Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Literary Barbed Wire

What is there about barbed wire that makes it so interesting to writers from Steinbeck to Evenson, from Davis to Proulx?

That's the question Lyn and I are pursuing this week as we write a conference paper for the American Literature Association conference in Boston later this month.

Photo from a couple of months ago, just down the hill from our house in Woodland Hills. Quotation from The Grapes of Wrath:

“I says to myself, ‘What’s gnawin’ you? Is it the screwin’?’ An’ I says, ‘No, it’s the sin.’ An’ I says, ‘Why is it that when a fella ought to be just about mule-ass proof against sin, an’ all full up of Jesus, why is it that’s the time a fella gets fingerin’ his pants buttons?’” He laid two fingers down in his palm in rhythm, as though he gently placed each word there side by side. “I says, ‘Maybe it ain’t a sin. Maybe it’s just the way folks is. Maybe we been whippin’ the hell out of ourselves for nothin’.’ An’ I thought how some sisters took to beatin’ theirselves with a three-foot shag of bobwire. An’ I thought how maybe they liked to hurt themselves, an’ maybe I liked to hurt myself.”

The fact that barbed wire is dangerous is exactly what makes it useful, useful even and especially for people who want to hurt themselves and others.

The serene beauty of the photo is enhanced, or rather exacerbated, by the fact of the pointed barbs.


michael morrow said...

just want you to know continue to teach and encourage me, especially as I read your writing.......when you rhetorically analyze everyday childhood elements I have taken for granted....elements which consistently kept me ripped wide open... clothing, flesh, and emotions...barbed wire...whether religion, school, or military, ....barbed wire is everywhere and does its best to keep us corralled...your observations continue to expand my horizons way past industrialized religion, humanity and myriad other industrialized societal barbed wire.

Oh yes...speaking of barbed wire....I am pleased to once again thank you for severing industrialized education barbed wire by providing the opportunity to visit my son in Hawaii a few years ago....after serving 5 years surrounded by federal corrections department barbed wire for growing happy herbs, he was released last week a man changed and looking forward to busting out of his personal barbed wire(d) life for the first time in many years ....and visiting him during the 2 years the feds held him in a halfway house in Honolulu was very critical to his survival and our relationship.

Gotta hand it to those good ole' federal barbed wire developers,,,,they certainly have major influence on relationships from many diverse directions.....but thanks to people like you, wire is being de-barbed....

Scott Abbott said...

sooooooo happy to hear about your son. It was pretty damned fine to watch you reach out to him.