Thursday, July 06, 2006

Archive of the Day

From Harp by John Gregory Dunne. In this moment, Dunne has learned that his brother, Stephen, has committed suicide, and he has called one of his two older brothers in Oregon to tell him the news.
It was then I added quite unnecessarily that there was no need for him to go back to the funeral -- he had not really known Stephen all that well, I said, Stephen being ten years younger -- and in any event I could not afford to pay his way east. I blame neither the stress of the situation nor my reaction to it for saying something he quite rightly thought wanton and insensitive. We had not, in fact, got along in years, which was more to the point. The reasons for what at times was a quite active, and often quite poisonous, mutual dislike I think are best attributed to, if I may paraphrase Alexander Pope, that long disease, life. Our war was not so much cold as gelid; in seasons of détente we were correct. He had gone to Oregon in search of an epiphany, and from there I was the occasional recipient of long, artful letters, full of character evaluation and private secrets and revisionist family history; blame was sprinkled like holy water; the archbishop of this schismatic church was careful to douse himself as well as his congregation of family. I had the uneasy feeling that there was an audience for this exchange of letters to which I was not privy, with the result that my answers became at best perfunctory. Some weeks after Stephen died, my wife read his next letter but I refused; it appeared more or less a compendium of my shortcomings in most of the moral arenas, beginning with my telephone call that terrible morning. I threw it into the fire, unread; fair enough, but instead of letting it go at that, I was impelled to announce I had done so in a brief communiqué to Oregon, I who had claimed to Stephen, that last time we saw each other, that I had little interest in the theater of my own life, and none whatsoever in the theater of anyone else's; these are the small self-deceptions by which we are defined.


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