Saturday, January 16, 2010

All Over but the Shoutin'

I am reading All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg, published in 1997. Again, I read things when I get around to it, when they are chosen by my book group, when something compels me to read a particular book at a particular time. Or to re-read it. Right now I am struck by this passage about the Korean War:

The dead waved from the ditches in Korea. The arms of the soldiers reached out from bodies half in, half out of the frozen mud, as if begging for help even after their hearts had cooled and the ice had glazed their eyes. They had been shot to rags by machine guns and frozen by a subzero wind, leaving olive-drab statues in the killing, numbing cold in the mountains in the north.

I read this to my husband while he was shaving, before he set off for volleyball practice (he's the coach), because it relates to his paintings. He paints bodies or portions of bodies in agony (sometimes indistinguishable from ecstasy) and often emerging from water or mud. He understood immediately and said he'd read about the terrible conditions and cold of Korea during that war.

This, like The Tender Bar, which we also read for my book group, is a memoir by a man with a strong and admirable mother and a troubled and troubling father. Again, writers coping with their fathers, something I've been told I have to do if I'm a writer, and something I just keep avoiding. I notice that both these memoirists are honoring their mothers as they cope with their fathers, a pattern I might of course repeat.

We read The Great Gatsby, at my suggestion, after The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer, because the locale is the same, and the consequences of "careless people." I love the intersections of fiction and nonfiction, past and present.

So this passage grapples with that vision, that experience of war. My husband's paintings tend to grapple with his sense of loss, alienation, the violence of being ripped from the mother country. He is painting hands right now, and music is being composed and a dance choreographed in response to his hand paintings, to be performed in early April at Columbus Dance Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. More about that as it comes up.

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