As I looked through a big window in the living room, I could see most of Honolulu below. On the edge of the city is the lush Diamond Head extinct volcanic crater. Beneath that lies rows and rows of homes that seem to melt together. The suburban boxes feel like they would just fall into the sea, if not for the skyscrapers that dot Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu and form a wall that stops them from flowing straight into the ocean.
It was the view I had looked at my whole life. But for a split second, I saw it all gone — just gray dust and rubble, like a photo I might have seen of a bombed-out city in World War II.
Working artists who have fouled their reputations will have to fend for themselves. Directors who have taken advantage of the casting couch, actors who have grotesquely exploited their stardom, conductors who have preyed on their young charges deserve to have the rug pulled out from under them. If the work they've done lives on, it will do so apart from the memory of their shameful deeds. This will take time.
I hear from my former students occasionally. A few have gone on to accomplish remarkable work. Hear equally from the ordinary and, remarkable. Requests for recommendations, announcements of new jobs, marriages, children, a photo, copy of a book or film script, story in a magazine or anthology, perhaps inscribed personally to me or sent directly from the publisher. The gift of a snapshot, book, or story meant to break silence that settles in after they leave the university, the silence that being here, a student for a semester in my fiction-writing class, doesn’t break, silence of living ordinary lives we all endure whether our writing is deemed remarkable by others or not.
A current student, Teresa McConnell, wants to help other people. The story she submits to my fiction-writing class, though not very long, is quite ambitious. It wishes to save the life of its main character, a young woman of color, a few years out of high school, single, child to support, no money, shitty job, living with her mother who never misses an I-told-you-so chance to criticize her daughter’s choices. Voice of the character my student invents to narrate the story reveals the young colored woman to be bright, articulate, thoughtful, painfully aware of how race, gender, age, poverty trap her. Worse now because a baby daughter is trapped with her. Lack of understanding not the narrator’s problem. She’s stifled by lack of resources, options.