January 29, 2008


Obscenely long commutes are unusually normal for most people who work in the DC metro area. There's even some percentage of the workforce out here that commute more than two hours. Seriously. I used to think that two hours was well nigh unto road-trip length. Way back when, while I was finishing my bachelors, the thought of driving two hours from Greenville to Atlanta hardly seemed worth it unless you had a place to stay for the night. Now my daily 1.5 hour-long commute (one way) hardly seems substantive compared to folks who commute to the district from Richmond or West Virginia. But, when the horrific wonder of such a daily sojourn wears off, the question evolves from "how can you stand to do that?" to "what on earth are you going to do while you do that?"

Read. I've discovered that my taste for genre or subject matter changes drastically between reads. For example, these are the last five books that I've read over the past few months:

- Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry by Ian Stewart, a concise history of the development of number theory from Babylonian sales receipts to quantum physics.
- From The Easy Chair by George William Curtis, a book recounting the author's various experiences among 1880s New York City cultured.
- Captain Bligh and Mr Christian by Richard Hough, about the circumstances that preceded the infamous mutiny and the events that followed.
- Stop-Time: A Memoir by Frank Conroy, about, well, being a boy and doing boy things.
- Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by Michael J. Behe, about molecular biology and the Darwinian model for the development of cellular structures and systems.

So, as you can see, as a reader I'm pretty schizophrenic.

One thing that I really enjoy about reading across varying topics is seeing how each author treats the paragraph, how they transition, address a theme, assemble the thoughts, terminate. Maybe what I'm talking about is what folks with English degrees would call 'voice.' Whenever I read an especially good one I utter a muted bravo and re-read it.

The last time I remember thinking of the paragraph as a self-contained unit was back in grade school. I think it was covered somewhere between sentences and haiku. I doubt that there would be much interest outside of an English class for admiring the humble paragraph as a stand-alone language art form (perhaps as something similar to non-rhyming poetry?). But I think that if I were to ever write a book it would probably be—quite literally—just a collection of somewhat unrelated paragraphs. This would be one of them:

"The extent of the drama in the office that Joe and I share is limited to a somewhat strained relationship between Joe and a square-shaped lady in her early 40's, mother of one. She has a crush on him. Over the last year or so she's commissioned some portraits through Joe (he does large-scale graphite portraits from photos). Also, she calls him constantly here at the office. Just checking up.
Joe knows when it's her because of the heavy breathing on the other end of the line. I know when she's called because Joe's side of the conversation goes something like, "Hey, this is Joe...[sigh]...great...just very busy...yeah, very busy...well, there you have it...busy...no, I can't come down to the first floor to see you, I've got work...bye." Just a few minutes ago she called to arrange another portrait of three or so people merged together into one frame. It sounded more like she was trying to make conversation about the one tie that holds their relationship together. In case you're wondering, yes, he charges for the artwork. Basically, he's selling his art to her and denying her the under-the-table emotional dependence that artists have historically shared with their patrons. He's just going through the motions and collecting the check. She keeps coming back for more. That's about the extent of the drama in our office."

Or something like that. I've got about three hours in a week-day to polish it.

Posted by timf at January 29, 2008 05:38 PM

it worked! your paragraph is great by the way. it's rather pathetic.

Posted by: dailey at January 29, 2008 07:54 PM

I had no clue.

Posted by: Kammer at February 1, 2008 10:55 AM

hm. that paragraph looked oddly familiar. :)

:hug from the aea:

Posted by: andrea joy at February 3, 2008 12:23 PM
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