Thursday, September 18, 2008

Week 2 Reading

Once again, here's a recap of my reading highlights.
  • Eudora Welty excerpt from "Storekeeper, 1935" on page 161
  • "Turn Left or Get Shot" photograph by Kerry J. Marshall on page 171
  • Eric Lui's "The Chinatown Idea" on page 172
  • Scott R. Sander's "Homeplace" on page 210
  • Shawn Macomber's "The Chasm Between Grand and Great" on page 230
This week's gold star goes to Joel Sternfeld's "The Former Bryant's Grocery, Money, Mississippi." This is not the image I conjure up when I recall the tragedy of Emmit Till. If you don't know the history, I implore you to take a minute and read up on it. Although, I had read/learned the time and location of the murder, I obviously never pictured it right. In fact, when I thought about it, very little time was spent thinking about the place; instead, focusing on the events--"Bye, Baby," murder, acquittal. I never correctly imagined how rural it was, how very ordinary. It seems as if the place mattered very little, but in fact, this photograph makes me realize that it mattered so much. Because if Till was home in Chicago and had gone to a local corner store and said those doomed words, the consequences would have been different. Place can make all the difference.

On a different note, the chapter is called "coming to terms with place." I found a lot of the readings discussed what it means to occupy a space and what it means to occupy a place. Apparently, depending on the writer, the better situation can be place or space. But regardless of how they name it, it seems that they all agree that it is worse "to sightsee" (be mindless) and much better to do--canoe on a lake, build a home (again), or replenish the earth--in life. I happen to concur. I guess the "do" part--the work, action, creation, etc.--is what makes a house a home, makes wage into wealth, and makes life memorable.


Samuel said...

I always enjoy reading your insights. They're quite profound, really.

I, too, was struck by the Sternfeld photo and the importance of place in the events that occurred.

This might not make any sense, but I recently visited Gettysburg and was struck by how odd it was that there were people playing around on the same fields where a century and a half ago, thousands of people were suffering and dying. It was strange. Anyway, place and time, I think, are critical to understanding why things happen.

I agree with your analysis of the importance of doing versus mindless sightseeing. Quite interesting.

(Parenthetically, I think the National Parks in general, including the Grand Canyon, tend to take the wildness out of nature and make the experience of the place banal. I like the parts of the world that aren't cordoned off every five feet. Don't get me wrong, the Grand Canyon is beautiful; but you can't exactly go exploring where you please there. No leaving the trails, specific lookout points, no feeding the animals, etc.)

h. van de mark said...

Thanks Sam.

I get what you're saying. When I'm out in nature, sometimes I'll wonder if anyone's ever "gone off the beaten path" and explored. It seems that there are so many rules preventing access to a place. I just think it's a shame that we can walk on the moon, but no one has scaled the side of a gorge. It's easy to overlook the small things.

And a super cool plug for those who are die-hard adventurists, or those like me who just want to live vicariously through them, check out the Mongol Rally:
It's amazing.