A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. died yesterday, and I feel a little as though I've lost a family member. I liked him very much as an author. And for most of my academic career, I've been in his very long shadow.

Vonnegut was from Indiana, but eventually moved to Massachusetts. I did it the other way round. He lived in Northampton with his daughter for a while, recuperating from an accident, and taught at Smith--my alma mater--during that time. He also taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where I studied. To my knowledge he never taught at Purdue, but he was close to some of the English Department there, among them my brilliant dissertation advisor, Virgil Lokke.

Vonnegut's official website, www.vonnegut.com, replaced all content with this graphic after his death. Vonnegut was an artist in addition to a novelist. The birdcage was a familiar element in his work.

Vonnegut wrote satire, to my mind the noblest genre. I always tell people I only like funny books and movies, but when I say "funny," it's satirical I mean. Funny, but moral. Moral, but never explicitly so. I could do a lot worse than emulate Kurt Vonnegut.

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Wednesday is the day my column appears in Springfield's daily newspaper, The Republican. The idea for this column was conceived a year and a half ago by board members of the YMCA. Rather than just run ads encouraging people to join the Y, the board thought to submit articles which would promote awareness of the organization's mission. It didn't hurt that one of the board members happened to be an editor at The Republican (since promoted to Managing Editor). She offered to run the articles in her section every week if the Y could produce them.

Yours truly was offered a nominal fee to write the column. So for a year and a half, I have been contributing articles about every YMCA program and event the board can think of. And for a year and a half, I have been patiently explaining to people that I am not "the reporter from The Republican." I work for the YMCA, not the paper.

And since I don't work for the paper, my articles have been treated for a year and a half like press releases. Although they are formatted like a column, with the familiar Y logo in a box, my repeated requests for a byline have been ignored. Instead, the line "submitted on behalf of the YMCA by Cicily Corbett" appears at the bottom, as for a press release.

Until this week. I'm not sure what happened in the offices of The Republican, but suddenly I've got, not only a byline, but a headshot. For a freelancer, after a year and a half, finally some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

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