Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Morning Reading

Somehow, the aftermath of the fires and the approach of the holiday season seems to have slowed down the pace of local readings - so, in their stead, here's some reading that can be conducted in the privacy of your own home, free of charge and without the usual nominal parking fee.

The fall 2007 issue of Ploughshares, the literary journal of Emerson College, features "Change of Address" a story by Christopher Tilghman:

When I was in fifth grade at a private school for boys in Newton, Massachusetts, my geography teacher, Mr. Neale, was blind, had been blind for some years, probably on account of some gradual degenerative disease. This was in 1952. Mr. Neale was a large man, with a round face and thick fleshy ears; his hair was white, and his eyes were hidden behind a perpetual furrow. All the other masters (yes, in the English style, teachers were called “masters”) revered Mr. Neale, but he was not popular with the boys. I say that his loss of sight must have been gradual because before his “light was spent” (Mr. Grant, eighth-grade English) he had memorized his textbook, and his method of teaching was this: each day he selected a boy, apparently at random, to come forward and sit beside him at his desk. The text was open in front of him, and he instructed the boy to turn to a certain page, and then, often pointing with his beefy, white-flaked finger, he would ask the boy to read aloud the third paragraph of the first column, or perhaps the caption under the sepia photographs of dhows assail with the pyramids of Giza in the background. A lecture would follow, with questions stabbed out without warning—because there could be no warning—at the boy squirming in the back, or whispering next to the door. Occasionally Mr. Neale’s finger, or shirt cuff, or necktie would obscure the selected passage, and the boy would have to say, “Excuse me, Mr. Neale, but I can’t read it,” and he would answer, with an irony none of us could miss, “I see your problem, boy.”

So it went for the year, as it had gone for many years before, and along the way every boy in the class became aware of the fact that we were being shuffled and manipulated through a circumspected space ruled by obscure laws and rigid geometries, which is to say, the space in the eyes of a blind man...

Click here for the rest of the the story.

This all-fiction issue of Ploughshares was guest edited by Andrea Barrett. Their website claims that links to texts are rotated daily - so Tilghman's link may not be "hot" for long. To check out which stories are "hot" and which are not, simply visit their website by clicking here.

ALSO OF NOTE are the recent postings on The Elegant Variation by guest blogger novelist Joshua Henkin. His posts create a mini-writing workshop online. Scroll down to the posts from November 10-12 to find them (Henkin commences right after the tribute to Norman Mailer - so if you see Mailer's mug, you've gone too far.) I especially appreciated his close readings of fine stories (Joy Williams, John Cheever, Jayne Anne Phillips, etc.) plus his own tales of studying with Leonard Michaels and Charles Baxter.

THIS JUST IN: National Book Award winners: Robert Hass for Time and Materials; Denis Johnson for Tree of Smoke; Sherman Alexie for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; Tim Weiner for Legacy of Ashes: the History of the CIA.

Read, she said.

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