All Of The Men Were Talking About Sports And All Of The Women Were Talking About Weddings.

I went to Maine this weekend to visit my mother up in Biddeford, a small town along the coast. I’m going to spend over a week with family at Thanksgiving but she still wanted me to come up and have a bit of whiskey in the kitchen with her like we do sometimes and just talk. The enormous storm came up Saturday, and we sat it out, watching some television. She has satellite, and as I clicked through the channels I thought of how my friend Anston said last weekend, at the bar where we went with some dancers who were visiting Northampton, All of the men were talking about sports and all of the women were talking about weddings.

You could see it in the alternating television shows. Shows about sports, shows about weddings.

The only other thing was shows about the supernatural. Which it seemed to me covered sports and weddings.

Sometimes when I think about being a writer in these times it just feels like I’m taking these things that I spend so much time on and dropping them over the wall at a zoo that happens to be on fire. I imagine myself as some sort of anonymous functionary in a city like DC in this particular mental image, like the factory novelists in North Korea who write novels for the workers, with the wall being something like the one around the emu cage there, and I watch as the books are trampled by stampeding and frightened animals and people.

That’s sort of what it looks like when I watch the news, or read it, or listen to it in the car like I did on the way up to Maine–a radio show with media talking heads talking about media talking heads and their influence on the election, and if it was a good or bad thing. There was a lot of disingenuous breast-beating and hair-tearing, we’re so bad, thank you for listening, more later. Each time I leave the little valley in Massachusetts where I live, there’s some world out there that’s by degrees more dangerous and angrier and less understanding than it was three minutes ago because of something I can’t see happening. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll walk outside and find the whole thing burning, like the scene from Heroes, where the guy who can fly is captured by a telepath who can make his nightmares seem real. He walks through a door and finds himself on the roof of a building in a burning city, and turns a body over, and it’s himself, his face burned. I feel like my world is in the hands of a telepath who doesn’t like me or people like me. And that there are choices ahead, choices I don’t really want to make or know about, and I might not even get to make them.

I don’t even really like Heroes. I think it’s kind of like some terrible cross of Escape To Witch Mountain and Mean Girls.

Why are you watching this, my mother asked me. She peered at the screen with the burning city.

I’m trying to understand why people like it, I told her.

It seems like it goes on forever, she said.

It’s because they’re running the episodes back to back, I said. But you’re right.


  1. I was in Portland, ME, this past weekend! I could’ve been stalking you. Sigh.

    Sounds like you have a nice relationship with your mother.

    I’m a comic geek so I like Heroes. The pacing of that show is horrible, though, and only my die-hard obsession with comic book heroes keeps me watching sometimes.

  2. I think the sports thing is a fall-back, so there’s no embarrassing silences. Its easy, common ground. “See the game? “yeah (insert name here) sucked” and so on…In the UK its the weather, they talk about it a lot..With the wedding thing, well women are just weird, right?

  3. shadows: We could also have just gotten a beer. Or you could have stalked me while we were having beers.

    kevmoore: Don’t take this the wrong way but what I’m getting at is that I think people with fallbacks have things in their uneasy silences that they should probably talk about. Like if we should allow the dollar to drop 34% of its value in 5 years, if we should impeach, if we should take action on climate change, and who’s paying for all the beer.

    You know.

    I mean, when you’re about to die, do you want to look back and remember a life spent talking in code and avoiding real conversations?

  4. (sigh)


    you know, everytime I think of all those things I wonder “what are we to do?”

    lets see if I can make this clear…


    is that what we can’t find in all the chatter?

    the rogue artists/writers that help lead the charge. or is the chatter just too loud these days?

    what are we to do.

  5. “There was a lot of disingenuous breast-beating and hair-tearing, we’re so bad, thank you for listening, more later.”

    It’s like a postcard sent from my wedding day.

  6. I’ve been thinking about your post on football and weddings since I first read it on Tuesday. Let’s see if I can encapsulate my thoughts and not go on and on; it’s your blog, after all.

    You are right, people are “frightened.” And broadcast media often panders to their fears.

    People are also hungry — hungry to know, to be given permission to speak, to participate, to have their fears acknowledged and allayed. Their watching football, weddings, “Stars on Ice,” and “America’s Top Model” (thank you, unicorns) are akin to people eating Doritos: it’s easy, it gives them the sensation of feeding their hunger, even though they’re never nourished.

    When I was in your workshop at Wesleyan on fiction writing, I was so moved by your anecdote about yourself as an 11- or 12-year old reader, looking for and finding books that spoke to you. I thought of myself as a young reader and what books offered me, and what they continue to offer me (including your novel Edinburgh). Would it be possible to live without books, to continually find and be myself? No.

    Sometimes when I have a bad hour of teaching — when my students are listless and unengaged and when I become irritable and hopeless in response to their mood — I’m sometimes afraid to teach the next class. But I have to teach; that’s why I am there. So I say to myself, to get over my despair, “Who am I teaching to today?” Surely, there is one or two students in my class, and I may not know who they are, who yearn for the kind of knowledge that talking about books, ideas, and writing can offer them. They may not say that to me, and I may never know who they are (although I have my suspicions), but I believe they are there. I was that kind of student, that kind of reader, and I still am. We exist. And I also believe that there are students and readers out there who are still defended against hard truths about themselves and the world, but who may become open to them in time.

    And so you keep going.

    I am really looking forward to the next story or novel of yours that I get to read.

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