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Hello everyone!

Chris
# Posted By Chris Gillen | 7/19/11 11:22 AM
Marianne Janack's Gravatar great! thanks Chris! let's hope everyone else can access it...report back, s'il vous plait, if you cannot. To subscribe, you post a comment, and then a box pops up with an authentication text; at the bottom, you can click to subscribe.
# Posted By Marianne Janack | 7/19/11 1:09 PM
Amy Wright's Gravatar I can see them too! Thanks so much for setting this site up, Marilyn!!
# Posted By Amy Wright | 7/19/11 1:23 PM
Amy Wright's Gravatar Had to do it, since Dinty won't be posting ;)
# Posted By Amy Wright | 7/19/11 1:24 PM
Dawn Marar's Gravatar finally!
# Posted By Dawn Marar | 7/21/11 9:46 AM
Dawn Marar's Gravatar Follow up to Marianne's piece on "logic and vascetomy." Emily Hipchen's, "Solving for P," in Fourth Genre, spring 2011. May be a little too heavy on the graphics, but it's kind of a fun treatment of the concept. Has anyone taken a look at it?
# Posted By Dawn Marar | 7/22/11 12:29 PM
Marianne Janack's Gravatar I haven't seen that, Dawn--I'm going to have to look at it. I did get Jennifer Egan's book, though, that someone (maybe Diane?) recommended I look at. I'm going to try to find the piece in Fourth Genre. Thanks!
# Posted By Marianne Janack | 7/27/11 10:58 AM
Amy Wright's Gravatar Hello friends,

I'm not certain this is the location to post an essay I'd be interested in getting feedback on or not, but I'm happy to post it again in the right place. The important thing is to have some eyes I respect on it and hear what you all think.

fondly,
Amy


Grandpa Was A Carpenter


   I don’t know if John Prine’s song was autobiographical, but my grandfather was a carpenter, for a time, which made an impression on me mostly because he helped my father build a playhouse in our backyard on 4x4 stilts with a screened window and a shingled roof. But it wasn’t from his father that my father learned how to recognize wood grain. In fact, this carpenter once sawed through an oak hall tree, committing an atrocity against hard wood so unwitting it would sink anyone’s stomach—if she recognizes it, which many people do not, any more.
   My father and mother both learned to read wood grain from my mother’s mother, who took them to auctions and flea markets and estate sales. Helen Johnstone could shave a bargain off a rattlesnake, the art is which is know-how and the reap of which is burl walnut picture frames. The ability to recognize ash is not information she came into the world with. She acquired it, as she acquired, with my grandfather, acres of old-growth forest on wooded mountain land. Wood was her medium, along with glassware, and she impressed upon this young couple starting out the importance of buying furniture that would deepen in color or mellow with age, like a quality corked pinot grigio.
   My parents made a serious game of it, illustrating that knowledge is material. Oak was the first wood my father learned and taught me—the “Go” square on a Monopoly board. An open-grain, with alternating areas of density and porosity, oak is so grainy and distinguishable in color almost anyone can tell a golden oak headboard from a walnut or mahogany. Fewer discern an oak dresser from a maple one stained with an antique oak finish, and rare is the eye that can differentiate a chestnut oak from a white one, in tree or lumber. Oak is a harder wood and trumps chestnut in value, although chestnut’s appraisal rose due to a fungal blight that hit the American species in the 1900s. Mass devastation in the south-eastern forests where it once proliferated took this wood off the market for decades.
   Recognizing “wormy” chestnut thereafter became as easy to spot as a chardonnay bottle on a merlot winerack, due to the pock marks that riddle its surface like a pond during a hailstorm. The furniture crafted from reclaimed barn boards has such coveted personality, it is reproduced by furniture makers who indent the surfaces of stained-pine coffee tables with a lightly hammered nail tip, and it takes a careful eye to notice the difference. Pine trees are so fast growing and its grain so lacking in identity, it’s shameless. Pine board will soak up stain like the carpet of some over-accommodating hostess.
   Oak has only begun to come into its own, in antique years, recently. My grandmother told my mother when she was buying her first bedroom set, “Just wait, you’ll see the price of oak in your lifetime rival walnut and cherry.” Her stocks-and-bonds logic was insider information. One of the reasons oak can be cast as a slow developer is because it takes a hundred years to get gorgeous. New oak still looks like a Broyhill floor-room. It takes maturity and patience to stipple its buttercream caramel color with molasses.
   Ripened oak’s beauty is often hidden. The rolltop desk my mother inherited, rewarded for her years of bookkeeping at it, was the color of a Royal typewriter. It looked a great ominous elephant shadowed in the corner. My parents took it to a vocational teacher in town with the skill and willingness to refinish furniture during his school holidays. I remember his face beaming when he returned it to them, proud that he had found beneath the years of stain and accumulated finish a flock of blonde goats cascading down a coffee bean hillside. It glowed, alive with movement. A Pietà sans narrative. The silent character in a biography. The s-curve of the roll top shaped from oak slats glued onto baize, drawer pulls carved like lobster claws—the piece echoes some faint anonymous assembly. If sturdy, delicate, if practical, subtle.
   In Scott Russell Sanders’ essay “Buckeye,” he says his father, when taken to a museum, would study the handrail descending a spiral staircase, the panels below the artwork. My parents speak his language. They make out the strains of dialect in Madagascan chocolate walnut, calculating cacao percentages, measure the years of silver straws in a birch washstand, smell the cinnamon of mahogany and the lemon of locust (a connoisseur’s joke for mistaking a stain for walnut). They weathered the fashion of painting wood white to match the future of chrome appliances, and chipped its articulations free from the coats that muffled it. It’s a kind of vision. Once you learn it, you have it, my father says. Sometimes I do—see the potential for a blackened rocker to strip to the copper light inside it, but I am also conscious that many hickories go unnoticed, retiring in the background, accepting barristers unseen among poplars.
# Posted By Amy Wright | 9/7/11 9:26 PM
Marianne Janack's Gravatar Amy,
I can't quite make friends with this sentence: "In fact, this carpenter once sawed through an oak hall tree, committing an atrocity against hard wood so unwitting it would sink anyone’s stomach—if she recognizes it, which many people do not, any more." I've read it over a few times, and I think there's just a little too much going on here. And do we mean by 'it' a hall tree (0ne of those old-fashioned things, which I can imagine people not recognizing) or do we mean oak? And the carpenter who did this was your grandfather, correct?
The analogy of oak to the “Go” square on a Monopoly board doesn't quite work for me, either--maybe you could fill it in a bit more, or draw out the comparison in more detail, since, maybe I'm just dense, but I'm not getting it.
I really like this meditation on pine, especially this bit: Pine board will soak up stain like the carpet of some over-accommodating hostess. But when you accuse it of lacking identity--maybe "personality" would fit better here? Since you're saying that it just isn't very distinctive, right?
I love this: "My grandmother told my mother when she was buying her first bedroom set, “Just wait, you’ll see the price of oak in your lifetime rival walnut and cherry.” Her stocks-and-bonds logic was insider information. One of the reasons oak can be cast as a slow developer is because it takes a hundred years to get gorgeous. New oak still looks like a Broyhill floor-room. It takes maturity and patience to stipple its buttercream caramel color with molasses." And the closing: "Sometimes I do—see the potential for a blackened rocker to strip to the copper light inside it, but I am also conscious that many hickories go unnoticed, retiring in the background, accepting barristers unseen among poplars." Maybe your grandfather isn't important enough to the story to appear in the title, or in the first paragraph? I'm not sure....
# Posted By Marianne Janack | 9/12/11 2:18 PM
Amy Wright's Gravatar Wow, thanks Marianne. Your comments are spot on and HELPFUL. And, thanks for the email to everyone. I like this little piece, and I want to revise it so it's publishable.

Thank you!
# Posted By Amy Wright | 9/12/11 3:18 PM
Amy Wright's Gravatar Grandma Was An Aesthete.

It was about her all along, Marianne. Thanks so much for your feedback, which helped me tap into this piece a little deeper. Hope you have a good day.
# Posted By Amy Wright | 9/13/11 11:10 AM
Dawn Marar's Gravatar Amy, I really enjoyed this piece. I agree with Marianne: not sure the title as such really fits. I'd probably move in the direction of: a lost art, or an obscure one. References to J. Prine and SR Sanders are lost on me. Perhaps they are commonly known...Not sure they add much. I also share M's confusion over who "this carpenter" is.

There are a number of phrases that I love: "to read wood grain," "shave a bargain off...," "white to match the future." I'd love to read about H. Johnstone. There are some phrases that I don't understand, but sound beautiful: "illustrating that knowledge is material;" "years of silver straws;" "accepting barristers. "Reclaimed barn boards"--are you suggesting they would be made from chestnut? Not sure "Pieta" is appropriate here...wouldnt that be the Virgin/dying son? Does "It glowed" refer to the scene or the desk? It strikes me that you are suggesting that the fundamental characteristic of a carpenter is that she 'read wood grain.' I don't really know what makes for a carpenter, although I would imagine there's another fundamental element...

Broyhill floor-room suggests cheap to me, rather than quality that would be revealed. Do they use "real" wood or veneers?

"The rolltop desk...inherited..." begs to tell of a story there...I realize you are not really addressing the stories behind the objects...maybe for another piece. This notion of people painting and staining wood...what were they thinking?! Again, another, different essay.

I am laboring under the fog of muscle relaxant for a minor back injury. So forgive me if my thoughts are a bit muddled. Reading your essay set a few pieces of stained and painted furniture that I've inherited dancing in my head!
Dawn
# Posted By Dawn Marar | 9/13/11 12:07 PM
Amy Wright's Gravatar May I just say, I placed the essay with your revisions, Marianne, and retitled as "Grandma was an Aesthete" with Stone Highway Review.

:)

I really appreciate the guidance.
# Posted By Amy Wright | 9/18/11 2:40 PM
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