WITNESS STATEMENTS. Memoir. Medical reports. Journal article. Trial record.
There’s an awful lot going on in Graeme Macrae Burnet’s novel His Bloody Project, not least of which is that the crime referred to in the title is established in its opening pages. A triple homicide in a poor village in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1860s — that’s what happened, and the reader knows it straight away.
It is in the how and the why where Burnet’s tale lies. Using a variety of storytelling techniques and devices — those listed up there in the first line — he crafts a strikingly original work of vivid details, meticulous characterization, and compelling plot. As a writer, I have found myself returning to Burnet’s adroit handling to figure out how to make my own work better without throwing up my hands in despair because nothing I produce will ever be that good.
I tweeted as much to him and Matthew Klam — whose deeply felt Who Is Rich? I hope to discuss in a future post — and was reassured that all of us who struggle to make magic with words are wrestling with the same demons.
“If it’s any consolation,” Graeme Macrae Burnet tweeted back at me, “I often have the same thought!”
Yes, indeed, Mr. Burnet. It is of enormous consolation. I’ll be back at the keyboard tonight. | DL
NEVER IN MY LIFE did I imagine that I would ever turn into one of those people who get antsy when they haven’t run for a few days.
But last winter, not long into the new year, recognizing that my sloth wasn’t doing me any favors, I downloaded a couch-to-5K app and began training. A back injury a few years prior had forced me to give up running, but time and a few well-placed spinal injections of steroids had me feeling better. It was time to try again.
I followed the couch-to-5K program rigorously, and two months after starting, I was running three miles. Over the spring and summer and autumn and into the current winter, I tried to get out every other day; I haven’t gotten there yet, but it’s been frequent enough for me to enjoy the benefits.
Up until yesterday, 2018 was brutally, dangerously cold in Greater Philadelphia (as you may have heard). I ran New Year’s Eve and then had to skip nine straight days.
And I found myself — yep — one of those people who get antsy when they haven’t run for a few days.
Finally, this morning, came enough warmth — well, more like “warmth”; it was about 20 when I got up — to lace ’em up and hit the road. It was glorious. My legs felt fine and my wind was great. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed a hint of achiness in my quads, the result, I suspect, of nine days of inactivity.
They’re still a touch sore, six hours later. But it’s a soreness that hurts so good. | DL
THE CHIEFS ARE UP by two touchdowns over the Titans as I write, and my Twitter feed is filled with snide comments from Eagles fans about how Andy Reid will manage to blow the lead.
I understand the wisecracking. For all of his success in Philadelphia, Big Red never even approached Dick Vermeil-level adulation. He never seemed to care. He didn’t court fans and he didn’t court the media, and as a result he never seemed like one of “us,” whatever that means. So when his Eagles teams fell victim to their coach’s predictable play calling and dreadful clock management, there was no cache of goodwill that allowed us to see past the flaws.
For all of that, though, Reid was, and is, a good guy. There’s never been Rex Ryan-style bluster, or, even worse, Bill Belichick-like douchery. He’s a football coach who chooses to focus on football coaching, and football coaching only.
That Andy Reid never stopped to kiss the asses of sports talk radio hosts or newspaper columnists surely damaged his image in the eyes of Eagles fans. But that shouldn’t obscure his achievements or his character. If anything, it should make us respect him more. | DL
YESTERDAY MORNING, with temperatures in the single digits (which I hate), we woke up to diminished water pressure from every faucet. The water was coming out at about 60 percents, so the kitchen sink, bathroom facilities, and showers were still usable. But that’s the kind of thing you don’t mess around with. After I checked the basement pipes to make sure nothing was wrong there, I called a plumber and made an appointment.
Soon enough, the neighborhood social media chain was telling us that the problem wasn’t ours alone. A broken water main had either reduced pressure at or completely cut off service to about a thousand homes. One of our neighbors reported nothing more than a trickle dripping from her faucets.
We would literally die without water, yet we take for granted that we can have as much as we want simply by turning a handle. Our minor inconvenience got me thinking about those around the world for whom water — and food and electricity and shelter and other essentials — requires daily attention.
Fully three months after Hurricane Maria blasted Puerto Rico, parts of the island were still without power and clean drinking water. This is no far-flung, how-do-you-spell-that? country, but a United States territory less than a thousand miles off Florida’s coast. These are Americans, and they remain mired in terrible conditions, and we have just stopped caring.
Yesterday morning I had to stand for a little while longer under the shower head to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. For some of my fellow Americans that wouldn’t have been a pain in the ass but a dream come true. | DL
WELL, THAT happened fast, didn’t it?
Winter, I mean. One week we were sailing along with late-autumn temperatures in the 50s and 60s, and then, almost as soon as the solstice happened, we found ourselves plagued by single-digit lows and highs that looked up at the freezing mark with envy. On top of that, we had four measurable snowfalls in December. New Englanders may shrug at that frequency, but for us mid-Atlantic types, it was an unexpectedly early time to keep our eyes on Twitter to find out if our kids’ schools were closed.
No 30s and 40s to ease us in. No solitary dusting to remind us that more serious stuff was on the way.
I can take — even prefer — cold, wintry weather through the holidays. Things feel terribly off when Christmastime is too warm.
Now that we’re into the New Year, though, I’d sure love for Mother Nature to cut us some slack. If she’s trying to teach a much-needed lesson to the climate-change deniers, I can understand, but that’s like when the teacher would punish the whole class because one kid was acting like a blockhead.
So maybe, Ma N., maybe give us cold instead of frigid? Give us weather that braces us instead of hurts us?
And if you want to bring the 60s and 70s back a few months early, I’d be okay with that, too. | DL
Solito had been given the opportunity to actualize his dreams, and then he’d handed those dreams over to literary critics, professional cranks whose only means of support was to shred the work of others, and beyond that to the wider world of opinion generated by every asshole with a keyboard. I didn’t want them to tear him apart.
Matthew Klam, Who is Rich?
FROM TIME TO TIME I like to revisit the relics of my many abandoned blogs and take a look at what was on my mind at a particular point in time. What I often find is that the writing isn’t too shabby and the thoughts genuine — it’s really me in those pixels. With the benefit of the holiday week off and a desire to write more in 2018, I’m trying again.
So welcome back to Dadlibbing. I enjoyed its mix of observations on fatherhood, pop culture, sports, books, and such, so much so that that’s the one I’ve decided to resurrect. Hope you enjoy, and come back, won’t you? | DL