Dedicated to Jean Carroll Nolan.
Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: On March 5, 2010, in my introductory essay here (“21st-Century Hubris: Free Speech & More Of It”), I wrote: “Hubris, from the Greek, means, roughly, ‘presumption.’ And, since I selected this moniker for our magazine’s title, I presume you may want a few words—just a few—of explanation. Why hubris? In this case, our title is our mission statement: we’ll countenance no sacred cows hereabouts. We’re all for free speech, and we’re just the motley crew to speak it.
“Prometheus, the Greek Titan, an old-school, Progressive type, thought the gods (who might as well have been denizens of The Beltway, that Olympus-on-The-Potomac), had a lot of goodies that needed sharing with mankind. Not just fire but, according to Wikipedia, ‘all the civilizing arts, such as writing, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, metallurgy, architecture and agriculture.’
“In fact, the gods, in Prometheus’s day, were determined to wipe out mankind . . . and so the Titan snuck up the holy mountain and went about his little brothers’ and sisters’ business.
“So: perhaps that explains our title for you, in a nutshell. For our sake, ignore the words of poet C.S. Lewis, which serve as my maiden essay’s epigram: shun not hubris; shake up the all-too-happy ‘gods.’ Come back to us, regularly, for a dozen slices of sheer, unadulterated ‘presumption.’”
This month, we feature work by Contributors Jean Carroll Nolan, Drs. Skip Eisiminger, Guy McPherson, and William Ramp, Alexander Billinis, Claire Bateman, Diana Farr Louis, William A. Balk, Jr., Helen Noakes, Ross Konikoff, Anita Sullivan, David Christopher Loya, and Elizabeth Boleman-Herring.
“The Hero Crosses the Threshold,” By Jean Carroll Nolan
SEASIDE California—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—When my husband went to Vietnam, in 1969, he was a beautiful boy of 22, who played guitar and sang Bob Dylan and the Clancy Brothers in a lovely baritone. He read a lot, for a person with severe dyslexia, his tastes ranging from Omar Khayyam to John O’Hara, and he was a raconteur par excellence, with a huge, infectious laugh. He had wonderful posture, more a result of attending a Catholic prep school than being a member of the Marine Corps, and he loved to drink. (Read more . . .)
Skip the B.S.
“Deaf to Their Warnings, Immune to Their Poisons: Snakes,” By Skip Eisiminger
CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—Though Serpentes Ophidia by formal definition lacks legs, wings, and flippers, some can slither along on their glassy scales at 7 mph, which is about as fast as the elderly and their grandchildren can run. The longest and heaviest snake on record is a python that is 49 feet long and weighs 990 pounds. Now in an Indonesian zoo and long past his prime, “Julius Squeezer,” as he’s called, is fed three or four medium-sized dogs a month. (Read more . . .)
“Understanding Infinity,” By Guy McPherson
SAN ANTONIO Belize—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—“There is a wide yawning black infinity. In every direction the extension is endless, the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal. Where light exists, it is pure, blazing, fierce; but light exists almost nowhere, and the blackness itself is also pure and blazing and fierce. But most of all, there is very nearly nothing in the dark; except for little bits here and there, often associated with the light, this infinite receptacle is empty. This picture is strangely frightening. It should be familiar. It is our universe. (Read more . . .)
Small Things Recollected
“Trash Talk,” By William Ramp
LETHBRIDGE Alberta, Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—This month, I’m thinking with useless things. I’ve dealt with big themes and issues over the past year, but I want to get back to the spirit of my banner title, “Small Things Recollected,” which plays with on the title of a lovely and classic archaeological text about humble things; James Deetz’s, In Small Things Forgotten. The dramatis personae of this column are discarded items so forgotten that perhaps they no longer even count as trash. Or even as “items.” Useless beyond description. I’m daring myself to make the result interesting to you. Truth and dare. (Read more . . .)
Roaming East Roman
“Becksi Skolovano (‘Vienna-Schooled’),” By Alexander Billinis
CHICAGO Illinois (Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—In 2016, my family and I exchanged a world resembling a peaceable, variegated mosaic for one of hard, harsh, primary colors, each bordered (when possible) by sturdy walls. In looking at our future, all this year and last, I have sought solace, and wisdom, from the past. As a student of history, I am aware, at least intellectually, that progress is rarely linear, and periods of openness and tolerance are often—usually—followed by times of retrenchment and fear. (Read more . . .)
“Poem Beginning with a Line by Milosz,” By Claire Bateman
GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—Poet Mark Irwin was born in Faribault, Minnesota, in 1953, and has lived throughout the United States and abroad in France and Italy. His poetry and essays have appeared widely in many literary magazines including Antaeus, The American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Paris Review, Poetry, The Nation, New England Review, and the New Republic. (Read more . . .)
Eating Well Is The Best Revenge
“Unforgettable Paula Wolfert & The Memory Cupboard,” By Diana Farr Louis
ANDROS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—“Memories of the past are like jewellery left lying forgotten in the cupboard. The dust covers it, tarnishes the settings, dims the stones, and when we turn to look at it again, only a few gleams shine out from a pattern that was once so vivid.” I read this paragraph in Sagittarius Rising, Cecil Lewis’s remarkable memoir of his teenage years as a pilot in World War I, a few hours before we welcomed the second batch of summer guests to our island retreat. Seeing Connie Higginson, a friend since 1963 when we were ex-‘Cliffies attempting to lead une vie de bohème in Paris, always produces a dam burst of memories. (Read more . . .)
“Dr. Franklin’s Tree & The Bastard Progeny,” By William A. Balk, Jr.
ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017— Trekking through the Georgia wilderness in October of 1765, the father and son team of naturalists, John and William Bertram, came across a small, sandy plot of a couple of acres along the Altamaha River, not far from where Jesup and Darien are now located. It was populated by a colony of a previously unknown small tree, which they recorded and, on subsequent visits, they collected seeds and were able to grow them in their nursery in Philadelphia. They named the new genus Franklinia, in honor of their great friend, Benjamin Franklin, and gave it the specific epithet, alatamaha, somehow adding an extra “a” to the usual spelling of the river which had produced the new tree. (Read more . . .)
“Smile & Smile & Be a Villain . . .” By Helen Noakes
SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—Our nation is currently caught in a drama of its own making. Sadly, as often happens when too many “writers” with disparate views are involved, it’s a bad play. And, despite its insanely volatile protagonist, The Behemoth (in every sense of the word), the performance is becoming quite boring. Why boring? Because every actor, once his or her character is established, repeats the same mode of behavior ad nauseam—every grimace, lie, insult, and debasement, is predictable. (Read more . . .)
West Side Stories
“Urban Lepidoptery” By Ross Konikoff
MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—In an effort to disrupt the monotony of news regarding our country’s decline into aggressive nationalism and the downfall of Western civilization, I’ve decided to announce an exciting technique I have discovered and refined, one that has brightened my tedious life of champagne, carnal pleasures, and exotic adventure. See if you won’t join me in my newest passion, which involves but one prop. When the occasional gigantic Musca domestica Linnaeus (common house fly) or enormous, blood-thirsty mosca-ito (little-fly or, as you refer to it,“mosquito”) somehow gains entrance to our quarters, pestering us to the point of madness, our first response is generally a concerted, mutual frenzy to bash it flat, spattering its tiny yet colorful innards out onto the walls; knocking over lamps, vases, wives and husbands in the process. (Read more . . .)
On The Other Hand
“A Poet’s Reply to the Question: ‘Who is Your Audience?’” By Anita Sullivan
EUGENE Oregon—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017— My niece writes romance novels and sells enough books on Amazon to earn herself a six-figure income. She is proud of her writing and secure in her audience, for whom she confines herself to a chair for many hours each day generating a flow of words that—much like the trees along city sidewalks—are carefully calibrated not to stray too far in any direction while still giving the impression of wild abandon. (Read more . . .)
“Apollo 13, The Mission & The Movie,” By David Christopher Loya
BURBANK California—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—There was a time when America had achieved genuine greatness—greatness that to this day remains unparalleled in this country in terms of substance and achievement. It wasn’t born of cheap slogans woven onto truckers’ caps made in China, and hawked by a grifting, meretricious, carnival barker to unconscious masses desperate for meaning, any meaning, while imprisoned in pockets of rural and suburban desperation. (Read more . . .)
By Way of Being
“The Aerophytes Take Wing,” By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring
PETIT TRIANON Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017—We’re packing again. Preparing to leave one house and build another. Uprooting: though the simple truth is we never took to earth in Florida, so there is no tap root here to identify and safeguard; no lateral roots to tear off and leave, weeping, in temporary soil. We will rise up from this place as though we had never been here in the first place, nesting within our sturdy hearts the neighbors we have come to love, but never, I think, looking back with longing on this geography where we have spent two years like air plants: suspended, yet self-nourished . . . in thin air. (Read more . . .)