The Eighth Day: Reclaiming a Neglected Novel

3220989233_da89ced170_zIt must be a common occurrence—having certain inanimate things make periodic appearances throughout a life, much like acquaintances who keep popping up in odd places—on the bus, in a crowd, across a room. They’re noticed, but barely so; the conscious mind remarks upon them—“There’s that thing again”—then moves on until they reappear, stepping out from the flood of experience with a gentle tug at the sleeve.

When I was a boy, a paperback copy of Thornton Wilder’s The Eighth Day would appear like this. I remember it on a table; I remember it in a box; the last time I recall seeing it, the book lay on the floor of a garage closet. It was a thick little text, with a cover that bore a sunrise in a yellowish cast and a title in Ten Commandment-size font. Still, I don’t remember ever thumbing through it. At some point, it must have been thrown away; it disappeared and has never resurfaced.

Not physically, at least; but later on, as though it had evanesced into the spiritual world in order to permeate the weightless atmosphere of the mind, someone mentioned the book to me. I was told that a novel I’d written (as yet unpublished) had put her in mind of it. Flattered, amused that the old paperback visitor had come to call once again, I began to use the comparison myself. [Read more...]

Finding God in Updike Country

9294082808_489ce8bc7c_mIt took me more than a year of living out here to realize I am living in Updike Country. It just never occurred to me. The first time I ever read the Rabbit books, I’d never been to Pennsylvania.

All I knew was that Updike was writing about small-town America. Doesn’t really matter where, I thought. Could be anywhere. I didn’t think the specific location mattered much to Updike, either. I didn’t understand how it could have mattered. [Read more...]

The State of Things to Come

With relation to time, Walker Percy once compared the present to the tape head on a recorder. Into that receptacle, the pristine potentiality of the future is fed—a blank magnetic strip streaming across an apparatus that captures the clamor of the known world. In this way, the present is akin to the mouth of time.

For Percy’s Lancelot Lamar, musing about life from his insane asylum, the past’s consumption of the future was a horrible thought. For the process is one in which the freedom of all things is chewed, mangled, and suffocated by the crush of the one thing. Potential is transformed, and thereby corrupted, by actualization.

We are always in danger of the past’s banality—its boring predictability, its deadening muck of petty, moronic badness—swallowing up all possibility and converting it into the stale mess of exhausted routine. [Read more...]

John Mayer’s Born and Raised

Close your eyes and clone yourself
Build your heart an army
To defend your innocence
While you do everything wrong

So opens “The Age of Worry,” the second track from John Mayer’s latest album, Born and Raised. I’ve been obsessively listening to that song and the majority of the album all summer. It’s almost become my personal soundtrack for 2012.

That feels strange for me to type because I’ve never been what you could call a fan of Mayer’s. I’ve had a vague and often annoyed awareness of him and his music for the last decade. It’s been impossible not to. [Read more...]


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