The Education of Oronte Churm
June 29, 2011 - 4:00am
Subtract 30 seconds from my 15 minutes of fame: In the Italian deli with family friends. An old woman walks up to where I stand filling a cup at the soda dispenser. She (suspicious): “Did you write a book about this town?” Me: “Yes, ma’am.” She (triumphant): “I knew you did. My grandson said you talked to his class at the high school but didn’t remember your name.” Me: “Yes, that was for the novel. Have you seen my nonfiction book?” She: “No.” She walks away, mission accomplished and no further interest.
June 28, 2011 - 1:30am
One of my first memories: My mother slapping me hard across the face. I was probably three or four. She’d been wiping my mouth with a wet washcloth that had grown cold, and I’d tried to knock her hand away. Don’t you ever hit a woman, she hissed. She’d been a teacher, and the slap was a lesson: See how things are.
June 27, 2011 - 12:45am
Final couplet to an unwritten poem: A desperate way of living, calledGet It While You Can.
June 24, 2011 - 3:00am
A and Z have a child whose tonsils must come out. The child wakes from anesthesia in great pain and confusion, calls for A hysterically. Z tries to step in, but the child wants only A, who climbs into the hospital bed to hold and calm him. Z: (jealously) I knew this would happen.
June 23, 2011 - 3:30am
A departmental faculty meeting somewhere in, oh, let’s say...Texas. A lit-crit professor praises his absent colleague, a creative-writing professor. “He’s a great writer, no doubt about it. World-class, and a very nice guy. But he’s no scholar, so why’s he get all the foundation money? He shouldn’t be in the university.”
June 21, 2011 - 6:30am
Viewing a fossilized mammoth skeleton at the Children’s Museum. The spread of the pelvis, wide as an elephant’s ears. The curved radius of ribs. Together, pelvis and ribs define what’s gone missing: The giant’s bag of viscera—all the fluid, dark, red, gurgling organs the first to go. What is most alive goes most noticeably absent. The embarrassment of bones.
June 20, 2011 - 6:15am
At a party, Dr. S, a Chinese neurologist practicing in the Midwest on exchange. Young, funny, has also worked in New York. Says family doctors aren’t aware of the latest technologies and still think there’s a possibility of MS when his MRI shows no brain plaque—what he calls “old CAT-Scan ideas.” “I can’t guarantee there’s not a single cell of cancer, though,” he laughs. He mocks hypochondriacal American university types: The cellist with the “tight” arm, the healthy administrator who calls him every two weeks and has had three MRIs so far.
June 16, 2011 - 11:15pm
D, a married man: "I'm sick at home today, sniffing magazine perfume ads and pretending I'm with another woman."
June 15, 2011 - 9:45pm
One of the central problems of art--what to see and how to frame it--defined by three very different artists. Note that James, who works in the form requiring the most volume (prose), also expresses the greatest anxiety about the ability to capture something significant. Henri Cartier-Bresson (The Decisive Moment): "[A photograph is] the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms.”