For the past two weeks, I’ve been immersed in the commemorative supplements of a Malaysian newspaper celebrating its fortieth anniversary this month. I’ve read every single one of the articles available online, even the sports coverage, even the sex advice straight out of trashy magazines and unthinkable in a Malaysian newspaper today. I’ve lingered over the fonts, the text-heavy advertisements, the hairstyles and sunglasses of the 1970s.
Today we asked our daughter to tell us a story. Here it is:
Amma and Daddy and Baby and Amma! We’re a family! We peed. And then we got up. And then we went downstairs and had some food. And then we had some dinner. And then we had some lunch. And then we went in the room to sleep. And then Daddy shaved off his scratchy chin. And then I took out my eyes. And then I took out Daddy’s eyes. And then we went to bed and then we got up.
I say appearance, rather than reading, because the reading portion of the evening (voice and text and presence and performance) seemed if not beside the point then certainly a second-tier attraction. People came to gawk or moon, they came to get their galleys signed or to soak up the air conditioning. They came for the Q & A. Oh, the Q & A! Those words still have the power to summon a pang of sympathetic terror in me, a sour feeling in my guts. As soon as the author closed her book I watched, as in the sudden swipe of frames thrown by a magic lantern, the quiet backroom of the bookstore changed into a shooting gallery. The author blinked and squawked, a lone duck. And me? I hunched over my little table readying the register, stacking and restacking books, fidgeting in order to avoid eye contact.
“I don’t think this wind is ever going to stop,” Jamie said.
“I can do a rain dance if you want something else to happen,” Lewis said.
The wind sounded hollow, and we all stopped talking as if we’d decided to just sit and listen. We were the only people on the beach, but the wind searched for us, and it wrapped that blanket tight around our bodies as if we were the only people in the world.
THE GREAT LAKES: LOVE SONG AND LAMENT, our special issue on the Great Lakes. Essays by Jerry Dennis, Anna Vodicka, Keith Taylor, John Knott, Alison Swan, Tiya Miles, Devin Murphy, Julia Gibson; Poetry by Albert Goldbarth, Margaret Noori, Holly Wren Spaulding, Ruth Joynton, M. Bartley Seigel, Terry Blackhawk, John Repp; Fiction by Steve Amick; Color portfolio: full-color photos of the Great Lakes basin selected from the exhibition “The Primacy of Water” curated by the River Gallery of Chelsea, Michigan.