Sunday, June 21, 2015

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 282: Helen Keller, I Go Adventuring (#282)

Helen Keller, "I Go Adventuring" (1929) from Writing New York: A Literary Anthology:

It's rare that I put one of these out on time; or at least, for the past few months, it seems like I'm playing catchup, reading and writing about two or three Stories in a weekend. Often I find myself saying, "I've got a lot to do and what am I even doing these for anymore?"

It's true that this project began partly to give me something to do (and partly to give me something to blog about regularly).

But I'm reminded why by today's piece (which I'm really writing about a week after it was released). That is, the Story of the Week is best when either (a) I have something interesting to say about it, probably because it's a story or on a topic I've read before; or (b) I have never read the piece and probably wouldn't have come across it outside of this project.

I remember studying Helen Keller a little bit in elementary school. (Did everyone have to read The Miracle Worker? Is there a little bit of "if she can learn, why can't you?" in teaching about Helen Keller to sighted, hearing students?) But I'd never read her before. It was interesting to read this piece about her thoughts on New York and what it meant to her.
Tremulously I stand in the subways, absorbed into the terrible reverberations of exploding energy. Fearful, I touch the forest of steel girders loud with the thunder of oncoming trains that shoot past me like projectiles. Inert I stand, riveted in my place. 
Which is a strange mix of metaphors with a lot of feeling behind it. Forest of steel--thunder of trains--shooting like projectiles. And of course, I love how she starts out tremulous and ends up inert, riveted, almost a piece of the machinery of the city. It's an intensely felt section--but I'm not sure it's a good feeling. Keller celebrates the city, but it's so easy to imagine this turned into a Thoreauvian denunciation, like:
We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us. Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man….

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