The movie The Talented Mr. Ripley tends to stay with anyone fascinated by how we acquire and maintain and sometimes switch our personal identity, and how slippery it can be. For what columnist has just one identity? There's the public one, and it's always a temptation to pretty it up, make it more respectable, more presentable than the private one--until he can't be sure which is the real one, if either is.
The massacre at a black church in storied old Charleston, S.C., also known as the City of Churches and the Holy City, plunged it into the very heart of darkness. It also set off a cascade of comments across the country.
There's no telling by now many schools and libraries have banned Flannery O'Connor's classic short story "The Artificial Nigger" from their reading lists--many of them, one suspects, without reading any of it beyond that perfectly provocative, politically incorrect title. All our ever-vigilant Thought Police needed to get it banned throughout the country was the mention of the unmentionable N-word in its title.
It happened in one of those interlocking hallways in the maze that connects a parking garage with a downtown office building here in Little Rock--one of those in-between spaces where nothing is supposed to happen. You're on your way from one point to another. You're not really there except physically. Your mind is already ahead of yourself, or back at your last stop. In short, you're In Transit.
Here is a miscellany of characters and subjects I hereby resolve never to mention again in any column of mine, though I know I will. It may be unavoidable. It's the nature of the beast, namely the news. The same themes keep repeating themselves, and so I keep repeating my response to them. It's a bad habit. So I've made a little list of people and subjects to avoid:
It's simple enough to understand the latest pronouncements from the Federal Reserve System and what they portend for future economic policy. Indeed, not since Alan Greenspan was heading the Fed and handing out his delphic words of wisdom and obfuscation has the Fed's policy been so clear, or opaque, or neither, depending on how you'd like to interpret, misinterpret or just ignore them. The last is always a temptation when encountering Fedfog, a lingo that would make Vedic Sanskrit a breeze.
The news story was on the front page of the Arkansas section last Wednesday and should have been. It came with a full cast of characters, details a-plenty, and illustrations galore. This saga about an unexploded Civil War artillery shell seems to have involved just about everybody in Northwest Arkansas--military and civil, from a local bomb squad to the staff of a national park.
It was bright and sunny in the hotel dining room where the legislators come and go talking about the issues of the day but really about themselves, being politicians. The old man in a rumpled linen suit over in the corner stood out like a weed at a garden show. If anybody had cared to notice him. But his hooded eyes noticed all.