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I have a friend who is preparing for a green burial for his parents when they pass. I have a sister who is growing shorter. I have a pooch; she no longer runs with abandon whenever the ball is tossed over her head.
I have some horseshoes that are remarkably averse to hugging the pin. I have a bone bruise on my foot that has me limping like a tired war veteran. I have a friend who stares out from over his straggly beard through hollow eyes as he scans his world, one without a home for him. I have a bed that in the evening is like heaven.
Currently my read is a book of personal recollections on Korea, Vietnam, the wars of the holy lands and the nature of religious values. The writing and characters are like a lovely stone set in a garish baroque ring or pendant. The author employs lavish and dramatically twisted religious testimony in the service of fabulous word pictures. For me this is a challenge. There are those called “fallen-away catholics”, there are agostics and then the atheists. Call me antagonistic since I hold religions and their prostate yet often petulant, preening believers in low esteem. However unloving I am towards these tribes, however re-stimulated I become by stories of oughts and shoulds and the associated pious parables and fatwas, I cannot diminish the impact of powerful writing. James Carrol has me in the grips of Prince of Peace despite my prejudices toward the saints and sinners scenery that his words inhabit.
How did I choose this tome anyway? In fact the mechanical process is simple and repeatable. Driving to Rick’s Recycled Books I prowl the dingy shelves arbitrarily pulling six or ten paperbacks from the shelves. Enough to tax the capacity of a plastic shopping bag for a princely sum of 25 or 30 dollars. The less mechanical, more mysterious aspect of the book buying process is the interesting part. Bindings are scanned in the dim and flickering florescent light. Those on the top and two bottom shelves are ignored since the body will not respond to commands to go there. Imagine the treasures ignored due to the obtuse calculus of the age of shoppers and the whimsy of the shelving clerk! As my eyes stumble across the shelves volumes seem less to be chosen but more to call out from their dust encrusted resting place. Maybe it’s the author. If I chose based on the author’s name that would be a good reason; it would suggest a reasoned, well informed reader was directing my eyes and fingers but alas, its not usually the case. It could as easily be the typeface or, not infrequently it is some strange reflected connection drawing me despite being thoroughly dis-connected to the actual book.
The current James Carrol read was plucked from its shelf because I was stimulated to remember the obscure punk rocker and poet Jim Carrol. Saw him once on stage in the bowels of Scorgie’s. I knew there was an obscure religious connection to this dude (sure enough a website devoted to him is catholicboy.com) so my fingers pulled it down and the pages scanned. Even after recognizing the distinction between the two authors my brain’s version of the controls of a Jacquard loom continued to click into some weird certainty and the book tumbled into my arms.
It’s the kind of book that requires a quiet space. Otherwise, if my brain is simultaneously parsing the words while shutting out random sounds or video voice-overs from across the room it doesn’t go well. The remarkable words and the bone rattling images of a bloody retreat across the Han River are diminished. This is in deep contrast to my last book, Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. How I worked to close the back cover on that one! Small town setting, small minded characters and small-bore ideas. What was I thinking?

Life presents many mysteries, right?