Monday, October 10, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's, Part 9 (Mary Oppen)

Meaning a Life by Michael_Kelleher
Meaning a Life, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.
Oppen, Mary
Meaning a Life

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

The title of this book has always put me off.

Lacking a subject, the phrase "Meaning a Life," with its awkward use of "meaning" as a verb, strikes me as a bit pretentious. As if living a life is not enough. One has to "mean" it and, of course, by meaning it make it more meaningful than those lives that are simply "lived," unmeant.

There's something earnest and tautological about it. It lacks irony. Or humor. Or both.

Sometimes I give Mary the benefit of the doubt. I remember that the root of "autobiography" is "bio-", meaning "a life."

I prefer to think of it this way, as a kind of clever echo.

from Meaning a Life

Spring came all of a sudden. IN March the Chinook wind blew, and we woke to the sound of running water; we knew the snow was melting, and we were suddenly too warm in bed. In the morning the snow was slush, and by afternoon the gutter in front of our house was running with swift water. I whittled a boat to launch it in the swift current, then pursued it, for it carried the coffin of Fernando de Soto, who had asked that he be set adrift in the Mississippi river when he died. I thought of him and wondered if he had ever reached the sea.

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