Reading 6-12 January 2013 (ZiR)

Reading 6-13 January 2013 (ZiR)

Caitlin Mackaman

[One in an ongoing series of posts. For the full series see Zeteo is Reading.]


6 January 2013

Sundays seem like the ideal day to make a dent in one of Wally Lamb’s lengthy, emotionally taxing novels, like The Hour I First Believed. At the core of this work of fiction is the very true event of the Columbine High School shootings. Lamb’s characters struggle to make sense of the chaos around them while dealing with the ramifications of tragedy.

This quote appears in the paragraph before the protagonist, Caelum, learns of the shootings at the school where he and his wife work in Littleton, Colorado. Here Caelum is recalling the death of his mother.

It was just the two of us at the end, and I witnessed, clearly and unmistakably, when life left my mother. One moment, she’d been a living, suffering woman; the next moment, her body was nothing more than an empty vessel. Later, after the McKennas had retrieved the corpse and Hennie had stripped the bed, I’d returned to Mother’s room. Her crucifix lay against the bare uncovered mattress. I picked it up, kissed Jesus’ feet, and hung it back on the wall. I made the gesture for her, not for her god or for myself. I was a twice-divorced thirty-year-old, teaching Twain and Thoreau to indifferent high school students by day and, by night, going home to my life of quiet desperation and one or two too many Michelobs. I’d long since become skeptical about an allegedly merciful God who doled out cosmic justice according to some mysterious game plan that none of us could fathom.

7 January 2013

If you are also looking for a chuckle while waiting in your dentist’s office, I recommend perusing January’s Vanity Fair. A snippet of the comedy inside is a note from the guest editor, Judd Apatow. He describes a correspondence with Steve Martin after being rebuffed outside Martin’s home when 12 years old.

Dear Mr. Martin,

I think you are the funniest man on earth, but you treat your fans like crap. If I didn’t buy all your albums and go to all your movies you wouldn’t live in that house. If you don’t send me an apology I am going to send your address to “Homes of the Stars” and you will have tour buses passing by 24 hours a day.

I left it in his mailbox-for effect.

About six months later, back home, I received a package. Inside was the book Cruel Shoes, by Steve Martin, with the following inscription:

Dear Judd,

I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was speaking to the Judd Apatow!

Your friend,

Steve Martin   3/80


In a search for lighthearted and humorous readings over winter break, what can you recommend?

8 January 2013

At Democracy Now! reading daily headlines on drone strikes.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills 8 in Pakistan

A U.S. drone attack has killed eight people in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. Pakistani officials say the dead are suspected militants, including an al-Qaeda operative. Three people were injured. The attack follows another strike in Pakistan that killed up to 18 people on Sunday.

McChrystal, Ex-Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Questions Drone Warfare

Speaking to Reuters, the former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, retired General Stanley McChrystal, became one of the highest-ranking former military officials to publicly question the drone attacks, saying: “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

Former Adviser: Obama “As Ruthless and Indifferent to the Rule of Law” as Bush

A former adviser to Obama on security issues has forcefully come out against drone warfare, saying it is encouraging arms proliferation worldwide while causing unknown civilian casualties. Writing in this month’s issue of International Affairs, La Salle University’s Michael Boyle, an adviser on the Obama campaign’s counterterrorism expert group in 2007 and 2008, writes: “[Obama] has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor. … The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at the social fabric of the regions where they occur. No one really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands.”

9 January 2013

How many minutes of the day are our eyes not glancing over some form of marketing through text? Like most, I am often numb to it, but when I do notice and reflect, there does not seem to be any product without a transparent veneer of the company’s strategy, like in today’s text on my lunch container. Whole Foods informs its customers:

Quality is a state of mind at Whole Foods Market. For you, that means every product you buy is the best it can be. And knowing that you make great choices, makes your day just that much better. Good job.

And I just thought I was going to eat some soup.

11 January 2013

Today’s reading at Gawker.

You’ve spent years carefully cultivating your home’s boho-chic look. Tearing through boutiques, looking for just the right accent pieces that look like they’d been found at a Portland, Ore. estate sale.

Now, finally, you’ve found it. That last piece to complete the home you’d always dreamed of: a racist candlestick…it is a totem pole of racial stereotypes.

To experience it for yourself.

An interesting notion, not mentioned in the article, is the creative process that led to this candlestick. Should we give the artist some leniency? Perhaps it is an ironic statement about social justice through the medium of a mass retailer. Or perhaps, just poor taste.

12 January 2013

With all the chatter about the flu epidemic, a piece in The New York Times.

With the nation in the grip of a severe influenza outbreak that has seen deaths reach epidemic levels, New York State declared a public health emergency on Saturday, making access to vaccines more easily available.

For the full article.


Image is of “Fall at the lake,” painted by Claudia Arztmann.

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