Thursday, January 10, 2008

SIMPLIFY by Tod Goldberg

The Book: Tod Goldberg, SIMPLIFY. OV Books, 2005. Fine condition, inscribed by the author: "Clair -- Move back home! And get to work on your book! All best, Tod Goldberg/Oct. 29, 2005."
First read: 2005
Owned since: 2005

Today is Tod's birthday, so this book was the obvious choice. It is a collection of 12 short stories told in the first person by different characters, most written in the present tense. The main characters are all men (or boys) at turning points of their lives. "Simplify" is the story of a boy who learns to cope with his dyslexia and the horrors he has witnessed by translating everything into an alphabet only he can understand.

Several of the stories deal with acts of violence or their repercussions, but my two favorites are about the idea of a savior: "The Jesus of Cathedral City," in which Jesus returns to earth in some unexpected guises, and "Comeback Special," which I've discussed before in this blog. The point of both of these stories is that saviors and heroes don't absolve us of free will, of the responsibility to look after each other and ask what Simone Weil called the fundamental question: How are things with you? Jesus leaves the narrator of "The Jesus of Cathedral City" with these words:

"It comes down to choice. You're free to walk this earth as you always have, free to make mistakes and be kind to people and to ignore people and maybe every now and again you'll help someone who needs helping. And that will be fine. Maybe you'll see something violent and you'll think you could have prevented it, and maybe you'll be right, but maybe you would have died in the process. It's all in the choices, the details. You're both free to do whatever you want to do."

Happy birthday, Tod, and thanks for that.


tod goldberg said...

It is funny you point out that passage -- I read it and I thought, Did I write that? And yet I sort of recall doing it, sort of remember the process by which I came to the conclusions in that particular story, but also can look at that paragraph sort of dispassionately and think, huh, maybe I was onto something that day that I've never quite captured again, or tried to.

Anyway, thanks for the props and the b-day wishes!

Larry said...

And choices can have unintended consequences. We leave the house 5 minutes late and avoid a tragic accident that would have occurred had we been on time. Or, we happen to be there when someone stumbles and prevent something bad from happening.

The lose of a close friend last week leaves all this to ponder.


Anonymous said...

Choice indeed. We can choose to be offended, or not, choose to love - or not. Life is full of those little decisions which we make, often without considering even a fraction of the possible repercussions - which of course is life in it's pure, unadulterated form.

AnswerGirl said...

I'm very sorry about the loss of your friend, Larry.