This morning’s miracle: dawn turned up its dimmer, set the net of frost on the lawn to shining. The sky, lightly iced with clouds, stretched from horizon to horizon, not an inch to spare, and later, the sun splashed its bucket of light on the ground. But it’s never enough. The hungry heart wants more: another ten years with the man you love, even though you’ve had thirty; one more night rinsed in moonlight, bodies twisted in sheets, one more afternoon under the plane trees by the fountain, with a jug of red wine and bits of bread scattered around. More, even though the dried grasses are glowing in the dying light, and the hills are turning all the syllables of lavender, as evening draws the curtains, turns on the lamps. One more book, one more story, as if all the words weren’t already written, as if all the plots haven’t been used, as if we didn’t know the ending already, as if this time, we thought it could turn out differently.
It was the age of levitations and decapitations, of ghostly apparitions and sudden vanishings, as if the tottering Hapsburg Empire were revealing through the medium of its magicians its secret desire for annihilation.” So writes Pulitzer Prize–winning author Steven Millhauser in “Eisenheim the Illusionist,” one of the finest stories in his 1990 collection The Barnum Museum.
The first act of the satirical comedy Little Miss Sunshine has an affable scattershot loopiness. Frank (Steve Carell), an English professor hospitalized after a suicide attempt (he broke down upon losing his male grad-student lover to an academic rival), is released into the hands of his sister, Sheryl (Toni Collette).
If you’ve never seen a film written and directed by Woody Allen, then you’ve missed about one a year for a biblical generation. Those who have seen them all are like the old-timers in the congregation of a long-serving minister: they know that Allen is apt to repeat his standard themes, retell his favorite jokes and rely on a well-worn bag of tricks.
At year’s end, when all is sad and done in, we gasp as clouds of smoke appear. But it’s only the yews spewing pollen, outdoing chimneys as if it were spring. That and speech about Mideast peace as juncos reseed themselves, the Christmas rose flops open to cold, and Barney the cat perfects his new trick—he unbars our door.
He stares. (He prefers indoors.) But right there’s the morning star, just like the chorale’s. And up close, trouble— a pup hunting kibble and warmth. And there’s more. Mt. Rainier shows up in pink and blue bunting. So clear. Such fresh-powder glory. The sleepy volcano seems suddenly haloed, huge, and near. So much for our little stable.
Amazon says that the most highlighted Bible passage on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader is Philippians 4:6–7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Atlantic, November 2).