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What Happens Next?

Matters of Life and Death

Douglas Bauer

Publication Year: 2013

What is life about but the continuous posing of the questions: what happens next, and what do we make of it when it arrives? In these highly evocative personal essays, Douglas Bauer weaves together the stories of his own and his parents’ lives, the meals they ate, the work and rewards and regrets that defined them, and the inevitable betrayal by their bodies as they aged.
His collection features at its center a long and memory-rich piece seasoned with sensory descriptions of the midday dinners his mother cooked for her farmer husband and father-in-law every noon for many years. It’s this memoir in miniature that sets the table for the other stories that surround it—of love and bitterness, of hungers served and denied. Good food and marvelous meals would take on other revelatory meanings for Bauer as a young man, when he met, became lifelong friends with, and was tutored in the pleasures of an appetite for life by M. F. K. Fisher, the century’s finest writer in English on “the art of eating,” to borrow one of her titles.
The unavoidable companion of the sensual joys of food and friendship is the fragility and ultimately the mortality of the body. As a teenager, Bauer courted sports injuries to impress others, sometimes with his toughness and other times with his vulnerability. And as happens to all of us, eventually his body began to show the common signs of wear—cataracts, an irregular heartbeat, an arthritic knee. That these events might mark the arc of his life became clear when his mother, a few months shy of eighty-seven, slipped on some ice and injured herself.
In these clear-eyed, wry and graceful essays, Douglas Bauer presents with candor and humor the dual calendars of his own mortality and that of his aging parents, evoking the regrets and affirmations inherent in being human.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

...Thanks go to the National Endowment for the Arts for a fellowship that aided in the writing of this book. Great thanks go as well to Henry Dunow, Dr. Richard Q. Ford, Bill Friedricks, Phillip Lopate, Alice Mattison, Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Fiona McCrae, Sue Miller, and Jane Rosenman for their advice and support. And...

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pp. xi-xiv

...health, I became aware that three key and quite disparate parts of me were showing common signs of wear. It was as if they’d colluded in a devilish partnership to simultaneously launch the beginning mischief of age. First, the cataracts that had long been ripening in both eyes had reached the stage where they needed to...

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Here We Were at Exactly This Moment

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pp. 1-12

...of windows, casting us in a warm and welcoming morning light. And the sunlight’s disposition was the room’s in general, thanks to the nurses moving quickly about like focused, happy hosts. At the moment they were happily hosting two other patients besides myself, the three of us here for cataract surgeries. We were sitting comfortably in something like settees that fold down flat, when...

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pp. 13-26

...It was one of hundreds rising up out of the snow in long, straight rows like a bumper winter crop. There’d been no new storms for several days, the winter now refined to a wind that raked your face. This cemetery was a spot of intimately familiar earth, where my brother, Bob, and I had buried our father almost seven years before and where we’d come as children for our...

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What Was Served

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pp. 27-64

...of the acreage. The land, as lawn, sloped away from the foundation and flattened out in all directions until it met the surrounding fields, then continued extremely as rows of corn and soybeans. A wide, pillared porch wrapped around the north and east sides of the house. As a boy, in summer, I sometimes paused in my play...

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Iowa Wine

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pp. 65-76

...the top of the vines and saw new pale-green tendrils corkscrewing toward the sun. Their reaching for light was, of course, natural tropism. But if grape vines had a conscience (and I’ve heard winemakers in Napa and Sonoma sometimes speak of them as if they do—a conscience, a brain, and a resolute will) then their...

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pp. 77-90

...no resemblance to the man I later learned of from my mother’s recollections—the profane coal miner, working the Midwest’s meager bituminous lode, whose nightly drinking started once he’d finished scrubbing himself clean from his day beneath the ground, and continued through supper and his remaining waking...

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The Life He Left Her

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pp. 91-104

...and some months after his death, while visiting her, I walked from her apartment to the village cemetery, a distance of two blocks, to look at the gray marble gravestone. It had just recently been set. Reaching it, I saw that its polished face was relatively plain: just their names, and touches of scrollwork in the upper...

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Hoss’s Knee

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pp. 105-119

...This was Dr. Matzkin’s way of introducing herself, holding up my X-rays as she entered the exam room. There was a kind of collegial jauntiness in her tone that made me think for a moment she was about to show me someone else’s...

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What We Hunger For

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pp. 120-141

...Sitting behind his desk, a thin, perennially agitated man wreathed as always in cigarette smoke, he excitedly announced that M.F.K. Fisher was going to write a piece for the magazine on New Orleans food and restaurants. He saved me from saying, “M.F.K. Fisher? Who’s he?” by relaying her one demand....

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It’s Time

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pp. 142-152

...tallwindowed room where I’d been prepped for my first cataract surgery exactly two weeks before. Across from me, a woman soon to be wheeled away to the operating room was waiting for the intravenous sedatives to take her dreamily. She had a long, bony face and prominent teeth, which sat in her mouth like...

Further Reading

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pp. 153-154

E-ISBN-13: 9781609382032
E-ISBN-10: 160938203X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381837
Print-ISBN-10: 1609381831

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: paper

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