Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Mysteries

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

OK, so it’s late. And I’ve been spent way too much time today following the news from Connecticut. And I’ve scrolled down the Facebook feed and read one too many comments along the lines of “guns don’t kill people, people do” or “why must we exploit this tragedy by talking about guns?” And it was probably a mistake to read in the Times the latest from Ross Douthat, with whom I’ve taken issue before.

But really.

Douthat has taken upon himself to understand the tragedy for us. Turns out it’s a matter of evil and suffering. Which are mysteries. He cites The Brothers Karamazov (a novel which, you’ll be glad to learn, is “famous”). He thinks that Ivan Karamazov might actually have a point when he accepts “that the Christian story of free will leading to suffering and then eventually redemption might be true, but rejects its Author anyway, on the grounds that the price of our freedom is too high.” (The price of freedom, in this case, seems to be 20 dead children.) He reminds us, at this festive season, that behind the Christmas story lie “[t]he rage of Herod” and “the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave. The cross looms behind the stable — the shadow of violence, agony and death.” And these great and awful mysteries, he’s willing to allow, test our faith.

The last time I took issue with Douthat, I noted the “circularity” of his mind-set, the way “a certain type of mind veers helplessly towards systems—self-enclosed, self-perpetuating systems.” And the system is on full display here. He seems quite pleased that he has come to this understanding for us, that he has been able to construct from the horror his tone poem on the mystery of evil.

And I’m willing to believe the thing is mysterious. It’s occurred to me more than once today that we should understand these tragedies better by now. The pattern is familiar. We should have some way of analyzing it, of being able to name the pathologies that produce these acts if not to prevent them from happening. But, no matter how many times they happen, something about them remains opaque.

So, yes, there are mysteries here, but cosmic they’re not.

Because there are facts. The rate of gun deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. (9.0) makes us twelfth in the world, ahead of South Africa but behind Montenegro. Our murder rate (4.2) is comfortably small compared to Brazil (21.0) or, God forbid, Honduras (91.6). But it’s several times the rate of other developed democracies: France (1.1), Italy (0.9), Japan (0.3). We’re also behind Morocco (1.4), Lebanon (2.2), and Afghanistan (2.4).

The most obvious reason for this is the unrestricted availability of guns. There are more than 200 million privately owned guns in America, and many of them are capable of such rapid, repeated deadly force as most of us, short of an alien invasion, will never need. So that’s part of it. And maybe, too, we should consider the political climate of the past several years in which the collectivist impulse was consistently construed as something the other guy was trying to take from you. Along with your guns.

But whatever. All those things can be discussed. Indeed they need to be discussed. And to shrug Friday’s tragedy off as part of God’s unfathomable ways is, to quote myself again, “another example of what [religion] can sometimes do to your moral sense.”

Self-Publishing Journal #5: (Non-)Revision

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

The other day I added a cover photo to the Traveler’s Companion Facebook page. It’s taken from a sheet of paper I discovered in my files when I moved last month. Fragile and water-stained and ready to tear along its folds, it’s a pale-blue xeroxed flyer from Good Friday Mass at Saint Mark’s in Venice, the English version: “Good Friday is to tell us that ‘Christ made himself nothing’ and ‘became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.’ This is the core of today’s liturgical mystery.”

On the back of the flyer, in cramped blue writing, is the first draft of the scene which introduces Antonio in Chapter 6. I don’t have any memory of actually writing it. I don’t even know if I wrote it in Venice or in Vienna, where I spent Easter. Romantically, I’d like to think I wrote it in a café on some hidden campo, a quarto of wine in front of me and the April sun picking out the blue ink on the blue page. But who knows.

In the part I cropped for the photo (click on the thumbnail to see it), you can more or less make out a scene that, in the published version, reads like this:

Taking out a pack of cigarettes, he offers me one.

“No thank you.”

“You do not smoke?”

“Bad for your health,” I smile.

He shrugs. “When the Americans drop their bombs, I think it will not matter.” He offers Philip a cigarette, is refused, then lights one up himself. “Allora, what do we eat?” And he begins to explain the menu to us.

When we’ve ordered, Philip goes off to the restroom, leaving Antonio and me in an uncomfortable silence. Antonio gazes off to his left, smoking pensively. He seems to be trying to forget I’m there. Just as I’ve made up my mind to say something, he says, “You are from New York?”

“Boston.”

“Ah, yes. ‘Please come to Boston.’” And he lapses into silence again.

“You speak very good English,” I offer.

He smiles briefly. “Well, you see I am always with Americans.”

“How do you know Philip?”

“He was here at Carnival. He talked to me at church.” The subject seems not to interest him. “And you?” he asks suddenly.

“I beg your pardon.”

“How do you know Philip?”

“We met in Paris. He’s friends with a girl I’m traveling with.”

“A girl you are traveling with…” he murmurs. “Bene.”

And now he is silent again, so I ask, “Why does your mother want you to be a priest?”

Again the brief sarcastic smile. “Because I speak English too well. Ah, here is your friend.”

What strikes me now is how close this is to the scene I originally sketched. It’s present tense, not past, Richard’s name has been changed, and Antonio’s English is a little worse. The dialogue, particularly around the cigarettes, is handled more fluidly. But otherwise my first take on the scene matches the final one.

This isn’t true throughout the novel. For a long time the first line of the novel was “My sister Judith is a scientist.” Now it’s “Snow sifts by my bedroom window.” And this was part of a fairly extensive rewrite of the opening scenes. (Every revision entails some loss. I miss the way the old first line signaled that Judith would be central to the novel despite her disappearance for large stretches of it.) Most of the final third of the novel went through pretty drastic rewrites, and not much in between escaped rethinking, revision, cutting, expansion, reimagining. If such things interest you, here is a handout I prepared for a creative writing class I taught, which shows three versions of the scene between Mark and his father in Chapter 1.

So if there’s any lesson to be taken from the Antonio scene, it’s not “first thoughts, best thoughts.” Like most writers, I’d be pretty horrified if some of my first thoughts saw the light of day. But, also like most writers, I know the experience of getting it right the first time. (I hope we agree I got it right.) Maybe it’s a mystery, how you can sit down at a café, on a train, in a hotel room, and scribble out a scene that will remain intact while everything around it changes and changes again, even, as in this case, when the stuff around it didn’t exist at the time you were writing.

Or maybe it’s more straightforward than that. The scene, after all, is fairly utilitarian. It introduces one of the novel’s central characters, and what you mostly want to do—instinctively want to do—is make the reader want to know more about that character. So you add intrigue. There’s intrigue in Antonio’s mix of rudeness and hospitality (clearer in the rest of the scene) and, of course, in his line about knowing English too well. You can worry about the logic of this. Would Antonio really drop such a big hint about his personal troubles to a stranger? Is he being so approach-avoidance with Mark because he’s already, within a few minutes of meeting him, attracted? But these things are less important than the psychic snapshot you get. From these sketched outlines the character of Antonio expands. He’s written here in small.

Or maybe it’s love. It’s a dirty secret of writers that sometimes we love our characters. It’s not always predictable which characters you will love, though it probably helps to love a love interest. As I say, I don’t remember writing the scene, but it’s quite possible that, in that moment, a character who was until then somewhat notional—the young Italian love interest—suddenly sprang into confounding (Mark’s word) life. Such moments you preserve.

Self-Publishing Journal #4: Like Me!

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

There is now a Facebook page for THE TRAVELER’S COMPANION. So the novel now has a presence on social media! I’ve also, for the time being, restricted sales of the book to Amazon, meaning I’ve temporarily taken it off Smashwords. I don’t know how interesting the reasons for this are to anyone who isn’t thinking of self-publishing. If you’re curious, e-mail me. But the good news is that pretty much anyone can read a Kindle e-book since, if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a Kindle app for your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet! Thanks to those who’ve bought the book already. I hope you enjoy it. And feel free to post comments on the new Facebook page!

Self-Publishing Journal #3: Published!

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Only about a week after my original target date, I’ve published THE TRAVELER’S COMPANION e-book. It’s available now at two sites: Amazon and Smashwords. If everything goes according to plan, Smashwords will also distribute it to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony. Both Smashwords and Amazon will let you read a sample before you commit yourself. (I particularly like the line the Amazon sample ends on: “The russet eyes are fixed on mine. ‘Just a drink? Where’s the harm in that?'”)

Smashwords offers the book in various formats. You can download it for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad, or if you’re like my many friends who have so far resisted e-readers, you can download it in Epub format, download Adobe Digital Editions for free, and read the book right on your computer.

At all events, I hope you do buy the book and enjoy it. Feel free to let me know what you think. And if you really like it, write an Amazon review!

Self-Publishing Journal #2: Covered

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

It’s been forever (well, six weeks) since Self-Publishing Journal #1, and the result is that we’re now within 10 days of Launch Date. (Oct. 20th! Gear up your e-readers!) And so, finally, the cover!

This is Bruce Goldstone’s lovely, funny, and alluring cover for my novel The Traveler’s Companion. And I suppose we have to say “cover,” in quotes, since e-books don’t really have covers, per se. But if all goes according to plan you’ll be able to click on this image on Amazon or Smashwords and purchase a copy in less than two weeks.

Stay tuned!

Self-Publishing Journal #1: Cover Me

Monday, August 27th, 2012

As I wrote in my last update, I’ve been thinking about self-publishing my first novel, THE TRAVELER’S COMPANION. This is partially in celebration of having finished (or just about finished) my second novel, but also because I’m fond of it and would like it to be out there, and this seems like a fun way to do it.

Right now I’m thinking of an e-book, but even e-books need covers, so I asked Bruce Goldstone to design one for me. Bruce works with Blue Coyote and designed the haunting postcard for PARADISE and the delightful one for NANCE O’NEIL.

Bruce gave me four beautiful sketches to choose from, which made choice difficult since they were all so alluring. But I do believe the one I chose was the best fit for the book and the audience, and when Bruce is done working on it, I’ll share that one, too.

Meanwhile, you can click on the thumbnails to see two of the other sketches.

Oh, and I’ve also been updating my website, so take a look around while you’re here…

Binaries

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

In just a few weeks, I’ll be facing a cohort of new students who will be tasked to learn “writing the essay” from me. Here’s an early lesson for them: Tell me, future students, what’s wrong with the following statement: “And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” If you guessed that this Paul Ryan quote, which appears in two of yesterday’s opinion articles in the Times, is a meaningless and therefore useless binary, then you’ve got a step up on most of your fellow students. You also appear to have a step up on many of your fellow Americans—and, disturbingly, on one of our candidates for Vice President.

One of the problems with binaries is that words have a tendency not to stay put. (“They shuffle, they change,” says Virginia Woolf.) What do you mean by individualism? The Marlboro Man? Lady Gaga? Charles Lindbergh? Mussolini? Each a fair prototype of a different kind of individualism. By collectivism do you have in mind the Politburo? Or Chinese re-education camps? Or the public garden on Avenue B? Or the evangelical church on Avenue A? Or maybe, since individualism is often yoked to the pioneer spirit, the wagon train? Mormons? Here’s the good news: you don’t have to choose. You can (and probably should) mean all these things. But the fact that you don’t have to choose means you have to complicate your thinking.

You, future student, will try to slip this responsibility. When faced with complicating the individualism/collectivism binary you will say, “It’s both.” Or you will say, “You need to strike a balance.” And I will try to force you to describe what that balance might look like or, in the words of one of my colleagues, “what makes striking that balance hard.”

One of the things that can make Obama seem at times ill-suited to his job is that his mind seems instinctively to work that way. He’s interested in complexity. For this he gets accused of being professorial by those who, let’s say, prefer to keep it simple. In particular, he often gets himself in trouble when he tries to describe what the individual/collective balance might look like. In 2008 Joe the Plumber became fleetingly famous objecting to something Obama said about “spreading the wealth around,” though this was not an unreasonable way of addressing the fact that, for the last few decades, the upper percentiles of earners have been claiming a larger and larger share of the nation’s wealth. This year the “I built that” signs at Romney rallies are responding to Obama’s grammatically maladroit but factually correct assertion that no small business owner creates that business entirely on his or her own, without help from the collective. (The fact that Obama gave one of his more eloquent descriptions of the individual/collective dynamic while Paul Ryan sat in the audience looking bitch-slapped is adding some dramatic backstory to the race.)

Now, future student, you will bring your essay into conference with me, feeling very proud of it. And I’ll start raising objections: “You’ve said that this binary is meaningless and useless. But doesn’t that depend on what you mean by meaning and use?” Because of course Ryan’s statement is not actually meaningless. It may not have much meaning for policy prescription, but it has meaning as narrative. The very way it’s phrased, the sense of an epic battle fought for the highest of stakes, reveals its essentially narrative intent.

We’re all cynical handicappers of the horse race these days, and we think we know that word “narrative.” We know the importance of seizing the narrative, creating it, running it. But narratives are important for more than that. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion famously said. Stories create meaning, and that mysterious phrase—to create meaning—is the opposite of cynicism. It even hints at the basis of an ethical system, the task of creating meaning.

This is the reason, I think, that Ryan is often described as, and indeed appears to be, sincere, honorable, likeable, smart. It sets him apart from the Gingriches and the Bachmanns whose narratives ride (and often jump) the shark of opportunism. They don’t create meaning; they trash it. Ryan is, or appears to be, a true believer, and most of our narratives are in some way about belief.

I have a close relative who’s something of a star of the Pentecostal preaching circuit, and if you want to study the relationship between narrative and belief, you could do worse than bone up on Pentecostalism. I believe my relative to be a good man, with a good heart, but he’s also a dangerous man, at least to the extent that any man becomes dangerous at the moment his narrative stops being adequate to the world he encounters.

There’s been a great deal of cynicism and opportunism in the opposition to Obama, of the Mitch McConnell “our goal is to make him a one-term president” stripe. There’s been a lot of what may or may not be racism, but is certainly terror of the difference and change that a black man in the White House represents. But a large part of the problem is that we’re a nation of true believers. If the true believers at times seem to live in a zone that’s not so much information-free as information-impermeable, that has to do with the power of narrative, its oilskin toughness. In 2010, many of those true believers ended up in Congress, where they’ve spent two years failing to recognize that the world they’re encountering renders their narratives inadequate, with disastrous results.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Paul Ryan’s narrative. There are already signs that it’s being reshaped to meet either the reality of the world he’s encountering or the reality of a national campaign. But he actually doesn’t interest me all that much. I’m more interested in you, future student, and maybe I’m more interested in you as future citizen. If you take nothing else away from your four years at college, learn to recognize the moment when your narratives are no longer adequate to the world.

The Latest: Lazy Summer Edition

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Lately I’ve been cleaning up my website—nothing spectacular, just adding photos, switching out play excerpts, changing a font or two, creating a new banner of photos for the header—and, in doing so, I’ve been forced to pass my home page time and time again and to face down those haunting words, The Latest. Scanning down the column I can see that it’s the latest only in the sense of superlatively late. As in, months go by without my posting anything to it.

Honestly, though, there’s not a lot going on right now. DEADLY MURDER keeps getting produced in various locales, including one somewhere in Siberia. (No, I mean literally. Siberia.) In Los Angeles this spring, I met Alan Shearman, the director of the Portland production, and since I wasn’t able to see it live, he gave me a DVD of their quite impressive staging. The graphic on the left is by Lee Moyer for the same production.

The Athens DEADLY MURDER produced this very fun trailer.

And I’ve just discovered that, in November, there’ll be another production closer to home. Road trip?

A few things, including an intriguing development for DEADLY MURDER, fall into the category of “watch this space”: nothing worth talking about at the moment, but material perhaps for future updates.

More or less in that category are the writing projects I’ve been working on this summer. In June in São Paulo, I finished a fair draft of my new novel, THE HOUNDS OF HEAVEN. (A shout-out to the folks at Livraria da Vila on Lorena in whose lovely and comfortable terrace café I got a lot of work done.) Patient friends are reading and responding to the novel now. You can read an excerpt here.

I’ve also been re-re-polishing the first novel, THE TRAVELER’S COMPANION. This is because I’m thinking of dipping a toe into the chilly but rapidly warming waters of self-publishing. Watch this space. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt.

Other than that I’ve had a lazy, pleasant summer, teaching our pre-college writing class at NYU, following Brazilian soap operas on O Globo, getting out to see friends and films, and shopping for furniture for the apartment I seem to be buying…

More later (though hopefully not terribly later).

Deadly Murder Productions

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Thanks to the Samuel French edition, DEADLY MURDER has started appearing at theatres around the country, including what seems to be quite a fine production at the Lakewood Theatre Company in Portland (pictured, Ty Boice and Adrienne Flagg) and another at Theatre Suburbia in Houston. There’s also a production in Prague right now, and one will open soon in Athens, under the title TA BROMIKA KOLPA (below), a translation, I think, of A NASTY TRICK, a title the play had at one point.

It’s a strange but fun feeling to think that there are all these Camilles and Billys and Teds out there, some speaking in other languages. (What’s the Czech for “a few brisk years in reform school on the fly”?)

Recently, the Greek translator contacted me to ask for a program note, and I rediscovered something I wrote for the 2008 production at Vienna’s English Theatre. Maybe it’s worth reproducing here:

“We love blood. We love murder. We love danger and double-crosses and the moment when the safe, predictable world gives way. Or we love them in a thriller.

“When I began to write DEADLY MURDER, my play CRESSIDA AMONG THE GREEKS, a retelling of the doomed Trojan War romance, had just completed its New York run. It, too, had its share of blood and betrayal and worlds collapsing, but it was a tragedy, and in tragedies things cost. Tragedies, at the end of the night, present you with a bill for the blood and betrayal, and it’s a steep one. Thrillers allow us to slip the cost. They allow us to laugh as we gasp, to feel horror with pleasure, to ride death and danger like a roller coaster.

“Maybe that’s why a thriller seemed like such a good idea after CRESSIDA. Maybe I needed some murder without the cost.

“I’ve always loved thrillers and mysteries. When I was a kid, we came home from school and watched Perry Mason on TV. I whiled away summer afternoons with Agatha Christie. I love Ira Levin’s fiendish entertainments, and the elegant gamesmanship of Anthony Shaffer’s SLEUTH. Writing DEADLY MURDER, I rediscovered the luxurious addictive pleasures of these stories: mysterious strangers, priceless jewels, unsavory secrets, and death not from natural causes. We get a lot of tragedy in the world. We get a lot of blood and betrayal. But tonight we just have fun.”

Snow

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Rock Maple Ave, Hamilton, MA

I woke early this morning.  (I’m still on Lebanese time.)  It was dark, the shades were half-drawn, and I have the New Yorker’s habit of not looking out the window anyway.  So it wasn’t till I’d puttered around for half an hour—bathroom, email, coffee and oatmeal on the stove—that the morning had lightened enough for me to notice that the steps of my fire escape and the branches of the tree outside my window were humped with snow.  “It snowed,” I thought, and, so hard is it to get my attention sometimes, it was another little while before I noticed that it was still snowing.

Now—breakfast over, news read, bed made—I’m sitting at my desk with the goal of “getting some writing done” (this is my usual vague way of putting it) and a light fine snow is powdering the air.  The sky is pale pale grey and everything’s quiet, weirdly quiet.  Usually there’s some noise from the courtyard or the building or the traffic over on Avenue A.

I have no need to leave the apartment today if I don’t want to.  There’s food in the fridge, I’ve made no plans, and I’ve got plenty to do at home.  I can stay inside and watch the snow come down.

This is my most essential experience of snow, an experience that takes me directly back to childhood, adolescence, lying on the sofa in our living room, reading a book, with the snow coming down outside.  It’s an experience of safety, comfort, longing.  Even then, that last word was part of it.  Why longing?

Burned away from this experience is excitement.  Snow always meant excitement when I was young.  There was the exciting possibility that school would be canceled, all of us watching the list of closed schools scroll down the TV screen.  (Hamilton-Wenham!  Yay!)

There was the excitement of the snow itself.  Even now my contentment watching the snow is at war with an impulse to put on some boots and get out in it.  Our house was on a little hill, and our basement was full of Flexible Flyers and plastic sleds and skis and even a toboggan, none of it in very good repair.  Boots were haphazardly lined up in the basement, and there was an old bureau whose top drawer was full of gloves and hats and scarves.  It was often difficult to find a matching pair of gloves, and at times you’d have to go out wearing two left or two right ones.  I remember a period when everyone wore stocking caps, long knit caps whose points fell halfway down your back and ended in a pompom, so that for a time everyone in our small Massachusetts town looked like Hans Brinker.

There were quarrels over the sleds, fights and hurt feelings and wounded senses of proprietorship.  But there was fun, too.  The trudge up the hill, the swift slick ride down that had to be navigated so that it ended somewhere between the woods on the left and the driveway on the right.  More daringly, you could go down the other side of the hill, into the woods behind the house, a bumpier steeper ride through staggered trees.  If the snow was firm, the Flexible Flyers were the best.  Their metal runners shot over the snow with a speed you could steer but not abate—rush and power!—with the rope looped through the holes on either side of the movable handlebars.

The toboggan our parents gave us one Christmas.  They took a picture of all seven of us sitting on it, one behind the other, in front of the Christmas tree.  One afternoon I was riding in front, eyes squeezed shut against the snow that sprayed up over the curved wooden slats, and somehow we steered it wrong.  (You steered it by leaning right or left.  “Lean!  Lean!”)  The toboggan careened down into the woods on the left.  My brothers, seeing the danger, jumped off.  I, seeing nothing, smashed into a tree.  I wailed my way into the kitchen, where my mother screamed at the sight of my bloody face.  She drove me downtown to my father’s dental office.  He put me in the chair and closed the wound in my forehead with a single suture.

It’s hard to describe all this—injuries and all—without making it sound idyllic, and perhaps it was.  Red cheeks, numb toes, hot cocoa with a melting marshmallow bobbing on the surface.  The snow falling down outside the kitchen windows.

I understand logically but not emotionally why some people hate snow.  And, like most people with a strong emotional attachment to something, I resent people who respond to my attachment with logic.

Snow is useless, worse than useless.  Last year I flew out of New York a couple of days after the Christmas blizzard that crippled the city, with the result that I waited six hours in line at the airport and my luggage went missing for a month.  I hated the snow.  But that’s inaccurate.  I hated only what the snow had done.  The snow itself I still loved.

You could argue that I love snow because I grew up with it, because of all I’ve described above.  But I’m not sure that’s true.  Last Saturday I was in Istanbul.  It was cold and rainy and we stopped in the old Spice Market to buy a scarf.  The salesman lamented the cold, wet weather but, on the bright side, said that it might snow later.  He didn’t like the rain, but he liked the snow, though it snows very seldom in Istanbul.  Later it did snow.  By that time we’d been walking around in the rain for a few hours, and none of us had the shoes for it, and the wet, clumpy flakes that fell without sticking didn’t seem like much of an improvement.  But even so at times—as, for instance, when we were leaving the Grand Bazaar and saw the drifting flakes framed by one of its 15th-century arches—there were little shivers of beauty.

John Berger says that “beauty is always an exception, always in despite of.  This is why it moves us.”  He means that beauty exists “in despite of” its “bleak natural context”—a context of “energy and struggle.”  I remember the news reports during the Blizzard of ’78.  Cars got stranded on the highway, and a few drivers kept their engines running and their heaters on and died from the carbon monoxide fumes.  And I went out the morning of the blizzard and walked hip deep through snow, not without a little fear that I would fall into a bank and freeze to death.

Because the beauty is not just what gets framed by an apartment window or an archway of the Grand Bazaar.  Part of the beauty is the longing.  People freeze to death in blizzards, drown in oceans, get fatally lost in forests.  The night sky is cold and empty.  But they afflict us—or me anyway—with a longing to be somehow out in them, part of them.  “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.”  What longing there’s always been in those words.

I wonder if we have to add a “because of” to Berger’s “in despite of.”  Is it the “energy and struggle” that calls us outward?  Or is it (Berger again) because nature “is what exists without any promises”?  Is there a yearning to be a part of that pure existence?  “Oh, let me not exist!” Rumi, the Sufi poet, is supposed to have said.  Frost’s poem is sometimes said to be about death, but that’s never seemed entirely accurate to me.  There are other ways to dissolve besides death, and those moments—those moments of beauty and longing, stopped in front of those snowy woods—seem to promise a little dissolution of the boundaries of self.  A return.  “We live…after the Fall,” says Berger.  But fall from what?  Eden—that myth of creation, of making—doesn’t seem to capture it.  Existence is what doesn’t need to be created, and it may be existence itself that we long to return to.