Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
My 17-year-old son has no interest in seeing the new Blade
Runner movie, and neither do his friends. Why? They can't or don't want to
relate to a dark vision of the technology. They are technological natives. They
want careers in tech; they see the promise of tech. They have no connection to
the original Blade Runner. They rarely go to the movies in the first place.
They have their gaming worlds, their drowning amount of homework (these are
bright kids:), their worries fueled by every day grown ups who can't or won't be
upfront with them about the perils of climate change they see all around them
in stronger storms. They live with inconvenient truths, with dystopian reality,
and don't need or desire it in movies now in their lives. They want a future,
however, not this one, not this film. Blame Trump. Blame ourselves, their
parents, or creators.
Thoughts from other parents??
Or, am I only a replicant?
A year or so ago I was watching the evening news and saw an image that filled me with anger and despair. The result was this piece of short or "flash" fiction entitled: "BEHEADED," which was just published in the wonderful online literary journal,FICTION SOUTHEAST.
Here is a link to this new short short:
Thank you for reading!
Two weeks without electrical power and finally, someone, said let there
be light and there was light late on Sunday night here on Long Island – and
heat and television and computers and all the modern conveniences that make our
lives both easier and more complicated. I learned a lot of the last few days:
-I re-discovered Scrabble – and found at that 12-year-olds
can be as competitive at Scrabble as they are at soccer! I also re-lived the joy of snow through his joy at the Nor'easter of November on Long Island.
-I read poetry to the kids at night – they liked My Cat Jeoffry
the spiritual poem on cats by Christopher Smart the best and so did I. Our cat, Shelton, liked it
too. As Smart ends his poem about his cat, we petted our cat. "For he is of the tribe of Tiger... For every house is incompleat without him &/ a blessing is lacking in the spirit."
-I found the joy of early bedtimes, for the kids, and myself
at 7:30 pm and for waking with the sunrise.
-Historical novels are better settings than contemporary ones when you are living in a cold, dark surreal setting, I found contemporary settings where people argued over money and politics hard to focus on. For example, I started Richard Ford’s Canada
(plan to finish it), J.K. Rowling’s Casual Vacancy
(don’t plan to finish in the near future) but I did finish Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies
-- about the last weeks of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII set in the brutal fall and winter of 1535. (If you don't recall Anne was the one beheaded and pushed aside for wife number three: Jane Seymour).
And, I worried a lot – about my family in the cold – though we
were better off than many others – and remembered to be thankful for what we
had: an intact house and car and, most importantly, one another. We celebrated
by lighting candles on Friday night and saying prayers, even though we had no
choice but to light candles, the prayers had a special meaning flickering the darkness with grace and calm.
We live in strange times – between the future that we fear
and the past, which we can’t return to. I just hope we won’t be living in the
dark and cold until we figure out how to truly move forward.
Did the recent storms hit you? Or have you experienced
natural disasters where you live? Did it change the way you think or do things? Be well out there, my friends. And when you have time, consider reading my debut novel: LIE.
Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2012, and I'm marking two very different anniversaries in this post: 9/11 and the Norton Anthology of Literature, both which mark turning points in my life -- and maybe yours?
Eleven years ago, I woke up to the same blue, blue skies that I woke up to today. Not a cloud. Blue. That day, I was supposed to be in New York City, running a press conference, downtown, until my ace second-in-command, called and ordered, "Turn on the news. Now." The skies were clear and blue and then they weren't.
The second anniversary, talks about what saves us from despair, at least what saves me: stories and poetry. The Norton Anthology of English LIterature
is celebrating its 50th anniversary, having published nine editions so far. I have carried my edition of the Norton Anthology of Poetry
with me since I was a freshman in college, schlepped it from one home to another, at least a dozen moves, brought it with me to graduate school in my 40s, adding notes to its tissue-thin paper, losing the cover, re-reading some poems never reading others in the 1,000 plus page tome. I will never abandon it, for it never abandoned me.
"I wake to sleep, and take my waking show.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go." --
opening to "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke
p. 1133 in my edition of The Norton Anthology of Poetry
And lastly, if you haven't read LIE
yet -- my critically-acclaimed young adult novel, now is the time.
Advice to a Six Year
Old After the Mass Shooting
at the Midnight
Showing of “The Dark Knight Rises”
by Caroline Bock
We send our children off—
with sunscreen and antibacterial lotion.
With orders to drink lots of water
if it’s hot, and to button up, if it’s cold.
I instruct my six year old not to scream—
don’t draw attention—
if the gunman points his semi-automatic your way—
run out of sight, disappear into the air—
know where the exits are located.
Or if in a classroom, barricade yourself in.
Don’t be a hero. Call 9-1-1.
Come home from Columbine,
West Virginia Tech, the “Congress at your Corner”
meet and greet in Tucson,
the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises”—
come home safe.
But at six years old, she insists she is smarter than me:
says she won’t leave my sight, she’ll hold my hand.
She’ll eat her green vegetables. Go to bed early.
We send our children off—
mine, contrary to what she promises,
breaks away, races across the dying grasses—
the scent of apples on the ground—
a new backpack slung on her sturdy shoulders—
new sneakers tight on her feet.
We stand in the autumn fields demanding
the world return our children safely to us
and fear our voices can never be loud enough.
Thoughts and prayers to all the victims and their families
Caroline Bock is the
author of the critically-acclaimed
is one of the major figures of modern Chinese literature - but perhaps people out there in the Internet ether know this -- or at least, I keep wondering who in China is clicking on this blog? I taught "Diary of a Madman"
this year -- reluctantly. I knew little of Chinese literature. It was a mandate from the English department at City College of New York to teach this early 20th century short story as part of my World Humanities course.
I loved this story. Reading and teaching Lu Xun led me to think of China -- and of other places in history and time that has suppressed human creativity and hope -- driven people crazy with fear. I wonder if they are reading him in China today -- or is he out of fashion? Written in 1918, "Diary of a Madman" is about a so called "madman's" point of view of his village -- of sanctioned terror, of a village and of families turning to the most horrendous of human crimes-- cannibalism.
Or, is this all just the crazed ramblings of an unreliable narrator? Moreover, is this truth or symbolic of a larger destruction of a corrupt, brutal, inhuman society? Does the madman speak truth to power or does he have no power at all --except to share his nightmares?
As the narrator exclaims at the very end, "Are there children who have not yet eaten human flesh? Save the children..."
-People who can pay for college in full for five sons
-People who get shoeshines on their way to private corporate jets
-People who use the word 'envy' with such moral gravity to describe those who are struggling to pay bills, the middle class and all the rest of the 99%, as if there was time enough in our days for 'envy.'
When asked what he and his striking men wanted, Samuel Gompers, famous union organizer, simply replied: 'More.'
It's not envy to want more -- from our politicians, our country, and from ourselves. We should be given the opportunity to want more -- and to dream too.
Envy, covet or
Want? I prefer want, simpler:
Want more, envy less.
Truly, from author of LIE.
This murder, in part, inspired LIE:
From Newsday on Long Island -- Sunday, October 30:
Community advocates will hold remembrance events this week to call for unity and continued work against prejudice on the third anniversary of the hate killing of immigrant Marcelo Lucero.
Lucero was killed Nov. 8, 2008, when a mob of teens attacked him in Patchogue.
The Long Island Organizing Network, a Riverhead advocacy group, will hold an action meeting Tuesda at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood to discuss, among other subjects, the need for a permanent hate crimes task force and for passage of anti-bullying legislation in the county.
The meeting, slated to start at 7 p.m. in the campus’ theater located off Crooked Hill Road, seeks to foster “acceptance, understanding and respect, not just for Latinos but for every gender and race,” said lead network organizer Lisa Perry.
Lucero’s brother, Joselo Lucero, and other advocates will also hold an interfaith vigil, starting at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 6, at the St. Frances DeSales Parish Hall, located at 220 South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue.
“We want people of all faiths to come and for the event to take place every year, so that together we can create awareness that hate is not acceptable,” Lucero said. “We are not tolerating that conduct on Long Island.”
May Marcelo Lucero rest in peace
Last night, I watched the very compelling documentary "Light In the Darkness," on my PBS station. Produced by the grassroots anti-hate organization, Not In Our Town,
this documentary strives to tell the story of the Marcelo Lucero murder and the affect of this terrible murder by a group of teens on the town of Patchogue-Medford in Long Island. I think it covered a lot of ground in a very effective way; it told the story of a town, working very hard to find 'answers' on how to move forward after a vicious hate crime.
As I watched, I thought again, for the hundredth time, why did it happen here, on Long Island? Why, in this very decent middle class suburb? What were these kids, their parents, their teachers, the principal, the police thinking before, during, after the crime? How could these kids, and they were all high school kids -- on a regular basis, often on a weekly basis by their own admission-- beat up Hispanics at random -- for no reason other than that they were Hispanic -- why did this happen here?
Some may find this book 'difficult.' Yes, it deals with a 'difficult' subject: Racism in American suburbs. What can I say? It's true. It's inspired by real hate crimes -- most notably. the murder of Marcelo Lucero on Long Island in November of 2009. He was stabbed and beaten to death by a group of teenagers, who called the weekly sprees, 'beaner-hopping.' If you are looking for a beach read, this isn't it. If you want the next paranormal romance with vampires/zombies/werewolves, this isn't it.
Some may say that there are too many characters. There are 10 distinct first person points of views, including five teen and five adult, including three Hispanics. I felt compelled to delve into, through multiple voices, the psychology of this town. Each person is grappling, often desperately alone, with the aftermath of this crime. I feel this is the story of a community as much as anyone individual. I did not interview or even attempt to interview anyone from the town. This is where I felt fiction had to take over. I had to create characters so I could explore their motivations, pain, angst, anger, grief, struggle to do right or not. The main character, Skylar and Sean, are grappling with big questions of morality, of right and wrong, of keeping quiet, or outright lying.
According to the documentary, the 'real' high school kids in Patchogue-Medford struggled with this too -- they kept their code of silence. No high school kid came forward to tell an adult about what they knew about these repeated, often weekly, sprees. This sentiment is echoed strongly in one character, Lisa Marie, who repeatedly says, "Everyone knows, nobody's talking." I had read or heard about this community 'shut down' and it came alive in this line.
All through writing my debut young adult novel, I kept asking myself how could this happen? Not only how could these beatings happen, but how could everyone keep silent? This crime wasn't an isolated hate crime. I knew that from my research of news articles. I did know from research with the Southern Poverty Law Center, who I thank in my novel, that, not only could this happen here, but there had been a pattern of hate crimes on Long Island -- and a pattern of police indifference. The police in the area routinely ignored or lacked follow up on crimes against Hispanics, that too was in the documentary and has been in several news reports. But it also cried out to me to have a policeman in my story basically saying this. Currently, in real life, the federal government is conducting a probe of the Suffolk County police department based on their conduct in hate crimes. To their credit, according to the documentary and news reports, the Suffolk County Police are taking many steps toward rectifying this situation.
At every turn, I felt that each character embodied some small truth that fit into the larger picture, and only that way, with multiple voices, could a fuller picture of this community be drawn. Of course, then each character had to be as fully developed a character as I could write. You will not find 'easy' good or bad characters in the story, every character is multidimensional, struggling to find answers. In one way, I hope LIE, is an 'Our Town," for the 21st century.
Yes, LIE is not an easy book. I didn't write it to be easy. It's not a comfortable, cozy read. There are lots of those books around, if that's what you want, and I read them too. But I am hoping LIE will offer a radically different reading experience. I hope it will make the reader think: What would I have done in I was in Skylar's place? If I was in Sean's place? Or, if I'm an adult reading this, if I was their father, or mother, or teacher, or Coach, what would I have done or said? No one, none of the ten characters has all the answers at the end, not even the writer. You may not 'like' all these characters, but I hope the reader gives themselves permission to live with them for a while, to argue with them, to feel what they are feeling.
Ultimately, this well-made documentary, "Light in the Darkness," brought a lot of light on this town, on hate and racism in the suburbs. I just wish it had gone further. But a hour is a very short time to go very deep in television. That's the role of fiction, or at least my fiction.
I urge you to read LIE, and judge for yourself, how much farther fiction must go.