Confronting sociopolitical denial

“It’s fine–I’m fine–everything’s fine,” says Theo parodically (Theo is the hero in Cuaron’s politically brilliant film Children of Men), whenever something particularly terrible occurs. For indeed isn’t “Everything’s fine” the claim of power, stupidity, and/or denial through the years?

This comes to mind, this late-March 2014, as we read of the county officials ignoring hydrologists’ and army engineers’ warnings of the deadly hillside that fell, 4 days ago, on the town of Oso, WA. I am reminded of it, too, by the county officials and new neighbor here who continue to ignore concerns that the neighbor’s excavations may harm my easement and home. I am reminded further when I consider the “deaf ear” turned to the dangers of noise (such as constant television noise in hospitals or apartment buildings) just as, for decades, the dangers of air-particle pollution were denied.

Above all, I am reminded of the Cold War years, not only the crazed denial that more nukes would bring more security, but, worse, the all-permeating claim–enforced especially through “freudian” psychology and its popularizers (including the too beautifully made but inimical films The Snakepit and The Goddess, and that worst-of-the-worst pop-psych books, Generation of Vipers)–that, especially for women, blacks, and the powerless, If You Think Something’s Wrong, It Means That Something’s Wrong in You.

The greatest internal liberation of the 1960s, for many of us, and of the early 1970s for many women, was to see that No It Isn’t Wrong in Us–We Are Whole and the Problem Is the System.

Yes, the problems, as we learned, were and are in our political-social system(s). Part of what we–as persons, as writers, as woman or man or trans or other, and of any age–continue to learn, and each generation learns anew, is what–and how pervasive, and at how many levels–these systems are.

 

Copyright 2014 by Paula Friedman. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

A Writer’s Life

Wow work at home! A writer’s life, an editor’s life, oh hey. Sit around at home, take your good time, concentrate in silence, work! Oh  joy.

Take a work break skiing in the yard

xcskitracksinyard smllfile blusunnytrees a 10-minute drive to a mountain lake

yesweb72greenlakemntnkick back . . .

Problem is . .  .

  • construction noise next door
  • phone solicitors
  • running out of office supplies
  • billing clients
  • looking for clients
  • too many clients at once
  • taxes
  • getting everything done
  • feral dogs

But there are joys, especially when you finish, as I did yesterday, a final edit of another book!

timeandotherdetails

Author Readings in Berkeley, California, June 13 and 14

This longtime Bay Area activist will be in Berkeley, California, to read and sign copies of my recent novel, The Rescuer’s Path, on June 13 and June 14. Be great to see you at either reading; both include Q&A–discussion and socializing time.

*June 13, 2013, 7-9 pm, I’m reading in the Aquarian Minyan Author Series, St. John’s Presbyterian Church (Fireside Room) (this is a benefit for the Minyan, small donation suggested but not required. Light refreshments included).

* June 14, 2013, 12:15-1:15pm, Berkeley City College (in the Atrium), Center St. between Milvia and Shattuck Ave. (free).

The Rescuer’s Path is the tale of a Holocaust survivor’s daughter who, in Nixon-era Washington DC, aids an Arab-American antiwar leader suspected by the FBI in a lethal truck-bombing. It is the story of their budding trust and friendship, and of  their tragic love. And it recounts the search of their birth daughter, thirty years later in the shadows of 9/11, for the truth of her origins.

Ursula K. Le Guin calls this novel “exciting, physically vivid, and romantic.” Cheryl Strayed, acclaimed author of Wild, says “The Rescuer’s Path held me from the first page to the last.” Flannery O’Connor Award winner Carole L. Glickfeld says “I could not stop reading this novel–I love it.” Small Press Review says “The writing is lyrical and poetic, the characters vivid, and the story captivating.” Berkeley activist/songwriter Carol Denney says “This is the book you can’t put down, the people you will remember, the vibrant story we all share.”

And more: “These characters will break your heart and put it back together again,” notes Portland author Heather Sharfeddin. FirstMotherForum calls The Rescuer’s Path “a compelling tale with universal themes of separation and reconciliation.” It is a novel, notes Jewish Transcript (JT) News, “that asks us, How do we make peace, in ourselves and in the world?”

Come hear the reading, ask questions, and perhaps take home a signed copy of The Rescuer’s Path (2012, PVP, trade paperback $15.95).

Questions about the readings? Send as a comment here or visit me on facebook at Paula Friedman (same photo as author photo for this blog).

Best Short Fiction and Novellas

Today’s list contains an unpredetermined number of short stories, short-short/flash fiction, and novellas. They are not ranked here. (N) indicates a novella.

The Facts around the Helsinki Rocaccios (N). Yann Martel’s novella recounts a friendship “to death do us part,” and invokes a heroic creativity around this concept.

The Ambitious Guest. In this simple classic, Nathanial Hawthorne evokes all those existential questions that, for many other authors, require tomes. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, be it noted, was Hemingway’s attempt at same.

Terminal. In this very short story, Nadine Gordimer delves love’s confrontation with the impossible.

Tell Me a Riddle (N). Tillie Olsen explores a marriage, a time and its politics, the  interweaving of political struggle with ordinary human compassion, a dying woman’s search for meanings, and the real stuff of love. Read this.

I Stand Here Ironing. In these five pages, Olsen brings us into the heart of a mother raising a child against all odds–and learning what human freedom means.

The Long Way Out. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s eloquent “frame” story, we are immersed in a doctor’s account of a young mother’s inability to accept her husband’s death on the day he was to bring her home.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Ursula K. Le Guin’s tale of the citizens of a near-perfect society built on the sufferings of a single child invites comparison with Dostoevski’s Grand Inquisitor scene. Le Guin’s The Day before the Revolution and her The Shobies are no slouches, either.

The Metamorphosis (N). “One morning Gregor Samsa woke from a night of troubled dreams to discover he had been turned into a giant insect.” Thus begins the most famous and unforgettable of Franz Kafka’s uniquely voiced tales.

Toga Party. Yeah. Usually I don’t go for John Updike’s works, but this one is a classic. Like several others here, it invokes the matter of confronting death–in this case, in the world of suburbia. The story is very well done.

Tlon, Uqbar, [and I forget the other two names] (N). Jorge Borges’s narrator tracks the mysterious manuscripts and artifacts of Tlon [or is it Uqbar?] through the maze of their mental metamorphoses, in this elegant, illuminating exploration (presuming it exists). We may note that this story generated, among innumerable other works, Paula Friedman’s short story Urr. . . , in which a physics-defying spaceship finds (“finds”) the planet Urrrr. . ., “whatever it may be,” whose inhabitants have–and use–an arithmetic entirely (and so, dangerously) different from our own.

The Prayer. This very short story envelopes us in the three voices–everyday, fantasy, and prayer–of a socially isolated, imaginative teenager struggling to emerge from a world of Cold War post-Holocaust banalities. Author is Paula Friedman.

The following four long novellas are definitely classic “bests.”

Notes from Underground (N). Self-doubts,universal questions, frustrations, and sorrows threaten to drown this hero in wonderfully complex, sometimes self-referential, brilliant prose. Fyodor Dostoevsky.

White Nights (N). Doestoevsky tells of the lost love that obsesses and leads the narrator through the long, white Russian nights.

[Title forgotten. (N).] Par Lagerkvist. This is the tale of an overarching love–a simple account of a man and woman who meet, fall in love, overcome obstacles, have and love a baby more than one might have thought possible, and learn what love and loss can mean. A sort of “opposite” is Lagerkvist’s (title novella in) The Eternal Smile, with its millenia of multitudes of dead human souls recalling (through the concepts of) their lives during their quite separated historic and prehistoric epochs.

Heart of Darkness. You know–“Mistah Kurtz, he dead.” Joseph Conrad.

Very good. We now have 10+ “bests” by, mostly, well-known authors, and one or two of my own. And a  few extras. Enjoy them all; every one of these short (and longer) fictions is worth reading, and most are unforgettable. But what are your candidates for Best Short Story, Best Flash (short-short) Fiction, Best Novella? And if you like short-short science-fiction, check out the science fiction microstory contest on LinkedIn. Its anthology will come out this winter.

Single Mother, Birth Mother–Share Your Experience

I am both the reunited first mother of my older son and the former Welfare mother of my younger son. Reading recently of the hardships confronting a new single mother, I remember how hard it is, the decision we each confront to raise or yield our beloved newborns. I know how the loss of our babies to adoption tears us apart, yet how, alternatively, social oppressions may crush upon our children, to whatever extent we cannot hold oppression off, if we raise our kids alone.

Halfway through my novel The Rescuer’s Path, a middle-aged woman who had relinquished her baby to adoption long before, and the twenty-something woman who’d been that baby, struggle through hope and loss toward reunion. Their thoughts and fear, hope and joy reflect the hole in time, the sense of not-there–of a would-have-been world–that pervades adoption. I’ve written about this before–in the online collection Poems of Adoption, in my “Reunion” essay in the anthology Touched by Adoption (2000, Green River), and elsewhere.

But only twice did my poetry or prose evoke what it is to raise a child alone, on Welfare, with no social supports. First, in “You!”–a brutally honest poem, winner of a 2005 Oregon State Poetry Association Award; second, in a nearly published memoir, The Baby Book.

If you have lived the experience, you know. Even to glance into blogs, fb sites, listserves, or printed books that deal with mothers trying to raise whole a newborn alone, or to let go a beautiful new child into another family’s world–reopens this never-healed wound. You will remember, you will recall. You will recall the love, the fear for this miracle child, the vulnerability.

If you have been/are such a mother, please post (up to 100 words). We all need to hear these accounts, to share what we have felt and learned.

Deering the Unknown, Blogging the Books

After reading at the warm and wondrous Wy’East Book Shoppe in Welches (Oregon) on Mount Hood last weekend, I started driving home in the dusk and hit a deer. I am fine, the car will be fine, and the deer–? Dunno; it’s mountain lion territory there. Meanwhile, today the elegant Indies Unlimited brought out its sneak peek of The Rescuer’s Path, my recent novel that recounts both the 1971 love affair between a Holocaust survivor’s daughter and a fugitive Arab-American antiwar activist suspected of the bombing of an army truck, and the 2001 search of their birth daughter for the truth of her origins–  http://wp.me/p1WnN1-4Yc

Reading and Booksigning in Welches, on Mount Hood, June 15

Come join us for my reading from The Rescuer’s Path in Welches, OR, June 15, 2012, 7:30 pm, Wy’East Book Shoppe and Art Gallery, in the woodsy mall at Highway 26 one block west of the Welches traffic light.

This is a wonderful, friendly, welcoming, and well-stocked bookstore that also often features superb pieces by local arts and crafts persons.

The Rescuer’s Path is the tale of a Holocaust survivor’s daughter who, in Nixon-era Washington DC, finds, aids, and comes to love a half-Arab antiwar leader suspected by the FBI in a lethal truck-bombing. It is the story of their tragic love and of the search by their birth daughter, amid the shadows of 9/11, for the truth of her origins.

Ursula K. Le Guin calls this novel “exciting, physically vivid, and romantic.” Acclaimed novelist Cheryl Strayed says “The Rescuer’s Path held me from the first page to the last.” Flannery O’Connor Award–winner Carole L. Glickfeld says “I could not stop reading this novel–I love it.” Small Press Review says “The writing is lyrical and poetic, the characters vivid, and the story captivating.” FirstMotherForum calls The Rescuer’s Path “a compelling story with universal themes of love and loss, separation and reconciliation.”

“These characters will break your heart and put it back together again,” notes Portland author Heather Sharfeddin. Berkeley activist/songwriter Carol Denney says “This is the book you can’t put down, the people you will remember, the vibrant story we all share.”  This novel demands we ask, notes the Jewish Transcript (JT) News, “How do we make peace, in ourselves and in the world?”

Come hear the reading, ask questions of the author, and perhaps purchase a signed copy of The Rescuer’s Path (2012, Plain View, $15.95).

Questions about this event? For more information: http://www.wyeastonline.com/event/meet-author-book-signing-paula-freidman-author-rescuers-path