Saturday, August 20, 2016

Omran Daqueesh -- my little reminder

I’ve saved the front page of The New York Times from yesterday where there’s a photo of a Syrian boy whose silent, dust-covered face has captivated the world (the photo that accompanies this video above in the online version of the story). He captivated the world -- including me. But for how long? He was recovered from the rubble of his apartment building, which was struck by missiles during the endless civil war in his country. And I guess he was in shock so his quiet patience might be quite understandable, but the photo and the short video the entire world has seen are capable of stopping your heart. Quite literally – no hyperbole. 

I’ve saved it – just as I saved the photo of the poor Syrian boy who drowned during a crossing with other refugees and washed up on a Turkish beach, lifeless – in the hopes it can inspire me on at least two different levels. First: this is happening, people are suffering and what are you doing about it, Jeanne? You’re not even reporting on it – the very least you could do, that is your skill, if so much can be said of what you know of journalism. That's the first level. 

Second level: I don’t know how to put it, it seems to jar me awake from my daily parenting slumber – something along the lines of thinking that no matter what Leo does, he is an absolute GIFT from GOD that I must cherish every day every day every day. Because to imagine that he could ever have to experience something like this – and to know we are lucky enough that he probably won’t – well, it’s a reminder that we never have hard times. He never does anything that we can’t fix. A day in which he refuses to eat spinach and won’t touch regular milk and doesn’t want to have “quiet time,” well, a day like that, to use the cliché again, is a gift from God. 

The mother of this little Syrian boy would quite literally give her right arm to have a day like that.

Funny thing, I’ve taped the front page of the Times up on the bedroom wall to the right of this bookshelf I use as a desk/computer stand. I think it’s fairly hidden, you wouldn’t really see the folded paper taped up unless you were standing at the computer – something Mike never does. And that’s an important detail because I'd taped up the photo of the lifeless boy’s body lying on the beach in Turkey and he asked me to take it down. I taped it up for the same reason – WAKE UP JEANNE this is happening, you are so lucky, so lucky to have this boy, your little Leo – all very noble, I suppose, but the image was too much for Mike. 

I don’t blame him; I cherish his reaction in some ways. He cannot countenance all the bad that’s sewn into everyday life on Earth. We humans. For shame. And yet my God I, *I*, need a reminder. Because we will all go on, we will all go about our business and this little boy will be forgotten. But his little face (he looks to be about 4 years old – you-know-who’s-age) – and the unspoken sadness written upon it, his little plaintive stare, are so stunningly sad, the tragedy so stunningly unnecessary, that I need to remember. Give me the strength and the resolve, someone, to remember and to do something about it.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

"My other question is: do polar bears fly?"

I've been publishing excerpts here on the blog of my "Bits" journal, to appropriate the expression, again, from poet and FSU writing professor David Kirby. Here's another excerpt below. It's just a collection of notebooks and computer files where I record everyday thoughts, inspirations, ideas for stories, etc. This one draws heavily from a 'sub-journal' -- the Leo Diary.
April 30, 2016
6:33 a.m.
I have to think Atlanta is some kind of bird sanctuary. I’ve never heard so much birdsong or such loud tweets anywhere else. My God! Lots of red-feathered cardinals – the only bird I know to recognize.
It gets light so early these days. Which means SOMEONE wakes up early. Cutting severely into Mommy’s writing time. I put these words down to give a sense of my life, not really to complain. It’s the change of the seasons wrought into a specific detail: Here’s what early spring means to me…abbreviated writing sessions, and also one of the few times of the year when the morning darkness dissipates quickly here. 

Atlanta, city of darkness. Lately I’ve been tweeting that it’s a city of murals. And it really is. It’s one of the few distinguishing characteristics. I guess thanks in part to Living Walls. And maybe also the specific geography of Atlanta: lots of train tunnels. The Living Walls in Cabbagetown, after all, are along the train wall that leads to Krog Street Tunnel.
I hear a voice outside – which turns out to be cat – and I look over my shoulder to see the pinkening sky through the transom window. This image = my life in Atlanta. My early morning writing life in Atlanta. The pinkening sky, glimpsed briefly through the transom window.

April 27, 2016
The lyrics and the music to the song “Graceland” replay in my mind. ‘My traveling companion is 9 years old. She’s the child of my first marriage…. I have reason to believe we’ll both be received in Graceland….Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee…we’re going to Graceland.”

Songs of redemption.

April 26, 2016
Leo: “My head is so full of questions.”

He asks a fairly mundane question, and then says, “My other question is: do polar bears fly?”

No, but nice try.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A review of Mingarelli's "A Meal in Winter"

I've begun reviewing books and of course I have a special desire to review fiction in translation. In this case, the book in question was originally written in French, not Italian, but no matter. It 's stunning.

Here's an excerpt of the review for Cleaver magazine. To read the rest, click the link below.

by Hubert Mingarelli
translated by Sam Taylor
The New Press, 138 pages
reviewed by Jeanne Bonner
A Meal in Winter by French author Hubert Mingarelli is a subtle book that quietly but methodically stalks the reader’s sympathies. It does so through a beautiful, spare prose style that begins with the first line: “They had rung the iron gong outside, and it was still echoing, at first for real in the courtyard, and then, for a longer time, inside our heads.” This is lovely writing (deftly rendered from the French by translator Sam Taylor, himself a novelist)—yet a bit ominous, like something that can’t be escaped. Later, setting the scene for the winter’s walk that takes up much of the first part of the narrative, he writes: “A pale sun hung in the sky, as distant and useless, it seemed to us, as a coin trapped under thick ice.” Trapped. What is trapped? Or who?
Read the rest of the review here. Then please read the book!