“The Unfinished”

It has taken several days for me to finish D.T. Max’s New Yorker article, biography of sorts, of David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel The Pale King. The article is moving, and includes correspondence from Wallace to Franzen and DeLillo, and quite a bit from his wife, Karen Green, whose pain I cannot even fathom and would love more than anything to salve with…what I don’t know. Because it’s none of my business, but if I cry reading a biography what must she do living in it?

Aside from being a touching portrait of an intensely intelligent writer who wanted simply to make readers feel “less alone inside,” and who in that quest felt increasingly more alone (except in the sunshine that was his marriage…thank heaven for Karen Green, who from the article I gather made him feel more at home and comfortable in his own skin than, it seems, anything else could outside really great writing).

What compelled me yesterday, reading the final pages of Max’s article (I still haven’t read the new piece of fiction that follows—I can’t yet) was Wallace’s root idea for The Pale King, as he articulated it in a typed note amongst his papers: “Bliss—a second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious—likes on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious things you can find…and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.”

I think that technicolor bliss can probably come after any intense “almost kills you” period of intense focus on undesirable emotions (fear might work as well as boredom).  As melodramatic as I oft am, I know that the weeks of intense three-year-old battling, of taking each breath as though it might be the only thing that could keep me going, is part of what made yesterday, a gorgeous, sun-filled day of hiking and strawberries and camaraderie with Peanut, the second-by-second bliss it was.

It was not a perfect day. It was a perfect-as-human-existence-can-get-if-you-have-a-dollop-of-realism-adorning-the-top-of-your-daily-trifle day.  And I’ll take it.

Advertisements

Real costs of doing business

You know what? It’s time for us to start paying what it costs to produce and ship the stuff we buy.

I’m sick of egg ranchers saying they can’t have cages big enough for the birds to turn around because eggs would be too expensive. Well, then, maybe we, as a nation, should buy fewer eggs. (Propostition 2 in California mandates that animals be able, int heir cages, tostand up, turn around or stretch. Egg producers are fighting the measure, saying they’ll all leave the state to continue cruel farming in other states. Won’t that make eggs more expensive because of shipping costs? Nope. I forgot that in this country gas is so cheap we can throw it away and not benefit financially from buying local.)

I’m tired of farmers saying they can’t pay workers a fair wage because strawberries and lettuce would be too expensive if they paid human beings what its worth to do backbreaking labor. Well, my friends, I would pick strawberries for a living if it paid well enough (I do pick enough each week to feed my berry-centric family), and I am willing to pay more for my strawberries because I want workers paid a living wage. I’m willing to pay a lot more because I can’t eat cheap strawberries without seeing the faces of families who can’t eat after a long day in the field because they’re not paid well enough.

I’m exasperated with fast food restaurants who say they can’t possibly raise minimum wage by a dollar because it would add two cents to the cost of a burger. Two cents. Yup, that would make people stop eating a quarter-pound of cow flesh-plus-feces, all right. Two cents.

I’m irritated that big agribusiness insists it has to modify and spray and innoculate and irradiate and otherwise alter food to make it cheaper. What about making it healthful? What about making it good or natural? What about paying a little more and eating a little less (and a little mroe wisely)?

No, I don’t want Americans to have to struggle to buy their food. But as it is, we’re not paying the real cost of food. We all need to be growing tomatoes on our patios and spinach instead of grass in our yards. Because underpaying businesses for their products means they underpay workers and abuse animals and the planet in the process.

Find out more about Prop 2 here: For yes and for no.

And perspective on the precious resources animals offer here.

And the real cost of strawberries here.