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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 2, 2011 / 26 Adar I, 5771

A Sense of Place

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | That most Southern of phrases, "a sense of place," came up at a gathering the other evening. It elicited only a quizzical expression from one of the guests, who seemed to think it referred to her neighborhood. Of course she had a sense of place. Why, she'd lived there for eight years. And before that? A succession of places, all of which she left vague.

I was at a loss. I so often am. About so many things. Among them, how do you explain a sense of place to someone so unburdened (and unblessed) by one?

It is more than a geographical designation, a sense of place. It has to do with identity, with roots sunk deep not just in the land but in the language and look and feel, and maybe death, of a place.

Faulkner may have said it best, as usual, maybe as always, when he said he realized early on that he could write for a lifetime and never exhaust all the possibilities of his "little postage stamp of native soil."

Others may be deaf to the music of their place. They may even go from one coast to another and remain unchanged, not ever having acquired a sense of place to change. They mystify those whose sense of place is obdurate, understood, so natural there is no need to mention it. Indeed, to dwell on it would be a kind of bad taste, like spelling out the obvious.

Someone with a sense of place will be full of grief and longing if he must leave it, or sometimes even if he must stay, whether he expresses it or not. Faulkner was able to make his fictional, but certainly not false, Yoknapatawpha County a whole world. Because it was a whole world -- to him, or to anyone who knows what a sense of place is. As for those who don't, they inspire a bottomless pity among those who do. The way anyone homeless would, however rich he might be in material things. But you don't want to get into all that, and appear not sympathetic but condescending.

Someone with a sense of place, all-informing and always present, like the man of one great book, is someone to be reckoned with -- anchored, secure, steady no matter which way the wind blows. In place. He may move, but he will not be moved.

All of which came to mind on pondering the death of Reynolds Price, the Southern novelist. To call him a Southern novelist is not to limit his scope or his appeal or his power, not in the least, but only to describe their source. Which was and is a sense of place. Perhaps that is what, during his recurring bouts with a paralyzing illness, sustained him most.

If Faulkner's world was a Mississippi of the mind, Reynolds Price's was a wedge of North Carolina some 60 miles east of Raleigh. He would make it his sovereign realm, one he could conjure up again and again, inexhaustibly.

He would start from a spot on the map (Macon, N.C., and environs) that he once summed up as "227 cotton and tobacco farmers nailed to the flat red land at the pit of the Great Depression." And go from there to write words that would melt the stars, beginning with the first sentence of his first masterpiece, "A Long and Happy Life." He opens the book with a single Faulknerian sentence, only clearer, that tells us pretty much all we need to know about Rosacoke Mustian, and her boyfriend, too, spanning a whole world in the process:

"Just with his body and from inside like a snake, leaning that black motorcycle side to side, cutting in and out of the slow line of cars to get there first, staring due-north through goggles towards Mount Moriah and switching coon tails in everybody's face was Wesley Beavers, and laid against his back like sleep, spraddle-legged on the sheepskin seat behind him was Rosacoke Mustian who was maybe his girl and who had given up looking into the wind and trying to nod at every sad car in the line, and when he even speeded up and passed the truck (lent for the afternoon by Mr. Isaac Alston and driven by Sammy his man, hauling one pine box and one black boy dressed in all he could borrow, set up in a ladder-back chair with flowers banked round him and a foot on the box to steady it) -- when he even passed that, Rosacoke said once into his back 'Don't' and rested in humiliation, not thinking but with her hands on his hips for dear life and her white blouse blown out behind her like a banner in defeat."

Wow. Now that's what a sense of place will do for a writer. Or a reader. Or anyone. An understanding is established right off. It can happen even wordlessly, just with a look, a gesture, perhaps not even that. Just a shared presence. I noticed it in the Army. The northerners had to use words. Southerners, black or white, could communicate with each other with a glance, a wry smile, or just the way we carried ourselves. The next time somebody looks at me quizzically when the phrase Sense of Place comes up, it occurs to me there's a two-word definition for it:

Reynolds Price.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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