A Happy Book
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of South Carolina Press
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Table of Contents
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Last month I dreamed about a family so famously happy that the gov-ernment commissioned a study of them. “Unearthing the secret of happi-ness,” the principal investigator said, “would spread blessings aroundthe globe, ending all wars and thus altering the courses of human historyand evolution.” Accordingly scientists began the study with great enthu-...
The End of Term
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...“In the summer,” Wendy began her final paper for my class on naturewriters, “I wake up at seven, eat oatmeal with blueberries, and leave thehouse on my purple bicycle, wearing a sweatshirt to protect myself fromthe cold morning air. I ride past tobacco barns and through tobaccofields, sometimes taking my hands off the handlebars to clap and scare...
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Connecticut takes pride in being a “Tier I” research university, and anarchipelago of centers and institutes surrounds the library and athleticfields. Reefs of specialized learning bracket many of the islands, and Ihave never explored the Institute of Material Science, for example, withits Electrical Insulation Research Center and its Center for Advanced...
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Dreaming begins in late fall and stretches through winter. In Novem-ber I dreamed that I was raking leaves and woke up musty with per-spiration, blankets scraped into a pile. I went downstairs to the kitchen,drank a glass of orange juice, and for twenty minutes stared at thelinoleum before returning to bed to be smothered by leaves again. In...
Be of Good Cheer
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In 1712 Joseph Addison said cheerfulness was “a Moral Habit of theMind” that turned “the Universe into a kind of Theatre filled with Ob-jects that either raise in us Pleasure, Amusement, or Admiration.” Alasscruples cause stage fright and, diminishing the capacity for merriment,lead one to avoid treading the boards of life. Happiness depends upon...
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Connecticut is the land of steady winters. Spring drizzles cold andwillful through late April. As I await the warm blooms of May, I becomeimpatient and dream of Tennessee, redbuds sprinkled across its hillsidesand in its cities mockingbirds cavalierly bucking over yards. Still, oncethe ground thaws and softens in Connecticut, I break from the house...
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Two years ago calcium spiked in my blood, and Ken, my family doctor,sent me to a kidney specialist. I struggled through a decathlon of bloodtests, at the end of which the man said, “You don’t have cancer, but youprobably have a benign tumor in a parathyroid. You should see an en-docrinologist.” Sometimes I think time a sculptor and people smooth...
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Last March the Oxford University Press asked me to write a puff forthe book jacket of Stanley Fish’s Save the World on Your Own Time. Ihave written a library of blurbs, so many that my friend Josh has nick-named me “Puff Adder.” Moments determine words. When I receivedthe request from Oxford, I was living alone in a small flat in Perth. Some...
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In September, as the old story puts it, two bulls met outside a barn.“How was your summer?” the first bull asked. “Splendid,” the secondbull lowed, rubbing his hide against a door jam. “I spent the vacation inthe lowlands up to my hocks in clover, drinking spring water that tastedlike oats. The flies weren’t bad, and on muggy days I dozed in the shade...
Everything Can’t be Perfect
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One mild fall evening a farmer and his wife sat on the front porchrocking. Dinner had been good: chicken that pecked through bushels ofbugs to sweetness, turnip greens seasoned by hog not worms, blood-redtomatoes, and rolls rounder than the harvest moon. The mortgage hadbeen paid off. Bobwhites were whistling. Corn was in the crib; tobacco...
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One Sunday afternoon near the end of July, Vicki and I visited four gar-dens in Yarmouth. For forty years owners had dug and filled, transform-ing spruce thickets and the corners of pastures bristly with alders intosmall plots of order and beauty. Daylilies shined brassy, their petals prac-tically notes, usually orange and yellow but occasionally scarlet. Astilbe...
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...“What’s the difference between a flimsy dress and an extracted tooth?”the filler at the bottom of the page asked before answering, “one is toothin while the other is tooth out.” “Shouldn’t a sheep dog have a lambpup?” another filler mused. Recently I’d read an article praising close ob-servation and criticizing broad generalities. “Long, complex sentences,”...
Doing Nothing, Nothing Doing
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...“Here you are,” Vicki said, standing in the doorway, rain raking the fogoutside, “a gray man in a moldy room. What are you thinking?” I couldhave been thinking about many things: Excalibur, the name Edwarddubbed the trowel used to scoop dog droppings out of the side meadow;a recent dream in which I underwent treatment for prostate cancer, ...
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...“It was just one of those Malibu nights,” Elizabeth Adler wrote in thefirst paragraph of a novel, “dark as a velvet shroud, creamy waves crash-ing onto the shore, breeze soft as a kitten’s breath.” Fall nights in BeaverRiver are different. In Beaver River waves thump the shore, then ratchetover the rocks before withdrawing, leaving them spackled. In our un-...
Ports of Call
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During the economic debacle my pension flew south and, drifting off-shore, molted, most of its green feathers vanishing in the financial Sar-gasso Sea. Vicki is eleven years younger than me, and the money setaside for my retirement must take care of her after I’m dead. I don’t needto amass more money. What I must do for her is not munch any part of...
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...dream was a story, and I wanted to remember it. In the dream a nice butdiffident and socially awkward man had a secret life writing comic nov-els under a pseudonym. Anonymity freed the man from shyness, and onthe page his personality expanded into confidence and laughter. The nov-els made me guffaw, and I mulled turning on the bedside light and re-...
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...“Daddy,” Eliza said turning in her chair and staring down the dinnertable at me, “you are the only old person I have ever really known.”Eliza’s grandparents died before becoming fixed in her memory. More-over Eliza grew up in a university town populated by people who lefthome in order to teach, forsaking place and parents. In contrast the...
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Last Saturday was gray, the snow thin and hard across the yard, risinginto brown welts at the edge of the road. Silence was rusty and thick.Squirrels stayed in their nests and didn’t scribble through trees. I watchedan oak leaf drag across the ground, staggering and shuffling as if oncrutches. Chopping fruit into bites and dumping them into a bowl of...
Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2012