If you’re happening across this website and live in either the Minneapolis or Racine area, I hope you’ll come out to hear me read. I’ll be reading from The Fugue and talking about the artist’s role in a fascist state.
The good folks at Hamline University’s MFA program were kind enough to invite me to talk to students about publishing and writing. I’ll be meeting with them today in the afternoon.
6 West 5th Street, St. Paul, MN, 6:00 PM
If you’re stumbling onto my blog for the first time, be sure to read this glowing review of my novel, The Fugue, in the Chicago Tribune.
By the way, it’s Record Store Day, and Eclipse Records are right next door.
Here’s a photo of my pen’s difficulties:
I can think of few moments I have observed on Facebook that compare to the response I’ve seen from people regarding the killing of Cecil, the lion. The uproar in my timeline is pretty dramatic, and rightfully so. While I have posted nothing on the matter myself, I’ve been following the story. I’m among those who find it hard to get into the head of someone who’d not only take interest in killing a lion but would also be willing to pay a good chunk of money to have the opportunity set up.
I have to admit, however, that the response had me thinking. Why isn’t the uproar greater over the killing of our fellow citizens by police?
Cecil deserved to live, as does any creature. But Cecil was killed, not by a security force charged with protection, but by a wealthy hunter gone to a foreign country with the intention of killing an animal. Many of the people upset about Cecil’s death eat meat, and their demand results in the deaths of more creatures than a lion. The faceless and nameless pigs and cows and chickens usually live lives in conditions much worse than Cecil’s.
Most of us have killed an animal directly, if even just by swatting flies or mosquitoes, or spraying a spider with Raid. This summer, I killed an entire colony of ants. Yes, Cecil is a rare animal, more regal, far more intelligent than common ants, and he was not harming anyone; killing an animal in order to eat or defend your home from damage is completely different from killing to feel an ego rush. Even so, his killing should leave us wondering why we value certain creatures more than others, and if we’re so upset about his death, could we perhaps think about how our desires and actions impact all life?
We should also be asking another set of questions. Are we more upset, moved to greater emotions, by the killing of a lion than we are by the killing of our citizens? (It’s not August, but police have killed 605 people in America this year.) Someone will say, “These people getting killed by cops are less-than-noble.” Who deserves to die, for what reason, and who gets to decide? Perhaps we truly are more upset by the killing of our fellow citizens as compared to a lion, but we feel more comfortable expressing our outrage over the death of an animal, outrage pointed at a wealthy, privileged man who’s killing for sport. If that’s true, what do we actually fear? That someone might get annoyed with our outrage over the deaths of our fellow citizens?
I don’t know if social media outrage is an indicator of actual outrage, or a measuring stick of any value. My timeline is only an indicator of whom I choose to follow. I just found it rather striking that my timeline endeared itself so easily to a lion most had hitherto never heard of, while the posts and comments regarding police killings were, at least by comparison, a trickle. I guess I’ve written this post to see if I’m the only one who observed this.
Photo from Wikipedia.
It happened today, in back-to-back instances.
I first went to a small shop here in Vilnius where my tab was 14 Litas. I gave the girl 54 Litas (in an effort to unload some coins). She entered “54” into the till and the till provided an answer: “40”.
Wait a minute, she said, leaving two twenties on the change plate. Wait a minute.
Everything’s fine, I said.
No, wait. Something’s wrong.
The flustered girl, blushing, searched for a calculator. The one she dug out of a drawer didn’t work, so she did the math longhand on a bit of paper.
Oh, she said. Everything’s fine.
Only a half hour later, in a mall coffeeshop, I ordered an overpriced cup of burnt Joe. The bill was 6.53 Litas. I handed the girl, in an effort to unload some coins, 7.03 Litas. She made some mistake while entering it into the till and grew flustered.
Wait a minute, she said, blushing. Her fingers toyed through the golden and silver coins.
I did not want to embarrass her by saying how much I was owed. I waited until she did some counting and handed me, at first, seven cents, then caught herself to offer fifty, two twenty cent pieces along with a ten.
So, there you have it. As has happened to me so many times in conversation with Europeans—a couple who happened across a gas station in Minnesota or a Dollar Store in Manhattan, perhaps a diner in Denver, and encountered an underpaid and exhausted worker who, in the course of doing their mindless and humiliating job, gave the wrong change or got flustered in the process, especially when a customer handed over an unusual amount of money—I now get to extend the gesture:
Because of these two girls in Vilnius, I’ll allow myself to conclude that an entire continent can’t give change. I’ll feel smug about it and decide that I am, indeed, very well educated, while an entire continent looks at me and thinks, What an unfortunate and small-minded little twit.
Or perhaps there’s someone thinking, No, because in America you would have gotten twelve or eighty cents, something like that. I’m certain that opinion exists. There’s also someone thinking, In, America this happens every time you go to the store but in Europe only twice in all the years you’ve traveled. That person’s out there as well. So is this one: The American wouldn’t know longhand.
Etcetera. I could go on for hours.