Tag: violence

Carver, “60 Acres” (1969)

raymond carver 60 acrs

“Not a Gentleman Farmer.” (Neil Moralee, 2017)

A Hemingwayesque story in style, theme and development, if with a more defined plot. Lee Waite, 32, owns 60 acres on a reservation. A neighbor tells him people are hunting illegally on it. Again. He loads his rifle and goes. He is as apprehensive as his scared prey, two young people, when he catches them. Both his brothers have been killed, one by stabbing, the other not clear how. It’s clear that violence runs in the family. It intrudes, as it often does in Carver stories, out of nowhere. His characters are aware of their vulnerability to it. Sometimes they control the violence. Sometimes they don’t. They’re all like Zola’s Maquarts. Waite wants to control it. Waite did not like it when his sons asked him, as he was loading the rifle, if he was going to kill the hunters this time. He lets the hunters go, taking their hunting prizes. “He had put them off the land. That was all that mattered. Yet he could not understand why he felt something crucial had happened, a failure.” Back home, with his wife, his ageing, glum mother, his two children, he talks about leasing the land so it can make some money and be off his back. His legs shake from under him as he thinks of the $1,000 he speculates he could get from leasing. It’s not clear whether they shake to the point of having him sit from anticipation of money or from giving away the land.

Discourse, Winter 1969

Hemingway, “On The Quai at Smyrna” (1930)

Vir Heroicus Sublimis

Like reading a Barnett Newman. It is mostly in what Hemingway doesn’t say, in the silences between glimpses of terror and cruelty: “The worst, he said, were the women with the dead babies. You couldn’t get the women to give up their dead babies.” They scream at midnight until the soldiers point searchlights at them. One woman dies and goes immediately stiff. They’re refugees of the Greek-Turkish war of 1922, seen by a seemingly dissociated narrator, either a British or American soldier in charge of managing the situation while Turks, a little too Paul Bowles-like summed- and smudged up in the person of one “Turk,” are portrayed as complicating the situation. But that narrator is either unnerving or maddening, or both. Or mad: “You remember the harbor. There were plenty of nice things floating around in it.” Who is he talking to? Why this reference to “plenty of nice things floating around” in the midst of horrors? What nice things ever float in a harbor? Ever? It’s throw-away details like that, that you know would never be throw-aways in Hemingway, that make you think he’s just throwing a line for effect rather than meaning/ Nothing wrong with that of course. Viz, Newman, his Vir Heroicus Sublimis (the “Heroic Sublime”), whom we just saw at MoMa. See my picture above. Maybe that’s a Turkish man wondering yet again why he’s being thrown under the big red bus and those “zips,” as Newman called those lines. I don’t know why the photo utility I just used dulled the reds as it did. Maybe Kazyo Shigara’s 1964 “Untitled” is more apt:

kazuo shiraga

Kazuo Shiraga’s Untitled,” 1964. (c FlaglerLive)

The two-page vignette was originally the introduction to In Our Time. He unfortunately renamed it, pretentiously, “On the Quai at Smyrna.”