Why We Read and Write Hard Things

When I was a kid, I had to write a book report in Senior English. Ms. Southern gave us a list of famous novels and works several pages long, and each student was to choose from among these. I was a rather morose teenager, enjoying moody music and—as with many teenagers, I expect—anything that smacked of resistance for resistance’ sake. As to what we were resisting, who could say? This being the case though, I perused the list and selected the suggestively titled Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.

I didn’t know any Vonnegut. The title felt like a fragment of the cultural landscape, like a roadside hillock I had passed a million times without thinking about it. Plus, it seemed to imply violence of a kind, which fit well into my social lexicon. This was the dawn of the new millennium; Gladiator had come out, along with the acrobatic martial arts of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. My friends and I had recently discovered Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. I enjoyed Michael Crichton novels and bloody Japanese cartoons. In that instance, violence at least felt like a method of enduring schoolwork’s rigors and ennui.

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Invisible Hope

It can be dark,
dark as night.

It can be thick, and damp, and endless.

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