Tag: ernest hemmingway

On Terror

by on Apr.04, 2013

I’m writing this from my desk in an office where I have spent the morning watching Al Jazeera videos and reading the New York Times and this is not entirely antithetical to what I’m supposed to be doing at my desk.

A few weeks ago I was getting ready to go to New Jersey for a visit home, which I’ve done more in the past six months than I ever have. There has been literal disaster after disaster. Anyway I was getting ready to go home. My uncle was posting North Korean propaganda videos on his Facebook page and I was watching them the way I read a really good poem – over and over again, trying to assess its balance of irony and sincerity.



The video is dubbed in English in a way that makes it feel like farce, except it’s not. The script in English feels like it must have been written by a contemporary experimental poet with a solid sense of fun, like maybe Amy Lawless wrote it in a fit of black humor. I was just getting into My Dead when I watched the video for the first time and I was thinking about mourning and rituals and pre-emptive strikes, how one must convince oneself both of the seriousness of tragedy and its ephemeral nature in order to engage in the act of grief.

A few weeks later I was having brunch with my best friend and I think we were talking about Amy’s book and I was reminded of a novel I’d read in college called Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda. The main character in the novel, which is set in South Africa, is a man named Toloki who is a Professional Mourner. The day I was having brunch was Easter Sunday and the day before we had gone to see a lecture and reading at the New Museum where Ariana Reines dressed up as Margery Kempe and talked about public grief.



The night before that I was trying to find a bar that didn’t ID so I could take my little sister there and we ended up at a comedy show that was so abject it was a kind of public self-grieving and my friend and I talked about how the responsibilities of Poets, Comedians, and Lawyers are essentially the same – to be observant and self-aware and make public texts of our knowledge. The next morning we added Professional Mourners to that list.



Professional Grief is an epic responsibility requiring a great deal of strength and physical endurance – the endurance literally to cry for many hours or to stand in front of people and say something – in addition to a measured amount of weakness, pliability. There has to be something in the instrument that moves.

My whole entire life I have been aware of my place as an American Girl in relation to War. (continue reading…)

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