Taking Stock, Taking a Leave


The first post on this blog is dated December 2, 2008, so I have been blogging as of the date of this post, four years, three months and two days. I began when Julia and I hit the road during a sabbatical year, traveling the country in our motor home researching Native American life. In those early days, blogging was about our experiences in Indian Country and the deep, moving joy of road travel. If you feel the strike of an interest, you can go back in the monthly archives or click “On the Road” on the horizontal menu bar and read what it was like when this blog traveled a different path from the one of recent years.

Before that original mission, I had never imagined any interest or conceived an intention to blog. So it was a gradual startlement, of a kind most bloggers experience, at how, as Wallace Stevens once wrote, of a jar upon a hill in Tennessee, “It took dominion every where.” Major events have happened in my life while I blogged, acknowledged and transformed by the blog, as writing transfigures everything. As with other marked experiences in life, there is for me now life before the blog and life since the blog.

I learned over time, again like many other bloggers, that blogs generally cannot be all things to all readers. I tried to mix the original focus with a broader political interest and with rough drafts of some creative work, too. That did not work in building readership, and since I was not treating the blog as a personal journal, I did want it to be read. Political writing drew more readers more quickly, and it was easier to produce, so the sad red earth became, with occasional forays into locales my fancy still would take me, what it has become.

Beyond even those broad political interests, the sad red earth gave increasing attention to Israel. That was never my intention with the blog, either, but while unintentional, it was not accidental. In the area of international affairs, where my political interests predominate, Israel is the focus of many other people’s attention too, exceedingly beyond what its relative circumstances warrant. My concern with that fact might seem obviously based in my being Jewish, and it would be silly of me to deny that element of personal import, but were my concerns based in that personal relation alone, I would be hard pressed to make the case that Israel should matter to everyone. It should matter to everyone not because it matters to Jews, but because its misguided critics and it enemies, masked and outright, have placed it at the very fault line of a civilizational crisis that affects all liberal democracies, and the fissures extending from that fault lead in every political direction. Why Israel matters is a topic about which I will continue to write, with even greater focus and, I hope, clarity.

Now, though, after mostly long periods of daily blogging, or of blogging several times a week during these four plus years, over recent weeks, the frequency of my posts has diminished. I always tended to write not the usual brief or mid-length post, but extended essays, and even knocked out pretty quickly, they consumed a lot of time. This writing has had many benefits. I am a writer, and the past four years have been enormously productive of words, beyond even what is reflected on the sad red earth. But there is much else I want to write, of book length and in other genres, that cannot stand the drain of attention to the blog. I need the time to do that writing. There is, too, life stuff that needs to be unstuffed. The pressure to produce for the blog is not one I wish to accommodate anymore, not for now, anyway.

It is not my thought to give up blogging completely or for good. I have made for myself, if not a megaphone, at least, then, a little bottle for my message, and I plan to float it when the spirit moves: excerpts of and links to what I will publish elsewhere, as well as original posts whenever inspiration and opportunity are cooperative. In not too many days, there will be the spring issue of West and my column on poetry there. Other works in other genres are in other pipelines.

It is time for change. For half my life I didn’t know that I liked it as I do. In the second half of my life, I learned that I need it, feel a calling for it, like the undiscovered country that looms up speeding by through the window of a car, or a motor home or a train, any vehicle that can make a movie of the journey from where you are to where you have never been.

I wish to focus more on my creative work again, including that mix, or that meeting, of the personal with the world-historical forces that both produce and ignore the personal. I want to write some of that parchment that Aureliano II is reading at the end of One Hundred Years of Solitude, when the great hurricane begins to blow – the lived and unlived history of Macondo and its people leading to that moment.

Aureliano skipped eleven pages so as not to lose time with facts he knew only too well, and he began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror. Then he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his death. Before reading the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.


Susana Baca & Javier Lazo

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10 thoughts on “Taking Stock, Taking a Leave

  1. Rob and Reilly, thank you both. Snoop, thank you kindly, too, of course, but why not also the photo of Golda Meir with a request to “do it for your mother”? 🙂

    1. Er… I think that Rivka Zohar is a more powerful emotional blackmailer than Golda, besides she doesn’t carry any political baggage that may have a strong negative impact 😉

  2. There is much to say against the arguments offered for quitting, but when subjected to the overwhelming (and unfair) advantage of that One Hundred Years of Solitude quote, one doesn’t have a choice but to use some unfair response. So here it comes, back at you 😉


    So yes, stay around. And all the best with other endeavors too.

  3. A. Jay,
    I have always marveled at your ability to write so that your thoughts are uncovered in the reading, a movement of unfolding reason, a process with the individual reader, rather than a static presentation of evidence for an audience. That takes a nuance of thought and a command of craftsmanship which, wedded together, can only be called art. It also takes a respect for the intellect of your readers, something, I’m sure, which was more than evident to almost all. You’re on a very short list of essayists and political writers for whom, I believe, those claims can be reasonably made. I’ve enjoyed reading you immensely, learned a thing or two about various issues, and more than a thing or two about quality writing. Your students are lucky to have you as a guide. My best to you in all your endeavors.

  4. Well, that about sucks. But you’ve left us a legacy of truly insightful, educational pieces that have invariably displayed far more wisdom, clarity and honesty than any I’ve seen on many an issue. I’ll continue to rely on them so I can’t kvetch too much.

    And considering how we ‘met’, the ever-bloviating Glenn Greenwald has still never attempted to lay a glove on you. Considering his obsessive compulsive fixation on attacking through any perceived opening, that says heaps about his intellectual heft and your skills as a writer and thinker.

    Look forward to reading more when the inspiration strikes. Best of luck and see you in the funny papers. Or Soulfully Yours.

  5. This site has been a true pleasure to visit for the past year. And yet, I can understand the need to pursue a new path; it is something I am struggling with now.

    Best of luck–and thank you so much for these great posts.

  6. This is sad for we, the silent readers; silent because we do not dare to defile the carefully constructed language and logic of your art. Silent in the way an audience is hushed as an acrobat (the ideal of ourselves) executes feats of grace and daring that demand our empathetic concentration.
    And sad (and red, grounded in earth) because you have provided measured, skewering ripostes to so many vulpine agitators who circle, salivating. A model for wise battle in that endless rancour.
    But since we silent readers have been paying attention, we can also understand the burdens and motivations of the heart.
    Power to you in your new directions.

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