An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris.
Nothing is as powerful as the extraordinary jolt of a teenager’s first love. It’s like seeing the world after a double-cataract surgery. Life is suddenly exquisite. Each leaf becomes the bearer of unbearable beauty. Romeo and Juliet were so deliriously happy that they embraced murder and suicide as an ideal solution. I didn’t go that far, but I fell deeply and totally in love with Kim.
Traces of Cormac McCarthy’s Knoxville.
McCarthy’s books came to me as transformative things so often do: several-times borrowed. It was during my junior year of college, my first semester back home in Colorado after a failed track scholarship out of state. Up till then I’d read very little—I was concentrating on my running. But with that protective apparatus newly scrapped, I’d become freshly aware of a hulking nothingness where my intellectual interests should have been, and I set about catching up.
Trying to achieve black selfhood in Little Rock
The erasure of pre-integration black community also means the loss of artifacts of black joy. Those artifacts, mementos of those places, seem harder to find today, scrubbed from memory, or crowded out by the drama of police dogs and fire hoses. Whenever I catch the stories of early classes from Little Rock’s black high schools—Dunbar, or Horace Mann—the joy such stories bring to the faces of their alums feels out of time with the Little Rock I imagine preceding 1957.