Author Archives: William A. Balk, Jr.

Born and reared in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina, William A. Balk, Jr. was educated at the state's namesake university, became an activist confronting the power of the modern State and its military, and spent two years in a radical gay commune in the nation's capital. He has taught textile construction and design for the Smithsonian and Textile Museum in Washington, collected modern porcelain masters, and has submitted to a peculiar affinity for independent book stores. Balk returned to the South Carolina Low Country in middle age, as well as to his extended family, and a literary life lived largely out of doors. Book stores and gardening remain his perennial passions, as does writing. Like one of his heroes, Epicurus, whose philosophical school was called “The Garden,” Balk's aim has long been “to attain a happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.”

In Translation: Losing a Language

“Sitting across from each other, we are trying so very hard to communicate. I apologize to her repeatedly for misconstruing what she attempts to tell me. She searches futilely for the word I will understand, for the English word which holds her meaning. More time! More time.”—William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. […]

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Shaped by Sophocles

“I suspect it is not so universal an experience as the good head-shrinker supposed, but we in the West are Freudians now, and Oedipals, as well, and killing our fathers is expected of sons. Metaphorically speaking.”  —William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—6/6/2016—Sons and fathers are meant to come to loggerheads. […]

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The Almost Naked Dancers of The Lone Star Cafe

“My friends, Cliff and Jim, had come to the ecdysiastical profession at different times. Jim had been dancing—and stripping—on stage in New York for several years. He had learned from some of the biggest names in the business: Damian, Thor, and, most famous of all, Scorpio. I had seen Scorpio perform, and his fame was […]

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To Catch A Thief: “That” Pat Conroy

“If he was planning on shoplifting, this guy was a past master at disarming store security. He was charming, witty, engaging, and unassuming. We spoke for a little while, I found a few titles I was fond of and which he had not read, he thanked me, bought them, and left. His credit card read […]

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My Lifelong Voyage In A Paper Canoe

“I remember crawling on the dirt, crawling because I am unable to stand unassisted. I am underneath a structure, in its shadow, while all around there is bright sunshine on weedy grass. I feel energized and curious, not fearful, perhaps even excited. I am determined to reach the far edge of the shadow cast by […]

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Picking Cotton In The Age Of Facebook

“Cotton, it seems, has surrounded our old farmhouse for most of its existence, save for those occasional years or decades when the price of cotton was so low as to make it unfeasible for farmers to raise it . . . .” —William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. ELKO South […]

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An Elko, South Carolina Thanksgiving

An Elko, South Carolina Thanksgiving Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. “Despite occasional diversions into the realm of experimentation (nb: deep-frying 15-pound turkeys in hot oil is a questionable practice in or near a home constructed of heart pine—known as ‘pine lighter’), we have maintained the cooking methods perfected by my father after many […]

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War & Peace: Son & Mother

“My mother was 21 years old when she was released from her flight training. She had, painfully, already learned of war’s costs.”—William A. Balk, Jr Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. BEAUFORT South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—9/14/2015—Unlike Helen of Troy, for whom a terrible war was begun, my mother claims to have ended one. She had […]

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True Grits: A Sandlapper Heritage

“The first great fortunes in the colony of Carolina were made with rice—by the labor of countless enslaved Africans who brought with them the engineering and agricultural knowledge that made the rice crop so productive. Corn, however, was a gift of the native peoples of the colonies . . .” —William A. Balk, Jr Epicurus’ […]

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The Trials of Job in the Garden

“Myth and experience teach us that hubristic defiance of the cosmos inevitably leads to disaster.”—William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—7/6/2015—In the windbreak of pine trees planted 30 years ago to slow winter’s westerly winds upon the camellia garden and that side of the house, one of […]

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