I have been listening to more of Lorrie Moore on YouTube as well as reading essays from her collection, See What Can Be Done.
First, I was a bit ashamed when someone asked her about blogging or being on Twitter. She replied, “I don’t have that much to day.”
Ahem. Yikes. Me neither, but it doesn’t seem to stop me.
When asked why reading was important, she replied (something close to this) “Reading is important because we need to get language that isn’t commercially mediated and increasingly we don’t have it. ”
This reminded me of some of my musical quandaries. I consider about music from my youth and wonder why it seemed to go from exciting to me at that time to the way I respond to much popular music that is being written now (meh).
Could it be that as popular music or subgenres continue to generate material that it becomes more and more about making commodity and less about fun and what people like?
Not that rock and folk rock and whatever style was ever non-commercial. I just think that we need music that isn’t commodified and increasingly I don’t find much in new music either popular or any other style.
But, of course, that’s me.
And continuing with Moore’s ideas paraphrased by yours truly:
We need reading to help us get close to another’s imagination and to spend time in this distilled space. Reading expands horizons, emotional knowledge, and knowledge of the world.
When you think of it, maybe the problem of people believing stuff that is crazy and untrue might have something to do with people’s uncharged imagination and lack of time in the space of thinking and reading.
I recently finished Gregory Orr’s little book of poetry, How Beautiful the Beloved. It consists of one page poems and many of them charmed me.
Here are a couple.
Loss and loss and more
The sea teaches.
The need to stay
Against the suck
Of receding waves,
Under our feet.
Here, where sea
The best of dancing floors.
Has the moon been up there
All these nights
And I never noticed?
A whole week with my nose
To the ground, to the grind.
And the beloved faithfully
Returning each evening
As the moon.
Yesterday was Lorrie Moore’s birthday according to Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac. He quoted her as saying the following and it made me laugh.
When she was once asked in an interview why she writes so often about characters who make lots of jokes, she said: “I feel that when you look out into the world, the world is funny. And people are funny. And that people always try to make each other laugh. I’ve never been to a dinner party where nobody said anything funny. If you’re going to ignore that [as a fiction writer], what are you doing?”
“What are you doing?” indeed.
My boss and i were goofing off yesterday. She was trying to broadcast organ music via her phone on a blue tooth speaker. I was the “talent” as they say and kept playing organ while she experimented. This apparently failed. She’s still working on something for tomorrow’s funeral.
In the course of the afternoon, I mentioned to her that there were two different hymns from which she could choose for this Sunday’s stream paraliturgy. She couldn’t decide. She said she would think about it. Consequently, I haven’t done this Sunday’s submission of hymns and music note. I did pick out organ music. If I haven’t heard from her tomorrow I will simple pick a hymn and write a hymn note.
Keillor inspired me to search for Lorrie Moore on YouTube. Bingo. In the above video, she not only talks charmingly and intelligently, she reads her essay about her marriage ceremony, “One hot summer, or a Brief History of Time,” in its entirety.
It was first published in the book she is plugging on this video.
I requested the library copy of the book and picked it up today.
On Tuesday, I read an essay by Zadie Smith called “The Bathroom” in her collection, Feel Free. It is about her family and her understanding of family. I was struck by her description of how her family fitted into England’s class system.
“The spare room, the extra toilet—these represented, for my parents, a very British form of achievement. Raised in poverty, they were now officially what the census takers call ‘lower middle class.’ … When you were lower middle-class, in the eighties, you went to Europe occasionally—though only on flights that left at 3 a.m., and on planes in which you freely chose the smoking section—and you drove a Mini Metro, and you bought fresh orange juice. You went to state school of course and had never seen a ski lift but you took the Guardian (footnote here: If you were on the left) and, if there was a good front-page scandal, the Mirror, and you had those nice stripy Habitat blinds in the kitchen and china plates hanging on the walls and you absolutely understood that doormats with jokes on them were in bad taste. You told people you ‘never watched ITV,’ although this was actually a lie: you watched ITV all the time. And each summer you packed the car and motored down the M4 to Devon or Cornwall, stopping along the route to take tea—thanks to the National Trust—in the various country mansions of penniless aristocrats. At least that’s how it was for us.”
Class systems always confuse me until my nose gets rubbed into them. This happened to me on one trip in the UK when the car of the train we were on lost power. We were shepherded into the first class car. A bald man in an expensive suit holding a conservative book glared at me and my family for the entire time we were there.
I assume that was class stuff.
I read that passage to my wife since we have a daughter who is firmly ensconced in England. (Hi Sarah!)
But more startlingly in Smith’s essay was her observation that “every family home is an emotionally violent place, full of suppressed rage… no one gets out of a family unit whole or with everything they want.” Here she quotes Jerry Seinfeld: “There’s no such thing as fun for all the family.”
Smith writes “Somebody’s going to have to give up something: it’s only a question of how much and to whom.
Something to ponder.
She reprints a photograph her father took of himself, his first wife, and Smith’s step sister. It is stark and looks highly composed. The mom sits like a painting staring at the TV. The father and daughter are whispering to each other. Smith titled it “The Family is a Violent Event.”
Zadie Smith’s brother, Ben, is a rap artist. Without talking to her about it, he independently chose this picture as the cover for his rap album.
Something else to ponder is what Lorrie Moore said in another interview I listened to on YouTube:
“You can’t carve solitude out of loneliness. You have to people your life and go from there.”