Mar. 27, 2009

Meditation on Ruin

by Jay Hopler

It's not the lost lover that brings us to ruin, or the barroom brawl,
           or the con game gone bad, or the beating
Taken in the alleyway. But the lost car keys,
The broken shoelace,
The overcharge at the gas pump
Which we broach without comment — these are the things that
           eat away at life, these constant vibrations
In the web of the unremarkable.

The death of a father — the death of the mother —
The sudden loss shocks the living flesh alive! But the broken
           pair of glasses,
The tear in the trousers,
These begin an ache behind the eyes.
And it's this ache to which we will ourselves
Oblivious. We are oblivious. Then, one morning—there's a
crack in the water glass
—we wake to find ourselves undone.

"Meditation on Ruin" by Jay Hopler from Green Squall. © Yale University Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of screenwriter and novelist Budd Schulberg, (books by this author) born in New York City (1914). His father was a movie producer, and Budd became a screenwriter. He wrote two novels: What Makes Sammy Run? (1941) and The Harder They Fall (1947). His screenplay for On the Waterfront (1954) won an Academy Award.

He said: "I like all forms of writing, from articles to motion pictures, but of them all I prefer the novel. In a day of increasing taboos, I think it may represent the final redoubt of a truly free enterprise. I like the feeling that it is up to me, that make or break, it is all mine."

It's the birthday of the filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, born in Knoxville, Tennessee (1963). He grew up in South Bay, Los Angeles, near the airport. He was diagnosed as hyperactive as a kid, and the only things that calmed him down were comic books and movies. So his mother let him watch whatever movies he wanted.

He scored above 150 on an IQ test in high school, but he hated school so much that he dropped out after ninth grade. He got a job as an usher at a porn house, and in his spare time, he wrote screenplays of movies he'd already seen from memory. Instead of going to film school, Tarantino got a job at video rental store. He and his co-workers watched movies all day at work and discussed them. And eventually, because he knew someone who knew someone else who knew Harvey Keitel, Tarantino got to make his first movie, Reservoir Dogs (1992), about a group of bank robbers trying to figure out who set them up. He followed it up with Pulp Fiction (1994).

It's the birthday of the novelist Julia Alvarez, born in New York City (1950). She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where her father was part of the political underground during the regime of the dictator Rafael Trujillo. When Alvarez was 10 years old, her family had to flee the country because her father was implicated in a plot to overthrow Trujillo. But Alvarez was just excited to go back to New York, which she thought would be a magical city, with snow and skyscrapers.

But she found that she didn't speak English as well as she thought she did, and the other children made fun of her. She was miserable until one day her teacher gave her a writing assignment. She said that once she started to write, "magic happened in my life." She wrote about the Dominican Republic, and she hasn't stopped since. She is the author of the novels How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) and In the Time of the Butterflies (1994), and the poetry collection The Woman I Kept to Myself (2004).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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