Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Passing of a Different Drummer

For decades I was a voracious reader-not one of those tablet or nook or kindle guys, actual books where you open them at page one and use a bookmark (I was always partial to index cards so I could write down questions and ideas about what I was reading as if the day might dawn when I could offer Shakespeare or Heller a pop quiz).

There are some who bend the corner of a page to mark their place-a practice I can never endorse or condone. I think it’s rude and disrespectful of the process that created the work, such as it is bound by the covers, etc.. It’s not a deal-breaker in terms of forming friendships though since I don’t have friends, maybe it is.

I love books, no preference anymore for fiction or non-fiction and immersing myself in one is a sort of adventure that requires little to nothing of/from me except to turn the page and keep up the pace. I was saddened to learn of the passing over the weekend of a favorite modern German writer, G√ľnter Grass, whose place in present-day German literature is somewhat colored (if, as an auslander who was a guest in Germany for many years, I may be allowed to offer my analysis, mein senf dazu (so zu sagen)) by a moment of inadequate candor.  

I came to know him, as did so many within and without Germany, for Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), though Grass had a full life and career beyond that novel and its cinematic treatment (and the other two books that made up the trilogy).

It would be rude (though certainly not out of character) for me to offer further observations or any attempted analysis on his life and times, except to say I worked with many countrymen (and women) of his generation who had stories of their darkest hours that they kept to themselves. Nor was he alone in trying to shield himself-we all have deeds we’ve done that we’d rather run from than confront.

His works were, for me, a door into another room filled with people, known and unknown, whom we are tempted to become, but only at those moments when we are most sure no one is watching us. As he helped me understand those moments, and the decisions made during them, have consequences, both for what is done and what was left undone.
-bill kenny

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