Ambulance chasers. Trial by ambush. Ego wall. Just a few extracts of Grisham’s lawyer-speak which develop the gritty atmosphere throughout Sycamore Row. The town of Clanton is brimming with personalities that tickle, infuriate, and inspire the reader. I came to admire the alcoholic Harry Rex’s intoxicating, forward-thinking style. I cheered for the star, Jake Brigance, until I realized that I wanted to know the truth more than I wanted him to succeed. I was shocked when two of Clanton’s brightest were killed in a senseless wreck and when the omniscient narrator revealed Wade Lanier’s dirty legal tricks. Grisham informs his readers about the South’s courtroom culture and how the judgements made there pervade a town’s conscience.
A World Beyond Home by Stuart Albright, 2016
A glimpse of Bull City’s dirty underbelly yet simultaneously a loving gaze into its soul. Stuart Albright loves teaching, and though he admits that he cannot always see the good in everyone (understandably, with all that he’s witnessed), he is patient, he is kind, and he is forgiving. Room 412 feels all the more magical to me now that I know a few more of the stories that have passed through it.
Despair haunts the soul more forcefully than death itself. Frankenstein’s monster epitomized that anguish. A botched human with no family, no sense of connection or self-worth. It glimpses the relief of family in that countryside cottage and even expresses compassion when he approaches the aveugle, only to be attacked the next moment.
That’s truly terrifying. When effort isn’t enough to spare oneself from constant, humiliating rejection. This isn’t horror in the conventional sense of disgust and violence. The monster experiences that creeping, awful feeling that nothing matters and no one cares.
He basked in the sun. He felt love in the air. He expressed empathy to a child on the edge of death. But it could not share its warmth without taking blows. Frankenstein incubated a perfect conduit of despair. Excluded and destroyed.
Shelley’s masterpiece proved that despair grips our hearts with gross aggression. The foulest enemy is one that denies his brother’s humanity. Frankenstein, that blindly ambitious fool. A mystic without empathy is a demon indeed.
This holiday season I went back to the bayou to spend time with the crazy Cox clan and wake up at unholy hours to blast birds out of the sky. I hunted with my Uncle Paul, my cousin Nathan, my cousin Taylor (a proven duck sniper) and their Cajun crew of avian slayers. In the blind this season I caught onto several wry figures of speech unique to duck hunting culture. In the next few posts I will do diligence in cataloging a few of my favorites.
“Let’s let these puldo stir up the pond.”
American coot, affectionately called puldo, are black birds with white faces and red eyes that land on the water with their friends and taunt hunters with their naive antics. Puldo families are fun to shoot firing squad style, but leaving them alone can create to a more alluring and safe-looking pond (wink wink) for passing ducks to fly into. Thus, peaceful puldo stir up the pond in the sense that they are literally 1) creating a stirring motion in the water by swimming and splashing in it and 2) preparing step one of the night’s gumbo by stirring some eatin’ ducks into our shot.
Stay tuned for part 2, in which my cousin Nate makes some teal work.
Just a few days ago we visited the Westman Islands, the birthplace of the father of my wonderful host Mangús Gottfreðsson. The town on the island, Vestmannaeyjar, is just off the south coast of Iceland and the host of an active fishing community. An volcanic eruption in 1973 left several streets under lava – fortunately no one was killed as all of the fishing trawlers were harbored when the eruption started and everyone was evacuated. Mangús was in school in Reykjavik at the time, and several children from the Westman Islands joined his class as the eruption went on for several months. Miraculously, damage from the lava was minimized by pumping tons of cold seawater at it.
We hiked up a beautiful mountain of rocks, and at the top Alfreð Mangússon felt the heat given off by the volcano still. A sweet spot on the mountain emitted energy leftover from the eruption, and as we dug into the rocks below it only got hotter. Seriously, it would have burned my hand if I wasn’t careful. And this is decades after the eruption.
If you’re interested in geology or want to become interested in it, Iceland is the place to be.
I had played the games, seen the movies, heard the stories, been to the museums. But World War II didn’t feel real until I visited these cliffs by the coast of Normandy. Remains of destroyed German bunkers are preserved, craters from bombs sunk below the ground. Old barbed wire, replica or not, rests rusty and jagged along some fortifications. American men scaled the cliffs here in a bold assault to reclaim France from German occupation.
I still cannot grasp the entirety war, but I these past weeks I have pondered it more than I expected. There are several aspects of war – political, social, financial, industrial, and so on. All of these aspects are intertwined. War on the scale that it occurred with WWII is inherently tied to globalization and industrialization. So much of war strategy is centered around the infrastructure that modern industrialized societies are built upon. Destroy a factory to cut off supplies, destroy a radio tower to cut off communication. But more classical war strategies still apply: assassinate an important political leader, strike fear within the hearts of those that supported him. War lurks within the human spirit. War is the opposite of love, but love likes to fight, too.
The security presence throughout Paris surprised me. Some non-camouflaged police forces carried submachine guns, standing along the perimeters of public parks. The picture above was taken outside of Notre Dame, but similar weaponry could be spotted at Sacre Cœur as well. The issue of domestic police forces becoming increasingly militarized is not an issue that is exclusive to the USA. France is on a high-security alert after the beheading in Lyon and especially after the Charlie Hebdo incident in January. Arming police officers with automatic weapons is discomforting to some and reassuring to others. Nonetheless, militarizing police forces currently seems to be the standard reaction for first-world countries combating terrorism from within.
France resembles the United States of America a lot, but I already knew vice versa. That is, besides the fine arts and cuisine boasting from every nook and cranny… and the craters from Allied munitions now bursting with soft grass and flowers on the cliffs by the Norman seaside. So there are a few differences. Still, my initial argument stands: France takes after the U.S. today, perhaps as much as the U.S. was modeled after it. I’ll qualify and expand upon this later, maybe, but for now you can take my word for it.
Citizens of the United States of America are sometimes referred to as états-uniens because américain mindlessly ignores our neighboring country’s official name (not to mention Canda and our South American neighbors): Estados Unidos Mexicanos. This fact brought to you by our charismatic parisian driver Renault, who kindly shared a brief, engaging history of Franco – American relations with my family (in Franglish). He drove us in a swaggy Citroën DS, the preferred car of the late Charles de Gaulle pictured above.