Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"A Small, Good Thing"

In the August 2009 Index, Harper's reported that 94% of the world's blogs have not been updated in the past 4 months. That makes me a casualty of statistics, a condition I try at all times to avoid.

To remedy the effect, I'd offer Raymond Carver's "A Small Good Thing." This little tale is one of the best of Carver's 1983 collection Cathedral. (Many of the stories are similarly compelling; none so poignant). I had somehow forgotten the ending until I reread it this summer in the Bozeman library, where I was suprised to be crying. ("Why in Montana? I thought, "Why in the library?") (spoiler) Carver's plot and bare style at first distract from the growing hunger that the two characters experience, but he reckons their loss deeply in the final sentences. The baker's bread responds to their grief by substituting for their's son body, as a funereal meal or even mourners at a wake. Presence in spite of absence. Presence that replaces absence. Archetypal stuff here. (end of spoiler).

If you enjoy the piece, you might also watch Robert Altman's adaptation in Shortcuts, a long-winded all-star film. Lyle Lovett, of all God's critters, plays the infamous baker.

In other thoughts, I'm imagining a series on weddings, a cultural site--event!--never lacking in food and hospitality. More soon.