January 22nd, 2012

Interesting words

"Proud, cruel, everchanging and ephemeral city, to whom we came once when our hearts were high, our blood passionate and hot, our brain a particle of fire: infinite and mutable city, mercurial city, strange citadel of million-visaged time -- O! endless river and eternal rock, in which the forms of life came, passed and changed intolerably before us, and to which we came, as every youth has come, with such enormous madness, and with so mad a hope -- for what? And what is left now of all our madness, hunger and desire? What have you given, incredible mirage of all our million shining hopes, to those who wanted to possess you wholly to your ultimate designs, your final sources, from whom you took the strength, the passion, and the innocence of youth? Gigantic city, we have taken nothing -- not even a handful of your trampled dust -- we have made no image on your iron breast and left not even the print of a heel upon your stony-hearted pavements. The possession of all things, even the air we breathed, was held from us, and the river of time and life flowed through the grasp of our hands forever, and we held nothing for our hunger and desire except the proud and trembling moments, one by one."
Thomas Wolfe

577 - some passings

I got word of three passings of very different types today. One was the death last week of Reginald Hill, the British author of the Dalziel and Pascoe series of novels. He is one of my favorite writers, and I have followed his work for years. Very sad to see him go. The big national death today was that of Joe Paterno, the 85 year old winningest coach ever from Penn State. He was under the spotlight from the child sex scandal in his coaching staff, so the end of his long career has been damaged badly. Some think he died of a broken heart. Also in the news today is the death of the woman who was chairman of the UW English Department during my years there in the seventies. Reading her obituary reminded me how carefully the truth can be disguised in eulogistic prose. My feelings about her are not in synchronicity with the world, apparently. For good reasons, too. And just a few minutes ago I found out on a facebook post that one of my students from the early years at the Salt Mine died of cancer this weekend, Chris Kaska. For thirty years his blue American Literature book was sitting on a shelf in my room, the letters K-A-S-K-A proclaiming his time in my class. I am sorry to hear about his passing.