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I seem to be neglecting this blog again. Just can’t stick to it. So much happens to distract. Am I just a busy octogenarian?

But today is worth mentioning. I attended my first class at the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute (OLLI) at the U of Southern Maine in Portland. It’s something unusual for me: I mean a class on American artists, two of whom are short story writers and one a photographer. Plus the fact that these are no ordinary artists, even though they in fact concern themselves with the ordinary. This latter concern explains the title, thought up by the teacher, Janet Gunn.

So who are these people? Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, and Diane Arbus. The first two are the short story writers and they both died young. Diane (pronounced DEEann) Arbus takes pictures of ordinary people in extraordinary contexts.

I’ve read Flannery O’Connor before and even made a post on her and got comments, here. But I had never heard of Raymond Carver until a few weeks ago. They have certain similarities which probably should be discussed in this course. It runs for eight weeks. There were eleven there today taking the course, four men and seven women.

More later.

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Last night I finished Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. We had had the book in the house for a long time. I’m not sure where we got it. But Kate read parts of it to Cynthia when Cynthia was in her last stages of illness. Then Kate read the entire book and told me it was beautiful, so, I, sick of endlessly gluing myself to this computer screen, decided to read it.

It is indeed beautiful and has a mystical quality, a quality which Garcia says in the interviews I’ve just been reading, is found in many Cubans and is absorbed from their culture. The main character of the book, a woman named Celia, leads a mystical inner life and worships her early lover before she marries the father of her children. She writes to this early lover throughout her lifetime but never actually mails the letters. She’s a strong supporter of Castro unlike some other family members but Garcia does not take a political position on this.

I find it interesting that Garcia says she wouldn’t be a writer if it weren’t for poetry. Here’s a quotation of hers from an Atlantic interview:

I wouldn’t be a writer if it weren’t for poetry. I think what catapulted me into wanting to write was reading poetry seriously, beginning around my late twenties, early thirties. Before then I was just a voracious reader. Discovering Wallace Stevens, García Lorca, and Octavio Paz—they were the three initially—was like falling in love. It’s become a daily essential. In fact, when you called I was just reading some poetry because I can’t really start my day until I read for an hour or two and think about stuff and have all these disparate images floating around, derailing me from more logical, more ordered thinking. I like the kind of messiness it engenders in me as far as images. The poets are my heroes.

Imagine that! In love with Wallace Stevens. I would be too if I could understand him. Well, I do understand him a little but I’m too left-brained in general. More messiness in thinking is perhaps a good thing. Let’s get some action out of the right brain before plunging into left brain analysis!

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Just finished a great book: Atonement by Ian McEwan. It’s blood curdling real in two senses: the psychological and the actual. Psychologically, McEwan knows how to get into his characters, to develop them so well you know them intimately and in fact grow to love them dearly. The actualities of the WW2 scenes in France are deeply and tragically believable and have tremendous descriptive force. The experiences of the young nurse, Briony her name, with the returning soldiers from the battle of Dunkirk are psychologically real and deeply affecting. And the final atonement of Briony is heart breaking but necessary as she makes further confessions to the young lovers, one of whom she had nearly destroyed through a crime she committed as a child, a crime which came about because of her fantasizing and desire to be a novelist at the age of thirteen. This is fiction but it all seems so real and believable: we see how seemingly trivial actions and events produce far reaching and tragic consequences.

OK, you can see I’m carried away with this. I knew nothing about Ian McEwan before I read this book. Here’s an interview of McEwan by Richard Dawkins:


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