Joyce Carol Oates and the Vortex of American Violence

Joyce Carol Oates just put this brilliant comment on Twitter:

all we ever hear is NRA. who exactly are the gun manufacturers whose merchandise is being peddled? whose guns are killing citizens, thousands a year? CEO’s certainly have names. the anonymity of NRA gives it a spurious aura, like “act of God.” blood on the hands of–exactly whom?

 She has the most profound understanding I know of American violence, its cover-up, and its eerie connection to a current of Edgar Allen Poe/H.P. Lovecraft that runs through the country.
If you haven’t read her incredible 1966 story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” you must.

It is a masterpiece beyond compare.

Time in a Box

When it’s too cold outside for a long walk, I work out in the basement, where inevitably I stare at storage boxes, mostly from Montana. I can’t bear to more than glance at anything I wrote as a teenager or young adult. I tell myself it’s because I didn’t really know how to write then. But it’s also because I’m not that guy, or those guys, anymore and I’m not sure I want to meet them and find out what I think of them. I know I believed foolish, naively happy and optimistic things and it was painful enough losing the illusions once.

It’s painful to sort through my long-gone parent’s possessions and letters and photos (I’m almost three times as old as I was when my father passed away). But I feel disrespectful, dismissive even, leaving everything in old, dusty boxes. Can only go on for so long, though, before I’m hit with a memory like this: The last time I dreamed I was in the house where I grew up — haven”t been there since the ’80s — I was the age I am now and I felt a crushing sadness.

At least the new boxes are tidy.

The Flaws I Picked

I like to imagine that, before I was born, I was presented with a list of physical shortcomings and told I had to take several with me into life. I must have picked “Weak Eyes — with persistent stressful interludes,” but also, “Great Difficulty Tying Knots.” I was the last one in Kindergarten to learn how to tie my shoes. That bow knot was flat incomprehensible to me. But at least the knots on the extra garbage bags today were good enough.

PS: “Elvis’ Greatest Shit”

Since I happen to be playing the LP tonight. I’ve written this before, but it needs repeating:

Elvis knows how rancid these tunes are. Imagining he has the power to refuse stuff he thinks is “below” him is the mistake some observers make. He was not operating from a position of traditional pop-star command.

And, frankly, the on-the-cross live rendition of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” belongs on every best-of.

“Are you lonesome tonight? I’m lonesome in a way nobody will ever begin to understand. Because I became Elvis before anyone else.”

Snopes Down the Slope

Place is in a real pickle now. I suspect they will get the donations to survive for the nonce, but such a shaky foundation is not good. I’m not as upset as I once would have been, not least because I thought the elan never came back after Barbara Mikkelson departed. Now we find out her ex, Dave M., got his start spreading false information as well as debunking it. Yich.