One or more pictures stand out as the book’s primal raison d’etre; that is, there is at least one picture which activates a “flashbulb memory” from the creator’s childhood and which the story explains in an ambiguous way. The manifest storybook explanation for this primal scene is benign and reassuring while the latent and historical interpretation is traumatic and unbearable.
In four decades of family history on the ranch no immigrant had ever made contact. The effort to capture them, though, is omnipresent in the post-9/11 militarization of the borderlands. The number of vehicles on constant patrol in the Big Bend Sector has more than tripled. Helicopters circle, sometimes for entire days, scanning the hills, bearing down on migrants, driving them to the point of collapse.
“I think that I have always resisted the idea of objective cultural criticism in a vacuum. The subject lends itself to drawing connections to yourself — when I look at someone like Britney Spears, it isn’t just at the level of public scrutiny.”
There was one last buzz, then Greene pulled himself reluctantly up off the sofa. As I watched him cross the living room, the part of my mind still working in slow motion pictured the door opening, the gunmen entering and shooting Greene (professionals, with silencers), then noticing me and shooting me too, with some surprise but with no regret. I thought of the headlines the next day: STRANGE WOMAN MURDERED WITH FAMOUS AUTHOR IN RIVIERA APARTMENT.
Emerson once said that society was a mob, conspiring against the sovereign strength of the self. Now we are an electronic mob, and the forces of distraction are powerfully arrayed against us. It has always been the case that society never wanted a writer to write a book, something you will discover when you leave this place and try to create the space and time to write. Society doesn’t want your book of stories or poems, and you will have to push against society, as if you had your shoulder to the door of a crowded room; you will have to shove your book into existence, birth it violently.
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