I felt obliged to watch the inauguration last Friday, drawn towards the spectacle even as I squirmed. I am suspicious of crowds especially when I realize I can’t so easily extract myself. Growing up, I remember the liturgies at the end of Lent when congregants had to read their part in the passion play. We were scripted to contradict the lector standing in for Pontius Pilate, who said that he wanted to release Jesus. “We want Barrabas!” went our line. What to do with the other prisoner? “Crucify him!” It was sickening to repeat, and yet it taught me some important lessons: masses can be dangerous, culpability is collective, and this ancient horror is also mine.
A week ago today, the clock at the top of Austin’s UT Tower restarted after being frozen for a full 24-hours, from 11:48 PM on August 1. After one night of darkness, the tower lights were also turned back on.
It was just one clock, and only one day, but it was difficult not to think of W.H. Auden’s poem from 1938:
Stop All the Clocks
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Thanks to Joshunda Saunders for inviting me to participate in this blog tour! Joshunda is one of the most insightful and prolific writers I’ve had the good fortune to meet, read, and commiserate with in the past two years. You can check out her terrific blog, including her own reflections on process, right here.
1. What are you working on?
Two and a half years ago, I started working on an an essay collection about public performances of violence in America. As I began, I thought that the section about the 1966 clock tower shooting at UT Austin would be the first chapter, alongside nine other chapters including San Diego, Waco, and Tucson. What I’ve discovered is that the UT Austin research and writing has demanded a space of its own. I’m almost finished with a stand-alone triptych about that event. It’s 12o pages or so: two lyric essays at beginning and end, with a centerpiece of narrative reportage/investigative journalism. I haven’t abandoned the larger project, but it was important to recognize and respect the full weight of the box inside the box.
Looking for the perfect blend of literature and community? Visit the San Gabriel Valley Litfest, coming in 2013.
Meanwhile, as promised, here are links to the most recent books recommended on the latest episodes of Writer Ninja Podcast. Check them out!
From Episode Four, “Mothers and the Others”
Bearing Life: Women’s Writing on Childlessness, edited by Rochelle Ratner
The Mommy Myth, by Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels
Misconceptions, by Naomi Wolf
From Episode Five, “The Gift of Consent”
Working writers and artists share their commiserations about life on the Z-list. Jo sent out a call for funny, snarky, and sometimes sad stories.
Each contributor finished this sentence: You know you’re on the Z-list when…
Susan Straight‘s latest novel is Take One Candle Light a Room. “When you finish your reading at the ________ Public Library and find out your overnight accommodations are in the librarian’s house, in the bedroom of her son gone off to college, and the wallpaper has baseballs and bats, which make you miss having a brother.”
Now available on iTunes and on this site. In Episode Two, “Making Labor Visible,” Jo invites you to share what you do for a living–or for a life. Next, in a short conversation on MyND Talk with Dr. Pamela Brewer, Jo talks about how the labor of teaching first became visible to her–and how too many people point fingers while glossing over the realities of human lives on and off campus. Finally, Jo introduces the inspiring Austin Kleon, “a writer who draws.”