Hermits Rock

Go to content Go to navigation

Where the self I value is stored

John Updike nearly always writes a good short story. He lays simple tracks, then lines them with deep awareness of how men and women interact, of how the world appears, of how meaning is made and kept. So I recommend “My Father’s Tears,” quiet story, stuck between the Schuylkill valley and Harvard, unabashedly regionalist; it is also shot through with Emerson (not only in direct quotation, but also in the Unitarian/Congregationalist divide), whose appearance in most any short story is welcome. The story also touches on some of our own admissions, and some of J’s promises to write of late, as in this passage:

It shocks me, at my high-school class reunions, when my classmates bother to tell me how much they prefer my second wife. It is true, Sylvia really mixes it up with them, in a way that Deb shyly didn’t. But then Deb assumed that they were part of my past, something I had put behind me but reunited with every five years or so, whereas Sylvia, knowing me in my old age, recognizes that I have never really left Pennsylvania, that it is where the self I value is stored, however infrequently I check on its condition. (my emphasis)

The narrator’s mobility (social and physical, especially; to a lesser degree, emotional) is the story’s crux; it could stand a deeper scrutinizing. But for now, pithy universalism: to we who have perpetrated, or anyway are contemplating, a remove from our pasts: pasts never leave. In that way the soul is like flypaper, or, if that’s a bit too gruesome an image, then packing tape.

There is also this, also relevant: “It is easy to love people in memory; the hard trick is to love them when they are there, in front of you.”

 

Comments

right, this is why bonhoeffer (and i write that rather flippantly…jeremy, jeremy, you are being glib and you don’t even know you’re being glib) was able to write so sanguinely about family.

you know, i still, despite being a DoCer for 6 or 7 years now, think of myself as a CoC…and i doubt i will ever stop thinking of myself as a CoCer…and we even lament that evie might not share the religious culture that my spouse and i share…that she will be raised with a different religious vocabulary in a religious babylon

That self-identification is apparent in your latest, “white fields.” Perhaps we exacerbate it by getting involved in all the alumni discussions online: were we truly able to leave it behind, we’d have done so, even in this virtual space.

However, I don’t think you need lament E’s coming theoglossia. I’m pretty sure you & T will supplement her learning with enough CENI to make her head spin…

maybe you’re right. maybe it’s just a still crazy after all these years kind of phenom