Mese: agosto 2016

L’imprecisione dei numeri

Siamo cresciuti, quasi tutti immagino, con la pressione nelle orecchie di alcune verità inconfutabili, direi: tendenzialmente.
«I numeri non mentono.» «Torniamo ai numeri.» Frasi dominate da una superba quanto terrorizzante: «La matematica non è un’opinione».
Sarà colpa di un ingrassamento fuori controllo se quei vestiti mi sono sempre venuti stretti? Eppure ero già così magro.
Mi pare che ci sia una tale fiducia nei detti numeri che mai e poi mai ci viene in mente, per vecchio istinto magari, di sbirciare se per caso qualcosa non vada alla perfezione. Li crediamo subito, diamo fiducia al volo.
Certo il numero è il numero, però c’è una vendetta, piccola e sorridente, quando si dice «Quello sì che ha dei numeri». «Ha fatto un gran numero.» Un atleta. «Ha finito il suo numero fra gli applausi.» Un comico.

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Michael K. Gause

Michael K. Gause has taught German, sold men’s clothes, roasted coffee, and stocked diapers at midnight. He is the creator of two chapbooks, a sputtering salon, and co-creator of a wonderful boy named Liam. He lives, laughs, and loves in Minnesota.

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These things happen

I said it out loud, as though I were passing along common sense sage wisdom to my ten-year old. But, as I heard the words, they sounded strange, wrong and dismissive in the way that phrase has always reached us.
But that’s what went through my head, reading Keeper of the Moon, a southern memoir, on the train to work. I read of Michael, Bill’s fecklessly wayward son, and I had to smile, though it stung old and sharp. At the station stop I looked out of the window. A chain link fence, inches from a door on an old brownstone. Something from Escher, it looked impossible to enter or exit the building there, and it looked as though no one had for years. These things happen, I thought. Buildings are constructed, lives enter and leave inside them. Sons rocked and put to bed and the chills find them through the cracks.  Sons, raised in the ways a father hopes are still good and right, still usable in a world no longer understood. Michael, the shy one, not imbued like his father with a silver tongue and a head that meant business. Michael retreats, or tries to, but the town is smaller than the forests he wanders after school, and we all come to learn that you can’t hide forever.

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Dissecting Blackbirds

So far I do not like Blackbirds by Raymond Carver. It is one of his later stories, and I don’t think I’m strong enough. I want to like it, but its center of gravity is elsewhere in comparison to the style he had built to this point. Yes, a lack of strength. Thin genes are to blame. Nights of sleep when there should have been words. I never grew big, not big enough. I was stronger in college. With a meal card and a 24-hour gym, I could bench press Kafka and curl Dostoevskij at the drop of a hat. It helped to have no social life. I was thick with it. I could feel the blood coursing through, especially in summer when classmates have you flexing against the weight of better judgment. My arms were brown. I slept well at night. I wrote letters to myself in a foreign hand.

Right off the bat, the guy doesn’t think it’s her handwriting. It is a letter that has been slipped under the door of his study. The setup is good. Mystery in the familiar home. What’s not to like? He pauses to venture down a side narrative about his memory, filling some lines and questioning the questionability his own narration. He lapses into an inner monologue fans of Carver recognize, only to return to the present and begin to transform the simple act of receiving a letter into a muted psychological thriller. Returning to confusing letter, and a noise down the hall, his house – this place of comfort and a buttress against the outside world – is suddenly a place not entirely known, a distrusted other. All the lights are on, but soft, subtle noises are slowly transfiguring it from a place of solace to a reluctant funhouse, something he must confront. But too soon the jig is up, and we see the letter is, indeed, of his wife’s hand. Like the protagonist, I am distraught as the story strays further from me, soon just outside my reach and pledging never to return. It is of no use, I fear. Like his wife, it has decided and is already walking away. I want to stop it, but I am not strong enough. If I could only call on others to help.

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