On Robert Neer, Napalm: An American Biography (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013)
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like …victory.”
—Lt. Col.Kilgore, in Francis Ford Coppola’s film, Apocalypse Now
“[W]e’ll fight mercilessly. Flying Fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire… There won’t be any hesitation about bombing civilians.”
Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, November 1941
“Fry ‘em out, burn ‘em out, cook ‘em.”
—Narrator in U.S. documentary film, This Is Korea Read the rest of this entry »
Felicia Langer, An Age of Stone (Quartet Books, 1988) Trans. Isaac Cohen
It is my simple belief that whatever happens to [the Palestinians], their future and their fate in the last decades of the twentieth century must be the concern of everyone.
A Gazan: Inside or out, this whole place is a prison. We have nothing left to lose.
‘The ones who did not know, did not want to know.’
I register the event. I record the facts.
An Age of Stone is an account of attorney Felicia Langer’s work from 1979 to 1988. Published almost thirty years ago, the book reveals what commitment entails in the day to day life of the author: accompanying the Palestinians, defending them in an absurd and unjust court system, not averting her gaze from the daily horror these people endured, weeping with the families, raging as a spiritual practice, and resolving never to give up.
There are pictures that stay in the memory as if carved with a fine chisel.
Of the thousands of demolished homes I remember one house in Silwad.
Of the hundreds of torture victims I see the burnt eyes and the crouched back of Sulaiman.
Of the countless smiles in the darkness there is the smile of Sami.
Of the hundreds of hunger-strikers I see the tiny Mehdi.
Like a great sea reflected in a tiny drop. 17 Read the rest of this entry »
I met the Buddha on the road
And little said she and I
“The Diamond Sutra is matchless
Reading it makes me cry”
“You just reminded me of Mary Oliver
Her percipience makes me cry”
From time to time I’ve learned how some readers of The Book of Mev recognize themselves in Mev Puleo’s words, say, from her letters and journals. They remind of the French novelist Marcel Proust, who wrote: “In reality every reader is, while she is reading, the reader of her own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable her to discern what, without this book, she could perhaps never have perceived in herself.”
In this late summer-early fall writing class, I invite you to read (or reread) and write off of stories, themes, and questions from The Book of Mev. We’ll explore topics like being present, community, accompaniment, faith, spirituality, the state of the world, the state of the soul, friends, mentors, teachers, creative arts (e.g., photography), travel, breakdowns, breakthroughs, illness, celebrating, grieving, letting go, poetry, El Salvador, Palestine, Haiti, schools, gospels, letter-writing, gratitude, bearing witness, and much else.
We go for eight sessions, from Sunday 20 August to Sunday 8 October. Each Sunday I will email participants an agenda to direct reading, writing, and sharing in the week ahead.
Time Commitment: You’ll need approximately 1 to 2 hours a week, more if you have the energy. It’s not necessary to do an entire agenda in one sitting; feel free to space it out over the week. Read the rest of this entry »
Marcel Proust, Selected Letters, volume 4: 1918-1922
Edited by Philip Kolb, translated and with an introduction for Joanna Kilmartin
Months ago, I read volume 4 of Proust’s selected letters translated into English. As the Buddhists highlight the power of an incalculable number of seeds (both positive and negative) that find their way into our being, I think my very recent resumption of In Search of Lost Time (Proust’s seven novels, which I first read twenty years ago) may be the fruit of reading those several hundred pages of correspondence in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election. Like Darren Crews in the novel Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, I took refuge in Proust, who fortified me amid vexing vicissitudes.
Some one-liners from Proust the correspondent:
“You’ve written me an adorable letter.”
“You’re a thousand times too good, but you greatly exaggerate.”
“Letters! I must be over a thousand behind, alas.”
“I thank you, I admire you, I like you.”
“My health forbids my writing a single letter by hand.”
“Dear friend, I have a million things to say to you.” Read the rest of this entry »