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The Letter

The Letter

Response to a Letter Recently Received

Fiction by Donal Mahoney

 

Dear Margaret,

Your life as explained in your letter recently received is very difficult to read. It’s been 40 years since we last saw each other or talked. Most of your problems I knew nothing about. Bits and pieces I somehow became aware of over the years. One of your brothers or sisters may have mentioned something they had heard at Christmas or on Father’s Day, but they were as much in the dark as I was. We didn’t know where you were.

The cancer, of course, runs on my side of the family since it was colonic cancer that killed my mother at age 59. Years ago, long before you indicate that you were diagnosed with cancer, I tried, through one or more of your siblings, to get the word out to all the children of their need for colonoscopies on a regular basis. I am now due for another colonoscopy. I have one … Click to continue . . .

Genius

Genius

Genius is the kind of film literary buffs may like a lot more than we should. One reason for this, I’m guessing, is the rarity of the subject matter for a Hollywood production: literary lives. Specifically, the dynamic between editor and novelist. Maxwell Perkins and Thomas Wolfe are the central characters, with cameos from Fitgerald and Hemingway, two (more famous) authors Perkins also helped usher into world renown.

Colin Firth plays Maxwell Perkins, with Jude Law as Wolfe, Laura Linney as Louise Perkins and Nicole Kidman as Aline Bernstein, Wolfe’s patroness and lover. It may seem odd that most of the leads are British or Australian, and that the New York scenes were mostly filmed in Manchester and Liverpool, UK. Especially strange, perhaps, because Wolfe, the Asheville, North Carolina native, was quintessentially American, an important precursor for artistic movements like the Beats. They who lusted so for the “real America.” But it works. It works. And it’s funny at times, too, like when Wolfe’s second … Click to continue . . .

They had fun too

They had fun too

At the Existentialist Cafe, by Sarah Bakewell
At the Existentialist Cafe, by Sarah Bakewell

A fine book, and timely. It provokes much thought, about how we live our lives, how we can better see the world and our own place within it. Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existential Cafe is a group biography, in a sense, about several individuals, a movement, a few key countries, and one city, especially: Paris. She gives us the philosophical background, places her main characters in proper context, shows how they lived and loved, together and apart.

Some of them had fun, despite the talk of anxiety, nothingness and the absurd. Perhaps because of that talk. They drank the night away. Often. Some danced and danced well. They didn’t seem to sleep much at all, especially Sartre who we learn took too many drugs to wake up and fall asleep. And, for a time, they shook things up and all kinds of people wanted to know what the big deal was, especially in America. Many wanted to be existentialists, … Click to continue . . .

The Decision

The Decision

building

And he thought about building
Crafting
Making things

Merging the useful with the useless
To some

For there are beings in this world
Who care nothing for beauty

There are beings in this world
Who care nothing for art

So he would build the functional
And make it sing for the tone deaf

For the colorless he’d make
Things bloom in usefulness

But then he thought
Why work so hard
For them?

For the beings who pass it all by
As if it’s just an obstacle in their way?

Why destroy himself for their sake?
He wondered

river8

But he remembered her and that walk
Along the strand and the found things
The found-art things that sang to them both

Like some lost child or lost friend
They thought they’d never see again
In this world

In this battered old world of obstacles to shatter
And eclipse

Thrown into Being

Thrown into Being

pic8

The clearing
She thought she heard

The last clearing
It was Heidegger’s not hers
And after his keyre
His turn

So many turned on him
But not for that
For other things like his falling out of Being
With the world

With the world as it ought to be

So she passed through that last clearing
On her way to something nonfictional
Non-mythical
. . . beyond epic legend and folk-tale

pic7

Existence comes before essence she thought
Or we have essentialized all mythologies

Deifying the final clearing
Waiting for gods and goddesses who toy with us
Reverses that
Reverses existence and essence

So that there are no white-capped mountains
Or heathered valleys or suns or half moons
In real time
Only in stories and black words on the page

And we seek both she thought
We seek lost words and brave actions
And projects for our lives
In real cities and real towns

Through the clearing beyond the black clouds

 

Being With Time

Being With Time

Angles of Being I push awayangles5
Like winter visions in summer
Or summer sweat in the fall

I fall for it all the time
The angles of Being as if
They existed like that

Just like that in realities
We can’t fathom and never
Will see

Because our senses are puerile
In the grand scheme of things
In the swelter of summer

In the mists of winterish
Storms and  howls
And legendery wooshing

Like some pack of grey wolves
Glowing across the bad lands
Towering above us all like black clouds

    The winterish heart of Being survives
            In the midst of this or that spring

thetrees3

Being with time
Being with time for the crash
For just a third or fourth shattered sound
For just an inch of crescendo

I wander between the angles
And the wisp of a chance
That it will ever

                    Ever see me again

 

 

Room

Room

We adapt. We create new fictions in order to adapt. The more things are beyond our control, the more fictions we create. This is the basic setup for one of the best films of 2015, “Room,” starring Brie Larson, who won an Oscar for her role as Joy, mother of five-year-old Jack.

The room in question is a shed. It’s their entire world, mother and son’s. They are not allowed to leave. Joy invents games and stories and explanations for Jack, in order to make this extraordinary situation ordinary. She invents games and stories and explanations in order to shield her boy from the harsh realities of life as a captive, a woman kidnapped seven years ago by a man they both call “Old Nick.”

We learn bits and pieces of their story as time goes on, but, at first, the freakish abnormality appears almost normal — Joy’s plan for her son. Just the two of them, making the best of it, with the occasional bouts … Click to continue . . .