Monthly Archives May 2015

Pathos and Redemption: An Analysis of Lorrie Moore’s “Terrific Mother”

A mid-30s woman, childless, told repeatedly what a “terrific mother” she would be but beginning to doubt it and even growing awkward and unsure around babies, has one thrust into her hands at a backyard Labor Day party by a solicitous mother, whereupon the picnic bench she is sitting down to with the infant cracks and the baby flies out of her arms and smashes its head on the cement, dying a short while later. Our protagonist, Adrienne, then retreats to hole up in her attic apartment for seven months, too dark and deranged to even feign an interest in living.

This is the setup for a short story, Terrific Mother, that rarely goes a page without a laugh-out loud moment of insight about the foibles of human beings, followed by profound, sometimes tender but always incisive probing into the behavior and compensations that keep us psychically afloat amidst the need for near constant forgiveness of both self...

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Bell Lap

I’ve never been much of a front runner. Too much vulnerability out there alone, everyone focused on your back as they draft along behind you, ready to pounce when you’ve grown tired from all the attention and headwinds that you’ve fought on your own.

Better to tuck in mid-pack for most of the race, unobserved, one of the crowd, carried along en masse, never at the rear but careful about spending too much, too soon and having nothing left when the race takes its final shape and the true leaders emerge.

In a mile race with its perfect four laps, each with its own strategy and tasks, my preference has always been to launch a long acceleration at the end of lap three, picking off those who have foolishly gone out too fast while discouraging those behind from even thinking about mounting a final frantic sprint that will demand too much of them.

So here I am, right about at that point in my life, coming in...

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My Mom’s Eulogy: A Mother’s Day Remembrance

Who in this land can resist thinking about their mother today? My own mother has been gone nine years now, but I suspect you already know the answer to the question of how many days since then that I have not thought of her: a big fat zero.

So in observance of Mother’s Day, and as tribute to my particular mom and all the moms and moms of moms I know whom we honor today, I decided to revisit the eulogy I presented for my mom at the time of her passing at age 80 in 2006, abridging it just slightly to get to the heart of the matter—which, of course, was that great big heart that guided my mother’s life and loves through all her days.

What a life. It never ceases to amaze how much sheer living can be packed into one mortal life, particularly in the historically turbulent era our parents lived through...

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A Meditation on Thinking

What could I have been thinking? It’s a question we ask ourselves with regularity when we have acted like dunderheads, making some half-baked decision on a purchase or a course of action, a relationship, a career move or a business deal. It can apply when we have done something we shouldn’t have or not done something we should have, and it can always apply—probably more easily, given how we’d rather point the finger outward than at ourselves—to others.

What were they thinking? (Bush and Cheney invading Iraq, Clinton with Monica, every person who consents to being grilled on 60 Minutes, all karaoke singers everywhere…)

It’s a beautiful question, so aptly and succinctly does it frame, with a dose of sardonic humor, the human tendency to act really, really stupidly on occasion. And no one is immune.

Shrewd and worldly, lowly and dim, middle class midwest or upper class upper east side: you’d need ...

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