Sunday, January 2, 2022

Doomsday (a synoptic novel)

 




Here’s one of my pieces that explores the concept of doom, and I thought I would make it available because of the big response (positive, negative, and mixed) currently happening to the Netflix blockbuster Don’t Look Up.

"Doomsday" is from my 2009 manuscript of short fictions called The Measure Everything Machine and Other Stories. It has never been published as a collection, although a number of the pieces appeared in various literary magazines (like Madhatter’s Review and Joyland) and even more ephemeral publications as well as being pieces I have read many times at public readings.

The pieces in The Measure Everything Machine are more what Hazel Smith and others have called “synoptic novels” rather than simply flash fictions generally. The goal is to present something in only a few lines that features the narrative stretch of a novel, something in theory very long that has been compressed into something very short.


DOOMSDAY

When the populace of an obscure planet believes that Doomsday for the planet is at hand, arguments begin in earnest about what has caused it. Some blame this or that system of government; others blame the enemies or decay of this or that system of government. Some say deadly investment practices are the cause and blame investment in A; others agree that investment is the problem, but argue that more investment in A will save the planet and instead blame investment in B. Still others point out that governments and money can’t really end the world; since the world is ending, it has to be because people have destroyed the planet’s environment. Others say people haven’t really done that much to damage the planet; if the planet is being destroyed, the cause must be physical celestial forces far beyond control. Some say destruction is being visited on people because of their empty, soulless lives and point to the lack of religion; others say destruction is coming because of people’s empty, soulless lives and point to the meaningless fantasy of religion. For every cause of Doomsday that someone proposes, someone else proposes a countercause, and another countercause is proposed after that and so on.

When Doomsday does arrive, a few people’s theories are proved right, but they have little time or reason to congratulate themselves, and none at all to berate or convince anybody else, who wouldn’t have believed them anyway. On the day of destruction, the claims and counterclaims continue to go back and forth until the last possible moment and would have done so unceasingly had the planet not been destroyed and life on it ended.

The other conclusion to this story is suggested by other people on another obscure planet. They say that actually Doomsday never did arrive for the populace on that first planet. According to this story, the populace of the first planet continues to this day endlessly debating a Doomsday that they expect to arrive any moment. As the story goes, they do very little to notice the rest of the Universe. And as if turnabout really is fair play, in this story the Universe does similarly little to notice them.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Who Cares About Adulthood?

 


A lot of forces in contemporary U.S. culture work hard to prevent people from becoming adults. Movies, TV, advertisements, pop culture and its endless parade of heroes and villains as seen from the 16-year-old perspective; the relentless cult of staying forever young; a shortage of stable jobs that offer stable finances and work that’s emotionally and mentally bearable (much less emotionally rewarding); the spoiled brat behavior of the rich and powerful; the lies, corruption and perpetual manipulation of our corporate and political cultures.


On the other hand, conventional adulthood as it used to be experienced was often just as narrow as it seemed: go to work; meet your financial responsibilities; provide for your children (financially more than emotionally, often); and most of all live within the range of values dictated as normal for conventional adulthood; that is, accept the systems of U.S. culture and live within them. I’ve been wondering lately if anybody asks themselves anymore what it means to be an adult, whether it’s valuable, what the point is of “growing up,” whether conversations about ‘being an adult” are even relevant anymore, and to whom.

“Nobody studies happiness”--I think it was Charles Olson who said that, with the implication that you can’t expect to have something when you haven’t identified what it is or thought about how to get it. At least in the U.S., “nobody studies adulthood” (although probably there are a few classes in it here or there) and I’m not sure what it would mean to do that or why it would be valuable. What are good ways to live when one is 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90?

Maybe, for me, the basic lesson of adulthood is the importance of learning how to deal with others without thinking that you and your own needs are the only ones that matter (and I know it’s easier to say that than to do it). Compassion, understanding, listening, being open to negotiation and sharing, knowing how to work and play with others; these traits seem to me things I’d like adults to learn and act on. Of course I’m aware that these are traits are not valued by everyone or considered by relevant features of what it means to be an adult, but in my mind (and I’m sure that of some others) they are at least associated with adulthood.

Who cares about adulthood anymore? Is it just an old limitation or is it a concept that still has some kind of importance, and to whom? Is it just an old lesson about responsibility or a concept that like many other concepts has to change as times change?

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Dewey D. Wallace (January 8, 1936 - February 4, 2021)

 




(This piece announcing the death of my father first appeared as a Facebook post on February 5, 2021. I'm posting it here so that it is more readily available.)

Now that immediate family has been notified, I just wanted to let people know that my father, Dewey Diaz Wallace, Jr. passed away late morning on Thursday February 4 from a variety of physical ailments not related to COVID. He was 85 years old.

I have many things to say about him, but one it occurred to me to share now: when he was visiting his own father at the time he was passing, in 1987, several days before my grandfather died he recited to my father “the whole of William Cullen Bryant’s ‘Thanatopsis,’” as my father said, a poem about the meaning and implications of death first published in 1817. It may have been written as early as 1811, when Bryant was only seventeen years old.

My grandfather had been required as a boy in school to memorize the poem, when he was somewhere between 6 and 10 years old, and at the age of 89 he could apparently recall the poem from memory.

I don’t think that in American public schools we ask young children anymore to memorize poems about the meaning of death, and that’s a good thing, but the family story has remained with me as an example of the power of memory even and perhaps especially at the point of death. On my final visit to my father, I have no idea what was going through his mind, but I think it’s safe to say that memory and dying are experiences more powerful than the living can comprehend. One of the few public lectures I heard my father give was on the subject of the power of mystery, and I learned from him, and from my grandfather, and from many others too, that death is a powerful and mysterious part of what it means to have lived at all. Curiously, although Bryant’s poem belongs to a world view that has faded, the message of his poem is close to that exact same one.

Bryant's poem can be found here:



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

My Father's College and Graduate School Papers


 
Pictured: Oliver Hall at Whitworth University, which was Whitworth College when my father attended.

I continue to find interesting things among my parents’ remaining property, which I have spent part of most weekends sifting through since my father passed away. Finding things of interest makes the process more bearable.

This time, it’s a set of my father’s papers he wrote as an undergraduate and a graduate student, all of them typewritten, mostly on onion skin paper, and each placed into individual three-hole folders. The list of them may not be interesting to most people, but I find it useful to see something of what my father studied in school. Here they are.

Dad’s college and grad school papers, from Whitworth College, Princeton Divinity School, and/or the Princeton Ph.D. program in religious studies:


Dated Papers:

“The Origin and Development of Greek Tragedy,” Dec 14, 1953, English Composition, Mrs. Eacker.

“The Symbolist School of French Poetry, “ May 1956 in the course Twentieth Century Poetry. Professor’s comment: “First-rate analysis which illuminates without oversimplifying!”

“A Psychological Study of Conversion,” April 10, 1957 in the course Psychology of Religion.

“An Exegesis of Ezekiel 33:12-20” with An Introduction to Ezekiel and An Essay on Ezekiel’s Eschatological Views, Dec 2, 1958, in the course Hebrew Prophets with Exegesis, Dr. Armstrong.

“The Doctrine of God’s Incomprehensibility According to Clement of Alexandria, The Cappaducian Fathers, and Chrysostom,” May 26, 1959, in the course Greek Patristics, Dr. Barrios


Undated papers:

“The Epistle of James and Wisdom Literature: Evidence of Relationship” (no date). Instructor’s comment: “Excellent. This is what I mean by a research paper.”

“Milton’s God” (no date).

“John Keats and Religion” (no date)

“The ‘Improvement’ of Baptism and The Meaning of History Lies Always in the Present”.

“Book Reviews” (no date). Reviews of Irrational Man by William Barrett and Kierkegaard’s Philosophy of Religion by Reidar Thomte,

“An Exegesis of Titus 2:11-14” (no date).

“Hebrews 13-8 With Reference to Christological Controversies” (no date).

“Tertullian’s Concept of Apostolic Tradition” (no date).

“The Use of Scripture in Gregory of Nazianus” (no date).

“The Understanding of Christian Salvation in the Post-Reformation Era” in the course Post-Reformation Doctrine taught by Dr. Hope (no date).

“William Jennings Bryan and His Part in Political Liberalism” (no date).



Thursday, March 25, 2021

Jefferson Hansen Thinks Along With The End of America, Book 15

 



Jefferson Hansen, a poet, fiction writer, and essayist, as well as my longtime friend and frequent collaborator, has written a brief essay in which he thinks through some of the issues raised in reading The End of America, Book 15. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it and think along with him too:

http://thealteredscale.blogspot.com/2021/03/mark-wallaces-end-of-america-book.html


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Now available: The End of America, Book 15, by Mark Wallace

 





My new little book, The End of America, Book Fifteen, is now available.


The End of America, Book Fifteen is a long poem exploring the cityscape of San Diego, California as it appeared between September 2015 and May 2016. Apartment complexes, streets, yards, cranes, boats, bicycles, windows, coffee shops: the poem moves through these and other constructions of the landscape and encounters the creatures, human and other, who live among them. The poem's meditative tone creates a calm into which deceptive or dangerous realities are always threatening to break. The observer is both separated from and entangled in the strangeness of place. "Every image falls short of a description of what's there, dusty green towel in the dirt, hawk overhead."


Price: $9.99

Publisher: Glovebox Poems

Pages: 46

Dimensions: 5.5 X 8.5 X 0.11 inches | 0.0 pounds

Language: English

Type: Paperback

EAN/UPC: 9781943899135


Please support independent booksellers and order this book from Bookshop:

https://bookshop.org/a/11366/9781943899135


The book can also be found on Amazon:

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1943899134/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i6


Or through my Amazon Author Page:

https://smile.amazon.com/Mark-Wallace/e/B001K7U0OS?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1615390992&sr=8-1


Thursday, August 27, 2020

It Takes a Culture to Create A 17-Year Old White Supremacist Killer Loose In The Streets With An Assault Rifle

A 17-year old white supremacist killer loose in the streets with an assault rifle isn’t just born; he has to be made. It’s not nature, it’s nurture.

Some or all of the following features also have to be in place:


Parents and other family members and caregivers who are racist and who encourage the use of weapons OR who are in the dark about their child’s activities OR are unable to do anything about it or get any help regarding it.


Media groups and social media groups promoting white racism and who directly or indirectly in various degrees advocate that it’s okay and even good for white people to take up weapons against non-white people. Decades of such media groups have helped raise new generations of violent white supremacists.


Racist neighbors who often share around the neighborhood their attitudes and the information they have heard on media supporting those attitudes.


Easy availability and access to high-powered weaponry for private citizens.


A peer group of others who encourage each other and share behaviors and attitudes. It never hurts to have a few good pals egging you on to kill people! One of the great things about social media is that it helps people find like-minded others.


People in positions of prominence in business and government and news who passively or actively encourage racist hate. It never hurts to have power on your side, and if that includes the President of the U.S. and a prominent political party, how cool is that?!


Police forces on the streets who see a young white man on the streets with a rifle and immediately identify him as someone on their side.


Higher ups in law enforcement who themselves might be actively involved in white supremacy or who encourage it through their actions or speak up in ways that seem to support it.


A minor who is just twisted and abandoned or coddled enough to actually follow through on what many people around him have encouraged him to do and try to make himself a hero by killing people who have done nothing to him or to anyone he knows.