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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A greeting from the book--

Mary Boxley Bullington, "Red Tyger-Cat." Collage
of 3 acrylic collographs of the same collage on paper
(drawing in black gesso) 22 1/4" x 27."

See that little lady with her arms up, standing on a circus barrel marked with a star? Mary Boxley Bullington says that's me. I very much enjoyed seeing her work while I was in Roanoke for MALIA's spring meeting. And when I came home, I found a marvelous letter about A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage from a writer I first read in high school, someone I still admire. It's a wonderful thing to admire and be challenged by a book when 16 or 17, and then to receive such a precious letter from the writer many years later. He mentioned a particular passage. For today, I thought that I would just offer those words as a little greeting from my new book.

At this point in the tale (p. 101), Pip has run away from the orphanage. After adventure and misadventure riding the rails, he has found a resting place with a sort of family. In this paragraph, they are all at a meeting with Pip's teacher, who is a contrast to a prior one. Pip has been thinking about Tecumseh and the Red Sticks and the Creek War just before this passage; he has a passion for history. "Mrs. Shook" is Clemmie, "the big-bellied girl."

Here it is:

Pip wondered what she meant by "Mrs. Shook" for a moment; then the voices blurred and lapped at the edge of his consciousness. He was still thinking about the Red Sticks, but he smiled as he watched them chat, not because he was remembering the bad meeting of the year past and comparing it to this--when he put something aside, he put it aside completely--but because he felt suddenly content. Another boy might have been ashamed of the Countess or the retired trainman or even of the big-bellied girl, but the thought never occurred to him. The room brightened as if the sun had suddenly fallen a great deal closer to the earth, and the figures became indistinct in the light. Years later, he could remember almost nothing of that half hour except the Red Sticks, pounding along the riverbank, and how the teacher had touched him as if anointing him for a task.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.