Author Archives: Anthony Robinson

About Anthony Robinson

I write things.

On the Production and Consumption of Light Reading

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The Dramatist–Brigid Ganly–1945


 
Most of the reading I do on a daily basis is what I think of as “light reading.” Sometimes it’s the morning news. Sometimes it’s stories of the sort now called “Long Form” because everything needs a label and this particular label serves to differentiate the sort of light reading one may do over a quick breakfast, between sips of coffee and bites of bagel, and the sort one may require a whole distracted lunch hour to consume. As my inclinations run, most of the Long Form stories I read tend toward tales of true crime, or somewhat serious takes on what a generation ago was an unserious subject: pop culture, by which I mean what, for a time in the university when I was spending time in the university, was referred to as “cultural production,” which was taking over for the former term for things people made with words, verbal artifacts reflecting the culture in which they’re made and reflect, which used to be called Literature. And literature departments, we were told, were on their way to becoming cultural studies departments, and literary scholars would become cultural studies scholars.

The evidence of this sea change was everywhere: Women’s Studies, Film Studies, Other Things that are not Proper Literature Studies. And then there was Creative Writing, academia’s kicked-around but apparently lucrative younger sibling that existed to both generate and comment on cultural production–

nobody was sure if creative writing departments were actually producing literature, but they were producing tuition and endowed chairs. They were also ostensibly generating material for future Professors of Cultural Studies to sift through, in the form of poems and short stories, alongside episodes of Law & Order: SUV, Britney Spears CDs, and Dungeons & Dragons think pieces. (When some of these graduates graduated and failed to set the literary world afire with their poems and stories, they moved on to Hollywood and began writing for television and the movies, and in doing so, some made good for themselves, or became able to afford a mortgage and a car. But that’s a different essay.) In other words, there was then, and is now, a lot of stuff out there to write about, and despite any confusion you might read into my tone here, all this variety is a good thing, at least if you’re looking for interesting things to read during those times you happen to be reading and not watching screens. (Though if you’re like me, most of your light reading is done on a screen.) Continue reading


The Church of Mad Love is Such a Holy Place to Be

David Bowie in 1973

I’m still waiting for the hoax announcement.

My first memory of David Bowie is probably either Changes or Space Oddity, with its primitive video that I think used to play in that otherwise blank space between movies in the early days of cable circa 1980. When I was a few years older, there was the sequel to that song, Ashes to Ashes, and then the whole Let’s Dance period with Nile Rodgers, China Girl, and the homoerotic but somehow wholesome tease of Dancing in the Street with Mick Jagger. As a young teen, I liked all of this well enough—it was pop music and it was something more. It spoke to me in a way that Michael Jackson and Madonna did not, with a semi-cryptically articulated wisdom that would serve me then as a boy of 13 and now as a man, 30 years later. Bowie seemed to be saying that, to paraphrase his colleague, and in some way, mentor/mentee, Lou Reed, that no matter what, it was all right. We will all get lost somewhere, in space, in time, in our own egos. Alienation, silence imposed inside and out, what must sometimes seem like otherworldly urges—it’s all right. There are scary monsters out there and vast reaches of inimitable nothing, and it’s perfectly normal to dwell there. It’s also okay to dance.

What Bowie has fully meant to me over the past four decades, though, can’t be so easily summed up. He’s never left my life. A few months back I watched a BBC documentary called Five Years, which focused a lot on the late 70s and early 80s Bowie. The Plastic Soul and the Thin White Duke, Carlos Alomar and Brian Eno. I watched it wide-eyed at 4 am high on coffee and all alone. I immediately wrote a poem by scrawling it with one finger into my space-age and five-years-out-of-date smartphone. A couple hours later, I sent it to my friend, poet and teacher Mark Lamoureux, who was work bound on a train somewhere in the snowy American northeast, which as far as I was concerned was just as far away as Bowie’s Starman or Major Tom. I called the poem Berlin. Continue reading


Rapture Delayed

tumblr_miyuutKkeP1qf5ca3o1_2501. This past week, an acquaintance, a Facebook friend with whom I’d spoken to on the phone and engaged with on Facebook in the polite ways you engage with folks you’ve never met in real life, was murdered. A victim of stalking and domestic violence. She is survived by her young son. I don’t know how to respond to that.

2. Back in the early 1980s, my paternal grandmother was reunited with a sister from whom she had been separated since childhood, when the sister was an infant. So they had never really met. Then, sixty-five years later, they did. I vaguely remember photographs taken in front of the restaurant my parents managed at the time. I don’t know if they kept in touch after that.

3. A student of mine from 2004 became my friend on Facebook not long after our student-teacher relationship was over. We never hung out outside the classroom, but we kept in touch, commenting on each other’s posts, “like”ing this and that. One year I dropped him a line wishing him a happy birthday. A few days later, I received a note from his roommate that he had passed away. What else to say?

4. In late 2010, I began seeing a therapist/counselor about my various personal problems. He was a retired attorney and self-appointed addiction expert and a hell of a nice guy. I met with him once a week and we ended up talking about movies a lot of the time. One Friday evening, I was at Stacey’s house, visiting E., doing our normal dinner and bedtime routine when my phone rang. The number was unfamiliar, but for some reason I answered it. It was my therapist’s wife, calling to inform me that just two hours earlier, Brad had passed away, so our appointment was canceled. She was just going through his appointment book, calling people, one by one. I think it was helping her to maintain, or maybe she was still in shock. She sounded both very calm and very devastated. Turns out he spotted a young man trying to burglarize a car (not his car) outside his office building. He yelled at the man, sprinted down the stairs, and chased the burglar down an alley, while dialing the police during his pursuit. By the time the police arrived a few minutes later, they found Brad, lying in the alley, phone in hand, dead from a sudden heart attack.

5. I think about death every day but am not morose.
Continue reading