Friday, July 16, 2010

The History of Men's Wishes

Day 158 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project and the local men's history book club is reading Hoboes: Bindlestiffs, Fruit Tramps, and the Harvesting of the West, by Mark Wyman, because they are history buffs, and this is great history! I've mentioned the book here before, because Wyman is a local historian and author, but I mention it again because one of the book club members came into Babbitt's yesterday, hoping for it. Hoping perhaps the boss, who is in the local men's history book club, might have ordered in bulk, at a discount, but no..... We don't really do that.

This fellow can't make this month's meeting, but he wants to read the book anyway. "Well, after the meeting, a few copies will probably come in," I suggested, knowing these guys are good about clearing their shelves, making room for more, sharing with the less affluent but just as avid readers.

"Then I've got to be reading the next book!" he said.

I've finished The Wishbones, by Tom Perrotta, and I loved it. In fact, in addition to making me laugh, it made me cry, unexpectedly. It is subtle and real. I love books like that, especially if they are also hilarious. It taught me a lot about men's wishes, and that tendency to hang back and be boys, man-boys, forever. How, inside a man-boy, even a man-boy with a desire to be a rock star, there can be a sensitive, goofy, aware, mistake-making real man.

You know, I am easily pleased. Sort of like the dead duchess in "My Last Duchess." Sigh.... I will read anything, and I am open to the unexpected. I have set books aside...to read later...but the only book I never got back to that a bunch of people told me was wonderful was The Lost Father, by Mona Simpson. I'm sorry, Mona. Maybe I should give it another try. But I don't want to.

Other than that, though, I am able to set aside judgement, for the most part, even if what I am reading isn't grabbing me. Oh, dear, Julie, I have set aside Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome. I know I will pick it up again, on vacation. I am taking it with me to water. Along with Barbara Pym, just in case.

Speaking of the duke who was speaking of his last duchess, while preparing to marry the next, in the mall today (where I had gone for Beer Nuts treats, including Insane Grain, to take to an upcoming poetry reading, coming up tomorrow, in fact, in a gallery in Arlington Heights, Illinois), and waiting for my daughter and her friend, who were looking for shorts and did not find any, I saw a man reading The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert A. Caro. More men's history. Not unexpectedly about power. And the wish for it.

I observed him, imagined him waiting for his wife to shop, as might a character in The Wishbones, got interrupted in my imaginary history of this stranger in a St. Louis Cardinals shirt by a call from my daughter in a dressing room, and suddenly noticed he was up and walking ahead of his pregnant wife, who had no shopping bags. Where had she come from? He was walking very fast, and ahead and away from her. That was sad, until I realized she had nothing to do with him. Her real husband appeared. And the power broker was power walking the mall.

And now, for some odd reason, I offer "Opal Innocence," a poem that seems unlikely to be published anywhere else but here, and seems both pertinent and off topic.

Opal Innocence

It keeps on blooming in the big green pot:
pink bonnet, fat white lip, yellow eye.

An ugly baby
if that’s what you pictured in the stroller

of line two. I can’t pretend
this is not a poem. We all know it is

unwise to hang on too long
to innocence. It’s a kind of arrested development

say fathers and psychologists
(also a favorite TV show, cancelled—

too smart, too quirky—
but we have it on DVD, because, yes!—

I grew up, my reproductive organs functioned,
and I have a family that watches TV….

Remember the ugly baby
episode on Seinfeld, the show about nothing?

Now, be kind. Consider the poem’s parenthetical emptiness
and what it might possibly mean.)

1 comment:

seana said...

It's funny, but I just came across Hoboes myself a few days ago, and am thinking I'm going to need to read it, as it fits in with a longer fictional piece I'm writing rather perfectly.

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