I was back in Kentucky last weekend and picked up a copy of Ace and I'm probably not even halfway through the piece by Chris Offut [cover, Nov 16]. Y'know, it just makes me cry I love it so much.
"Eastern Kentucky is the land of steep hills and deep hollows filled with equal parts of darkness and light..." Now let me just suggest to you that you can't say it any better than that, and I also wanna tell you that it kinda gives me hope.
Remember I'm the one who reads but doesn't write, but when he tells about going to Iowa and how he felt there (well, first of all that he never felt comfortable in the cities and now he was no longer comfortable at home) and when he talks about going to Iowa and people knowing stuff he doesn't know...
Here's the thing about school (in psychology, or as a teacher)... it can all be picked up with books.
But when he says he never had a class in writing and therefore he didn't know all the stuff that you needed to know to write - that's where I am now.
It's just beautifully done.
I'm in my office it's 6:50 here in the morning, I teach at 7:45 and this article's made my day. I sure do appreciate your putting it in there.
I thank you.
I just had a heartfelt need to express myself.
You know how that happens. A person has to give witness as it comes on 'em.
Keep at it.
Linda Scott DeRosier
[Linda Scott DeRosier is the author of 'Creeker,' voted Best Book by a Kentucky author in the 2000 Ace readers' poll. She's a native of Greasy Creek (now Boons Camp). She received her PhD at UK and an Ed.M at Harvard. She has taught at Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University, and East Tennessee State University, where she was also director of Appalachian Studies. She's currently a professor of Psychology in Montana.]
I'm delighted that ACE, that most engaging and truthful of weeklies, has now spawned "Voice" [Nov 16, supplement to Ace's fall literary quarterly], and I'm excited by this new possibility. I live two hours from Lexington, and one of the first things I do when I visit the city is grab an ACE. I know that its offspring will be just as trustworthy and provocative.
Morris A. Grubbs
Lindsey Wilson College
The name, "Voice," is intended as satire, isn't it? I enjoy reading. I like words. As I read I hope to suspend my sense of the world at large. I hope to attend to words. Sometimes the words form a voice, which begins to be heard in my auditory imagination, and I move from hearing the writer to actually listening to the writer.
Coleridge wrote of the ability to: "...procure for these shadows of imagination the willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."
On the other hand: "Any work of art that can be understood is the product of journalism." (Attributed to Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of the anarchic Dada movement.) Oscar Wilde had a different view: "The difference between journalism and literature is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read."
It probably boils down to S. J. Perlman's truth: "The muse is a tough buck." Keep the poetic faith and thanks for "KY's newest literary magazine."
Chaplain Christopher Platt
I hope you will see fit in the "spring edition" of "Voice" to include some more "new and emerging" voices. (Congratulations to Maurice Manning!)
The Usual Suspects were terrific though.
I've heard so little of Gurney Norman lately I was almost afraid he'd stopped writing.
Glad to know he hasn't.
Most everyone likes good food and good books. There just aren't enough opportunities in Lexington for authors and chefs to come together to provide this in one neat package. But at the Bell House November 18, five authors and five chefs came together under one roof to provide what Lexington has been missing: an event called Authors, Readers, & Chefs.
As the host of the event, the Arc of the Bluegrass, Inc. would like to thank the authors - Bobbie Ann Mason, Ed McClanahan, George Ella Lyon, Ronni Lundy, and James Klotter - and the chefs of Emmett's Restaurant, Portofino, Cafe Jennifer, Great Harvest Bread Company, and the Pampered Chef who donated their time and money for the event...Thanks to the guests who attended the event. And last but not least, thanks to Ace Weekly for choosing this event as one of the Critics' Picks of the Week.
The money raised at the event will benefit our private, non-profit organization and the clientele of adults with developmental disabilities who receive our various services.
The Arc of the Bluegrass
Charity begins at home. It shouldn't end there, but it's a good place to start. It's what my mom and dad taught me. It's what's at the heart of our annual Giving issue.
Growing up, it's a great thing to be able to admire your parents. So many memories from my childhood stand out around the holidays.
Like the time an acquaintance of my mom's showed up at our door after their house burned. My mom was the one who INSTANTLY mobilized the community - finding a place for them to stay, and clothes and shoes, and coats, and deodorant and toothpaste and even finding out what Christmas presents had burned under their tree, so she could replace them.
Or the time we went to Jackson County as part of St. Camillus's outreach program. I'll never forget meeting Ceil and Cody, who lived in a camper (not a mobile home, just a camper) with a potbellied stove in the center. Batman was playing on the black and white television next to it. I remember Cody steering me out of the way of that stove so my down jacket wouldn't catch on fire. I remember that the bulk of the holiday "cuisine" we brought them was a case of baby food - because that's all Ceil could eat. She'd had most of her digestive system removed as part of her cancer treatment. I thought she looked about 75, but I found out on the way home she was 46 years old.
I came home filled with holiday spirit - really grateful and thankful - primarily grateful and thankful that I wasn't them. We were learning that terrible lesson so many mountain children do: that no matter how bad you have it, there will always be someone less fortunate that you can look down on.
But one of the most vivid memories I have is the Christmas my dad worked on Cane Creek, driving a back dump for Richland Coal. His job was much what the title suggests, consisting of backing up this multi-ton piece of machinery to within an inch of a 100-foot highwall and dumping the dirt over the side. He was (and still is) deathly afraid of heights, but he did it every night (second shift), for more years than I can count. His "coffee breaks" consisted of crawling off into a bulldozer track where he could throw up from sheer terror with some degree of privacy.
Of course, I campaign against mountaintop removal with the best of them. And I've seen the look environmentalists get in their eyes when they first get wind of the fact that my dad spent time as a strip miner. They look at me with roughly the same contempt and sanctimonious pity that might greet a confession that I'd been raised in a whorehouse. I'm happy to deliver sermons against the rape of the land and our overreliance on fossil fuels, but I always do it from the perspective of somebody who knows how hard that wind blows up there. I do it, remembering how cold my dad must've been on top of that mountain at 3 a.m., and how his legs must've quivered as he retched into that bulldozer track. Because that job was the only way he had to support his family.
And every day, on his way up to the deadlift, he'd pass this little shack - the kind you'd see in a Shelby Lee Adams photograph - a gang of children and dogs in the yard, a car up on blocks in the yard, a washer and a sofa on the porch.
He started to get worried as the holidays got closer and he didn't see a Christmas tree, so he got it in his head that he'd play Santa Claus. He came home and told us what he remembered about the kids - how old they might be, what size they might be. Then we all went shopping. I picked out things for the girls, my brother for the boys. I remember some pretty red mittens, a doll or two, and a remote control car. I'm pretty sure there were even chew toys for the dogs.
We really got into it. I imagined showing up on their doorstep with all this loot - how they'd rip into these packages, thanking us profusely. It'd be great. The best Christmas ever. Finally, I thought, I had a handle on what the Sisters of Divine Providence had been telling us all along. THIS was what it was all about.
But that wasn't what my dad had in mind. We came home. We wrapped up all the presents. My mom added in container after container of her beautiful holiday cooking - her loaves of braided challah, country ham, a turkey breast, cranberry salad, homemade apple butter...
My dad put it all in a big box. He drove up to these people's house - alone - in the dead of night, Christmas week (hoping not to get shot or dogbit), and left it all on their porch.
The only way we know that they got their presents was that he saw them wearing them and playing with them the following week.
My dad, of course, had been poor. Most of his life. And he knew a little something about charity. Which is that how you give is as important as what you give. You give in a way that's right for the recipients. You give in a way that acknowledges and preserves their dignity. You give in a way that recognizes that you're no better than anyone else - just that maybe you've been a little more blessed this year, and can afford to share a little of your good fortune with others who might not be so lucky.