Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm Back

Well, I’m back, having completed what I set out to do…ignore the utter ridiculousness that has now become so characteristic of our time. I watched no TV, listened to no news, read no newspaper, it was wonderful. I walked everyday in the Canadian Rockies, a most humbling experience, I admired the virtually unbelievable beauty of the forests, the rivers, the lakes, and I also enjoyed observing deer, elk, a bear, and some mountain sheep. It is true it rained much of the time, but it did clear up enough at times to offer fantastic views of the awesome mountains and the air itself was worth the trip. I don’t like the phrase, “communing with nature,” but I guess that is precisely what I was doing. It was so overwhelming I was tempted to seek a vision quest and find some powerful creature of the wild to act as my guardian spirit (having given up all hope of any human help). Indeed, I began to wish I was myself a creature of the forest, a bear perhaps, or even a wolf or an owl, so I could actually live in and be a part of the forest forever. Silly, I know, but it does affect me that way. It is nice to know there is a real world out there, a world of nature and incredible beauty that has not yet succumbed to the ravages of “civilization.” I have visited many parts of the world during my lifetime and there are few places, if any, that are more awesome, beautiful, or moving, than the B.C. Rockies.

Of course one can’t walk all the time, especially in heavy rain. When I wasn’t walking I read, James Thurber. First I read a collection of his essays on crime, “Thurber on Crime,” then I read another collection called, “Credos and Curios,” and finally I read his well-known book (with E. B. White), “Is Sex Necessary?” (these being the only three volumes of Thurber I could find in our home library, all very easy to read). Although I didn’t think much about it, I must have turned to Thurber because he is one of the few humorous writers that is not in the least bit “frantic,” aggressive, or vicious (there is, of course, a lot of viciousness in most comedy). I can understand why Keith Olberman felt it appropriate to read Thurber to his father everyday while visiting him in the hospital. Thurber’s charm lies mostly in the subtlety of his humor that is far more whimsical than cutting, and does not produce the anger, aggression, or even exaggerated criticism that sometimes characterizes American humor. Even in his most extreme form, when you sometimes sense a hint of S.J. Perlman or Max Schulman, his humor is not outrageous or “off the wall.” His prose is much like his drawings, simple, direct, and to the point. When he writes of his peers at the New Yorker, like the cartoonist, Mary Petty, or Robert Benchley, he is at his best and you know him for the good and trusted friend he must have been. His book, “The Years With Ross,” is perhaps the finest example of this. Apparently someone once asked Harold Ross why he kept Thurber on, who was, he observed, merely ”a fifth rate cartoonist.” Ross immediately replied, “He’s not a fifth rate cartoonist, he’s a third rate cartoonist.” In fact, Thurber was a first rate cartoonist and also a first rate essayist of whom you might well say, “His humor was far too subtle for the average mind to grasp.” Having merely “scratched the surface” of this obviously kind, gentle, and creative man’s work, I vow to continue to find more and more for the foreseeable future. I was unable to find any Thurber in the one bookstore we visited, but we did manage to find some books for my wife’s online book business, Arabella’s Books.

Having just now returned from my “time out” I have not as yet tried to catch up with the “news.” My guess is there won’t be much “catching up” to do as I doubt anything much has changed, and if it has, the MSM probably won’t tell us about it anyway (unless it promises to somehow demean President Obama or the Democrats).

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