversion to killing rabbits is then the crux of the psychological conflict both father and son are here to experience.


One would think that story might be a memoir disguised as fiction – until the story’s climax and denouement. It’s there that the author allows his characters to rise above the humdrum, distancing ending one might expect of memoir. Instead, the ending is poignant, dramatic, as provocative, perhaps as one would expect of a Chekhov ending.


My rating 4-1/2 of 5 stars




I Resolve…

The shopping's over, Christmas presents have been opened, and things have reached a momentary respite before that New Year's bash, the flood of bowl games, and a manic run-up to the Super Bowl. My state, North Carolina, has seen snow in every one of its hundred counties since Christmas Day. There's something calming, serene about the predominance of white, especially now that the sun has turned its smiling face on us. 

Not much to do but think the year over. The U.S. has been through a lot these past twelve months, as have many of us individually – a time of trial – events and situations testing our mettle. And so many other happenstances have come to us to test us personally as well as collectively.


So what do your think, in the vein of lessons learned? What can we resolve to do to make use of these lessons in 2011?

One suggestion: read. 

We're inescapably linked these days in every imaginable electronic way, but most of us, I suspect, tend to relish the splendid isolation modern life affords us. That's certainly of value, but as we survey our interior world(s), take the time to let in the views of those worlds others have reduced to words. There's more  common ground than alien territory in others' experience, and we can always learn from them. So on the quiet winter nights to come, dig into that stack of books you've been neglecting – and read.

Of course, some who read this are writers. Take the time, word-crafters. Reflect. Ponder. Articulate. Put it down in writing. Something there will be of value to someone else. I guarantee it. 

Singing Along The High Road

The missus and I are snowed in tonight (cabin fever awaits) and after a reprise of Christmas dinner (with power and lights this time), we flipped on the one-eyed monster to see what fare would be taking up air time. 


So we started watching The Sound Of Music, a movie I hadn't seen in …well…a lot of years. It was made in 1965, something like twenty after the movie was to have taken place, as Nazi Germany's Anschluss was about to roll over Austria. It's remarkable that a movie like this was being made and received so popularly in 1965 – as the Vietnam War was cranking up in earnest, a year following the most sweeping civil right legislation to be enacted in the U.S. since the Civil War's end. And don't forget campus unrest (worldwide), the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) from nuclear weapons, and colonies revolting against colonizers as never before in the modern era. 

What in the world was going on to make such a movie popular? 

The movie's essence was a family happily singing its way through life, counterpointed by the threat of impending world war and ensuing atrocities. So perhaps it became a metaphor, particularly in these United States, of our desire to take humanity's high road through life, even as we were trying to shrug off a lot of societal baggage stanching our urge toward freedom from fear, freedom to dream of equality, freedom to be whom we wanted to be. 

It's true that change often seems terrifying as it steps out of the shadows, seemingly blocking the road before us. Maybe it's our ability to sing and dance our way through such awkward times that gives us the endurance to confront fear, to pursue our rights as human beings, and to look ourselves foursquare in the mirror as we do so.


Dickens and Candlelight

Just as we were about to sit down to Christmas dinner last night, the power went out (What with the snow, you just had to know…). So the missus and I had a nice candlelight dinner. It might have even seemed a bit romantic had I not had this case of bronchitis and were we not worried about the power staying off. But unlike our four-day power loss of this time last year, this one was a minor aggravation – less than an hour of abyssal darkness.


Actually, jonesing from our energy loss was a bit of a reminder of Christmases past, visiting grandma and my aunts and uncles. It was cloudy outside tonight, but the moonlight filtered through and continued to reflect on the snow veneer, giving the neighborhood an otherworldly glow we would hardly have noticed with our artificial lights blazing.

Did you know it's really easy to read by candlelight?  A lifetime of it would probably ruin a pair of good eyes, but such reading environments are actually soothing, contemplative – the way reading was for centuries. I love my electronic toys, but they really do shorten attention spans and keep one's mind a jumble of choices made and to be made. 

If I'd only had another hour last night, and could have groped my way to our Dickens collection, maybe I could have summoned the ghost of his Christmases past…

A new Trend in Christmas Gifts

AQ -Santa coming out of Chimney

One of my fave book blogs – The Millions –  makes the case, not only for digital book readers in this post, but for a run on new e-books on your Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc., on Christmas morning.

I hope Santa got the list I sent him – if my e-book, The Blue Bicycle, ends up in your digital stocking, he will have gotten my list in time – we'll both have a happy Christmas morning of sharing. 


What? There's a noise in the chimney?

Quick! Set out the cookies and milk!

And To All A Good Night…..


Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!


Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker n' too-da-loo!
Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!

Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, 'lope with you!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!


Happy Holidays from Pogo, Shmoopy, and Gridley