Brilliant writing disguised as a diatribe against American Airlines from a passenger (Bennie Ford) stranded in O’Hare although the weather in Chicago was just peachy. What begins as a rant against the airline industry quickly segues in this poet’s hands into a peek inside his life, why he was traveling (his daughter’s wedding, whom he hadn’t seen since her mother whisked them both from New Orleans to California at the first hint of trouble, both women named Stella), his sabbatical in Poland where he lived the life of an aging expat poet getting trashed at parties with ladies half his age and ended up marrying Margaret, the American pen pal one-night stand.
Throughout the “letter” he weaves bits of his work– translating a Polish author into English. Always a rogue, he edits the ending of the book. Pieces of his life emerge, his crazy mother pulled from the wreck of New Orleans into his New York life, her stroke limiting her conversations to Post-It notes. His dead father, prematurely dead of heart attack at mid-forties, a Polish plumber refugee from the Holocaust. His mom kidnapping him to New Mexico on the eve of his 10th birthday, promising horses but really just to get all Georgia O’Keefe as her artistic bent was leading. Rescued mid-trip by the father.
Also interesting note on Christoph Luxenberg (pseudonym, natch, but a professor of ancient Semitic and Arabic languages) concluding that the passages in the Koran promising a bunch of virgins to dead Muslims is a mistranslation, the original Syriac passage instead promises rare and delicious white raisins.
“Luxenberg’s revelation has lately stiffened my resolve when my translating seems worthless, a chore of lingual accountancy. The right word matters, it says to me. The wrong ones infect, spread disease. Words are everything.”
“To be or not to be. Should I stay or should I go? That age old question ring-a-dinging through history. But then you spy a wink of creamy boob and everything falls apart.”
“I hate to don my geezer goggles but why does this young generation talk endlessly of rage but never succumb to it? I haven’t heard a bona fide howl in years. It’s all spitballs from the back of the room.”