MyAmericanFuture

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MyAmericanFuture

Friday, February 17, 2012

February 17, 2012: Love Lessons

[The last in the love-inspired series, on some of this American Studier’s loves!]

When I was 5 (or so), I fell in love with Edward Ormondroyd’s David and the Phoenix (1957). Ormondroyd’s whimsical and magical and deeply affecting children’s novel taught me a great many serious and life-defining things, from the power of the imagination to recognizing and accepting and growing through loss. But it also taught me about fauns and Pan, about banshees and sea serpents, about some of the truest meanings of mythology and fantasy and story in ways that prepared me for much of what I would love most over the next three decades, from Tolkien and George R.R. Martin to Leslie Marmon Silko and Junot Díaz. And most of all, Ormondroyd, like Lobel and Sendak and Seuss and their peers, taught me to listen and to read.
When I was 15 (or thereabouts), I fell in love with Alistair MacLean’s H.M.S. Ulysses (1955). MacLean’s gripping and thrilling and hugely moving novel of a British destroyer in the North Atlantic during World War II taught me about the deadly serious power of waves and wind, of frost and ice, of the true meaning of a U-Boat lying in ambush or a fighter plane bearing down on a convoy. But it also taught me about cowardice and heroism, about victory and defeat, about some of the truest meanings of sacrifice and brotherhood and history in ways that likewise prepared me for much of what I would love over the next two decades, from O’Brien and Samuel Eliot Morrison to Ambrose Bierce and Kurt Vonnegut. And most of all, MacLean, like Chesnutt and Faulkner and Penn Warren and others, taught me that history is alive and present still.

When I was 25 (more or less), I fell in love with Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000). Nolan’s challenging and funny and profoundly unique and perfect film about a man with no memory who cannot escape the past taught me about the ways in which story and structure and style can so fully complement and complicate and enrich theme and meaning, making every moment and frame and choice part of an absolutely unified whole. But it also taught me about memory and truth, about story and identity, about how much narratives can define who we are and who we have been and who we hope to be, ideas that have prepared me for much of what I have written and thought about over the decade since. And most of all, Nolan, like Sayles and Jason Bourne and Shakespeare in Love and others, taught me that great art can be both entertaining and thought-provoking in equal measure.
As I approach 35 (nearly), I’m still in love with all those texts and artists, all those meanings and lessons, and many more. I am who I am because of them, as I am because of the love of the many amazing people with whom I’ve shared such works (most especially Mom, Dad, and Connie). But I have also fallen in love with Aidan Orion Tsao Railton (2005) and Kyle Vincent Tsao Railton (2007). Those two smart and crazy-making and beautiful boys have taught me more than I could ever put into words here, and of the many things I love to imagine about them, high on the list is when I can help them find new loves of their own—and add those loves and their lessons to my identity. Happy Valentine’s week! More this weekend, the next guest post!

Ben
PS. Links:

1)      Part of the opening chapter of David: http://www.purplehousepress.com/david_ex.htm

2)      Some good info on MacLean and Ulysses: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/maclean.htm

3)      The great last scene from Memento (only watch if you’ve already seen the movie!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqW9fnkhqrs&feature=related

4)      Any loves and lessons you want to share?

2/17 Memory Day nominee: Huey Newton, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party whose complex and influential 20th century American life also included community social programs and activism in Oakland, publishing the memoir Revolutionary Suicide (1973), and receiving a PhD in social philosophy from UC Santa Cruz (all before it was tragically cut short by a senseless street killing when Newton was just 47).

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