458 Slices
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Medium 9781927068304

O Wheel

Lloyd Ratzlaff Thistledown Press ePub


The mayor of Dachau takes for granted we are not here to see the town. “Dear Guests,” the brochure begins, “You have come to Dachau to visit the memorial site in the former Concentration Camp. Innumerable crimes were committed. Like you, the citizens of Dachau bow their heads before the victims of this camp. After your visit, you will be horror-stricken. But we sincerely hope you will not transfer your indignation to the ancient 1200-year-old Bavarian town of Dachau, which was not consulted when the concentration camp was built and whose citizens voted quite decisively against the rise of National Socialism . . . ”

There are photos, then, of footpaths beside the Muehlbach River, and distant Alps as seen from the Dachau Palace. There are paintings of old mills and taverns and smithies, and of harvests and peat bogs, of the place as it was before the years of infamy.

“I extend a cordial invitation to you to visit the old town of Dachau,” the mayor says. “We would be pleased to greet you within our walls and to welcome you as friends.”

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Medium 9781771870849

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Ratzlaff, Lloyd Thistledown Press ePub


As I was walking up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d stay away.

— Hughes Mearns

WHEN I FIRST HEARD NORTHROP FRYE’S MONIKER for his childhood deity, “the Old Bugger in the Sky,” I laughed at the dead-on characterization of the god I also grew up with — and at the same time winced, knowing that most of my kin would consider it blasphemous. Frye believed that no one in the western world could be considered educated without having read Shakespeare and the Bible. The “fifteen-minute world” that hatched me (a cousin calls it that for the time it takes to drive through) gave us a bit of Shakespeare and a great deal of Bible, and to this day my tongue is heavily accented by the Authorized King James Version.

I catch myself muttering at the Invisible Man who stopped me from taking what Pam Lawson offered under a full moon at midnight in the water of Pike Lake, when we were nineteen and only the two of us were there. And today the old man can still drown out a robin’s trill on an Easter Sunday stroll; for guilt, as Garrison Keillor observes, is the gift that keeps on giving.

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Medium 9780253019042

Part 3 Culinary Delights

Wissing, Douglas A. Indiana University Press ePub

Shapiro’s customers were often dazzled by the wide array of products offered for sale, including salmon, sardines, caviar, coffee, and kosher deli meats. According to Max Shapiro, over the years the American public had come to look at kosher deli food “just like pizza or Mexican food. I guess we helped educate them.”


THE SOUTH MERIDIAN BUSINESS DISTRICT, THE BEATING heart of Indianapolis’s Jewish neighborhood, bustled on Sundays in 1915, revivified after Saturday Sabbath, when hundreds of Jewish immigrants walked past shuttered stores to the five synagogues clustered in the little enclave. Stretching south from Washington Street to Morris Street between Capitol Avenue and Union Street, the district was a densely populated city space that rang with the calls of Yiddish, the German-Hebrew language of the middle European Ashkenazi Jews, and murmurs of Ladino, the southern European Sephardic Jews’ ancient Spanish-Hebrew language, mixing with the argot and dialects of their German, Irish, and African American neighbors.

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Medium 9780253019059

World War II

Johnson, Owen V. Indiana University Press ePub

Machine-gunner Pyle goes riding in a five-ton tank

INDIANAPOLIS—Time was heavy on my hands today, so I appointed myself a corporal in the Panzer division and went out and rode around the country in a tank.

I sat in the machine-gunner’s seat, and mowed down trees and weeds and fence posts, and also killed a man on a dirt scraper driving two mules. His last words were, “Hey, what’s comin’ off here?”

The tank I rode in was a five-ton baby one, out at the Marmon Herrington Co. The ride lasted about half an hour, and was really only a small part of my afternoon’s education.

For Marmon-Herrington is deep in expansion for defense orders, as are most concerns of their type, and what they are doing was thrilling to me. But I’ll tell the rest tomorrow.

My little tank was built for two men, and was painted brown. You climb over the caterpillar tread mechanism, and step down into it from the top, like stepping into a box. Then you pull the steel roof down over you and lock it. And there you are, for better or worse.

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Medium 9780253000958

Speaking for the Land

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

At the dedication ceremony for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in June 1934, the pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold began his remarks by declaring: “For twenty centuries and longer, all civilized thought has rested upon one basic premise: that it is the destiny of man to exploit and enslave the earth. The biblical injunction to ‘go forth and multiply’ is merely one of many dogmas which imply this attitude of philosophical imperialism.”

Leopold was not shy about making such grand claims, especially when, as in this brief talk, he wished to distill a complex argument into a few words. One could cite many examples of “civilized thought,” including the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Native American cultures, that do not advocate enslavement of the Earth. And one could cite biblical injunctions that urge us to be caretakers rather than exploiters of the creation. Still, there was ample evidence in Leopold’s time that the majority of his fellow citizens regarded the Earth as purely a source of raw materials, to be mined, dammed, deforested, plowed, paved, and otherwise manipulated to suit human needs, without regard for the needs of other species and with scant regard for the needs of future generations. This attitude of “philosophical imperialism,” which wrought so much damage in the Dust Bowl years, remains powerful in our day, and is now wreaking havoc on a global scale.

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Medium 9781847778772

‘Fun! – It’s Heaven’

Ford, Ford Madox Carcanet Press Ltd. ePub

The room was lit by a skylight from above, so that it resembled a tank in which dim fishes swim listlessly. The walls were of varnished grey paint; an immense and lamenting Christ hung upon a cross above the empty grate; a mildewed portrait of the last Pope but one made a grim spot of white near the varnished door. On a deal chair beside the deal table the old doctor sat talking to the very old lay sister who stood before him, twisting her gnarled fingers in her wooden beads.

‘Whatever it is,’ he said, and he waved his hand round to indicate the grim room. ‘This isn’t my idea of it. That is what I told the child.’

‘There need be no limits to one’s idea of it,’ the lay sister said. ‘What was it you told the poor child? I have not, you must remember, heard anything at all,’ she added. ‘Dicky Trout, I suppose, is killed. And he was to have married her? He was a dear young boy.’

‘He had been just ninety minutes in the trenches. And shot through the head! Ninety minutes! And dead! It’s what they call rotten luck. They were both my godchildren.’ He said the words with a certain fierceness of resentment.

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Medium 9781847778772

The Trail of the Barbarians

Ford, Ford Madox Carcanet Press Ltd. ePub

When Ford was back in England in 1917 he resumed his work, translating Pierre Loti’s pamphlet, L’Outrage des barbares (Paris, 1917). His ‘Translator’s Note’ to The Trail of the Barbarians (London, [1918]) is printed here. Like Henry James, Ford was a great admirer of Loti’s style, so the work represents an act of literary as well as political propaganda. It can also be seen expressing his belief in the regenerative power of the countryside, and influencing his later praise of French landscape and culture.

It has been my ambition, for more years than I can remember, to devote the closing stage of my life to rendering into English some masterpiece of a French stylist. Well, here is the rendering of the masterpiece of a French stylist; and Fate wills it that it has been performed between parades, orderly rooms, strafes, and the rest of the preoccupations that re-fit us for France … so it is not a good rendering. You need from 11.45 pip emma of 8/8/17 to 11.57 pip emma of 9/8/17 for the rendering of almost any French sentence!…

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Medium 9780253018595

Legacies of Fear

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

from Rodney King’s beating to Trayvon Martin’s death

ON APRIL 29, 1992, the Los Angeles Riots began. Thousands of people stormed the streets following the verdict that acquitted four police officers who kicked, Tasered and beat black motorist, Rodney King, within an inch of his life. The incident, captured on a video recording lasting roughly ten minutes, was beamed out on television screens across the nation. In the intervening days, tensions ran high between Korean American shop owners and African American patrons. By the time the Riots (or the uprisings or rebellions, as some prefer to call the events) came to an end, property damages totaled nearly $1 billion, fifty-three people had died, and more than 2,000 people were injured. The National Guard was deployed to occupy L.A., and U.S. Marines patrolled the streets enforcing a curfew.

Twenty-one years later, on July 13, 2013, millions of Americans watched their TV screens with baited breath, awaiting another verdict—the fate of a man, George Zimmerman, who had killed an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin. The basic facts of the case were not so different from the circumstances that led to Rodney King’s beating, though Martin was nearly ten years younger than King was at the time of his accosting. And King survived his beating. Martin did not. Martin was on his way home when George Zimmerman began to follow him. Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” teenager. Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator. Soon thereafter, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other on the street. The confrontation ended when Zimmerman shot and killed Martin. This fact was not in dispute. During the trial, the critical question was whether or not there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Zimmerman acted in self-defense. The jury took the word of the confessed killer. Protests erupted across the country over the verdict. Activists, through banners, speeches, and song, pointed to a long history in the U.S. that has intertwined law-enforcement and race-based violence.

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Medium 9781847778772

Preface to Their Lives, by Violet Hunt

Ford, Ford Madox Carcanet Press Ltd. ePub

Violet Hunt sent Ford the proofs of her novel Their Lives (London: Stanley Paul, 1916), while he was in the Ypres Salient. He drafted the preface there; it not only moves between descriptions of watching a gas attack and reading the book, but seeks to connect the two experiences, making the startling claim that the Victorian family animosities recorded in Hunt’s novel contributed to the war’s cruelty. See the ‘Introduction’, p. 7 for further discussion.

I took the proofs of this book up the hill to read. From there I could see the gas shells bursting in Poperinghe; it was a very great view, but I am prohibited from descanting on it. But the gas shells that the Bosches were sending into Poperinghe set me thinking. You see, there was not much sense in gassing Poperinghe; it killed a great many Belgian civilians and that is all. It was in fact, just casual cruelty, quite systematic. And as I write now, I can hear them shelling another little town a mile away – and giving us a shell too now and then, for the love of God, I suppose?

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Medium 9780253018571

The Silences of Bob Kaufman: A Cento

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

the truth is an empty bowl of rice

truth is a burning guitar

it takes so much to be nothing

long green journeys into sounds of death

you get off at Fifty-ninth Street forever

eternity has wet sidewalks

all those well-meaning people

who gave me obscure books

when what I really needed

was a good meal

ordinary people, that is, people whose annihilation

is handled on a corporate scale

they have memorized the pimples

on your soul

whether I am a poet or not, I use

fifty dollars’ worth of air

every day, cool

dear people, let us eat Jazz

so we sat down on our bloodsoaked

garments and listened to Jazz

one thousand saxophones infiltrate the city

my face is covered with maps of dead nations

the poet nailed to the bone of the world

I love him because his eyes leak

in most cases, a sane hermit will beat

a good big man

I think of Chaplin and roll a mental cigarette

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Medium 9780253356864

27. Proving

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Perhaps because Walden is such an obviously ambitious book with a determinedly elevated tone, Thoreau quickly acquired a reputation as a ponderous, humorless writer. After accusing Thoreau of “gutting” his works of anything that might make his readers laugh, Robert Louis Stevenson remarked that “he was not one of those authors who have learned … ‘to leave out the dullness’.” Writing in 1880, just eighteen years after Thoreau’s death, Stevenson was following the example of James Russell Lowell, who in 1865 had flatly declared that “Thoreau had no humor.” Emerson never mentioned Walden, even in his own journals. Although he accused Thoreau of lacking “a lyric facility and technical skill,” he preferred his friend’s poetry to his prose, which he thought marred by reflexive paradox. In the twentieth century, Leon Edel summarized the case against Thoreau, curtly declaring, “He was not a born writer.”

This last judgment, leveled at the author of at least one classic book and a two-million-word journal, now seems astonishingly off. We should remember, however, that several of Thoreau’s contemporaries demonstrated that prolificness does not inevitably signal talent: Margaret Fuller, William Ellery Channing, and Henry James Sr. all wrote at unembarrassed length without showing any natural affinity for literature. Thoreau, on the other hand, may have been one of those writers like Whitman or Neruda (but unlike T. S. Eliot) who need to write a lot in order to produce a small amount of first-rate work: even Walden’s greatest admirers have never made similar claims for the Week, The Maine Woods, or Cape Cod.

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Medium 9781771870849

To See In a Sacred Manner

Ratzlaff, Lloyd Thistledown Press ePub


But let not revelation by theses be detained.

— Emily Dickinson

WHEN BLACK ELK WAS AN OLD MAN, he recounted a dream he’d had at the age of nine, and said of this experience: “I saw more than I can tell, and I understood more than I saw, for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that it was holy.”

The boy was very ill at the time of his dream; but while those around him feared for his life, he was spirited into a world of wheeling horses and flowering trees, of ceremonial hoops and ritual pipes. And he saw a tepee with a rainbow door, and inside were six grandfathers whom he recognized at once to be the Powers of the world.

When the lad’s quaking had subsided, the apparitions began to speak. The sixth grandfather, the spirit of the Earth, had long, white hair, and a wrinkled face with eyes that were deep and dim; yet he seemed vaguely familiar. As the boy stared, the old face began transforming itself backward through time, shedding its years until it reached childhood; and Black Elk saw that it was himself, “with all the years that would be mine at last.” And when the spirit had grown old again, it said, “My boy, have courage, for my power shall be yours, and you shall need it.”

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Medium 9780253356864

6. Colors

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

“Colours spur us to philosophize,” Wittgenstein once observed, but what are to make of Thoreau’s prodigality with them? In “The Ponds,” he begins a description of Walden by casually remarking that “All our Concord waters have two colors at least, one when viewed at a distance, and another, more proper, close at hand” (121). He doesn’t leave the matter there. The ensuing paragraph assembles twenty-nine separate mentions of color to suggest how the neighboring ponds and rivers appear under different conditions and from different perspectives: blue, dark slate-color, green, as green as grass, the color of the sky, a yellowish tint, light green, uniform dark green, vivid green, verdure, blue mixed with yellow, the color of its iris, a darker blue than the sky itself, a matchless and indescribable blue, more cerulean than the sky itself, original dark green, muddy, vitreous greenish blue, colorless … as … air, green tint, black or very dark brown, a yellowish tinge, alabaster whiteness.

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Medium 9781771870825

The Snake-Grass Hills

Virgo, Seán Thistledown Press ePub


Patrick Lane

A dry dense heat lies upon the hills. It gathers in puddles around the flat paws of the prickly-pear cactus. They are lying flat on the crumbling soil, their spines a pale yellow tipped with black. The flesh of the cactus is shrivelled like the skin on the hands of old women. In the cactus palms are the withered shreds of flowers that bloomed and died in the heavy days of spring. Every few hundred yards a pine tree starts out of the earth. The trees are small and grow only a few inches a year. There is no rain in this valley now except for the rare thunderstorm that rises out of the west, battering the dry hills with a sudden flood of water and flame from its lightning. Some of the pine trees have shattered trunks and broken limbs caused by the great storms.

But there is no storm today. There is only the heavy heat: and a sky so thin with blue it is like a whisper above the yellow hills. It is late spring and the boy walks the hills with his brother’s .22. His brother doesn’t know the boy has taken the rifle. If he did he would kill him. It is his prize possession. The boy wears worn running shoes and patched jeans. He has no shirt and his skin shines like fine deer leather polished into gold. In his pocket are the two boxes of shells he stole from the rifle cabinet at a friend’s house. He carries the rifle across his chest like John Wayne does in the movies, the barrel resting back against his arm, the blue metal hot against his skin.

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Medium 9780253356864

14. Genius

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Although Emerson famously said of Thoreau that “his biography is in his verses,” he described those verses as “rude and defective,” concluding that Thoreau’s “genius was better than his talent.” Without citing Emerson as the source of this famous judgment, Henry James extended its application to Thoreau’s prose, declaring in 1879 that “whatever question there may be of his talent, there can be none, I think of his genius.… He was imperfect, unfinished, inartistic … ; it is only at his best that he is readable.” Why did Emerson and James arrive at this opinion? What aspects of Thoreau’s writing prompted it?

While any list of writers with more talent than genius will always be a long one, the reverse is not the case. What American writers have had more genius than talent? Whitman? Gertrude Stein? Hart Crane? Thomas Wolfe? Has this imbalance occurred more frequently in America? And is it more common with writers, as opposed to other kinds of artists? We can start to answer these questions by noting that an artist needs to be lucky enough to have a genre available to him that suits his genius. Imagine if Larry Hart had come along before the flowering of the Broadway musical: he would have become, at best, simply a talented light-verse writer, a reduced version of his own ancestor, Heinrich Heine. Had Elvis Presley arrived before rock and roll, he might have developed into a minor version of his idol, Dean Martin, himself a lesser Sinatra. Elvis, of course, helped to invent the genre his genius required, and his ability to do so suggests a way to think about Thoreau and Walden.

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