A piece on Christianity in contemporary fiction in last week’s New York Times Book Review mentioned Flannery O’Connor’s “Parker’s Back” and subsequently sent me to my bookcase. I pulled Ms O’Connor’s Complete Works from the shelf, checked the index, and marked the story with the book’s ribbon. My apartment is small enough and the books organized well enough that the entire process took less than one minute. To read it took a good deal longer, not least because I have learned to read slowly but mostly because “Parker’s Back” is a frightening story about a man whose apparently misplaced faith yields cyclical resentment and crisis. Mr Parker’s judgment is not what we generally think of as “sound.” It’s an extraordinarily dense work, covers a great deal of time and space in fewer than 20 pages.
The band became a more abstract entity, a community. And while individual band members might shine and take virtuosic turns, their identities became submerged within the group. It might seem paradoxical, but the more integral everyone was, the more everyone gave up some individuality and surrendered to the music. It was a living, breathing model of a more ideal society, an ephemeral utopia that everyone, even the audience, felt was being manifested in front of them, if only for a brief period.
Often we receive grace without knowing it, and often we do not know it because when grace comes, we are already joyful or resilient or serene, or in another good state that grace brings.
Every year I set out to write something about my experience of watching the Twin Towers fall on 9.11.01, and every year I find that whatever I’ve written is inadequate. I have thought in years past that it was a matter of skill: were I a better writer, I’d come closer to the mark. I’ve come to understand, however, that the issue is not so much one of skill as it is a matter of memory. Each year it is harder to recall the immediate effect of hearing the planes’ impact explosions, the fact of confronting an unbelievable chain of events, the awful placidity of my office’s view uptown.
Uncharacteristically, I wrote the following as a Facebook comment on a post by someone I do not know. It seemed to bear repeating, if only for my own edification, so I’ve decided to post it here as well:
Ms. K—————, et al. above: I’m rarely moved to remark in spaces such as this but your comments brought the following to mind: It is ignorant and no doubt beneath your usual intelligence and sensitivity to apply any economic condition to a President’s inauguration.