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There's a report out this morning that an Egyptian ferry, the al-Salam Boccaccio '98, carrying as many as fourteen hundred people, has capsized and sunk in the Red Sea.

In A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe's novel about the Great Plague's visit to London in 1665, Defoe tells this anecdote:

"...on the Gate, of a Field just by, was cut with his Knife in uneven Letters, the following Words, by which it may be suppos'd the other Man escap'd, or that one dying first, the other bury'd him as well as he could;

O mIsErY!
We BoTH ShaLL DyE,
WoE WoE."

Look at it. The first word, just a syllable, a moan, a sigh, an exhalation of breath. How very different "We BoTH" is from "I." I know three ways to read that passage. First, you can imagine, as Defoe's narrator does, the survivor who has watched his companion die and sees in that man's death his own fate. Or, as a student pointed out, we might imagine that there is just one man and that, recognizing his own mortality, he has left a message for the living, a memento mori. Finally, there is the reading my wife made, which I think the most extraordinary of all. She sees a message addressed to misery. The writer knows that with his death dies his suffering. Our anonymous carver mourns the ending of his suffering.

Just a few, final thoughts. I'd like to thank Dave for letting me loiter in his little corner of the internet. Two, let me give a shout out to Loggernaut. They're holding a reading next week. If Jay Gatsby was really Jay Gatsby he'd be Sam White.

I'm picking the Steelers by ten, because I believe in Jerome "The Bus" Bettis. The literati will recognize the homage to Ken Kesey by way of Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. If there's ever been a better nickname than "The Bus" I don't know what it is. For a while I was called "Stone Hands," which wouldn't have been so bad if I was a boxer, but I was playing baseball.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. A Journal of the Plague Year... Used Trade Paper $7.00
  2. The Great Gatsby
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  3. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
    Used Trade Paper $8.50
  4. The Best People in the World: A Novel Used Hardcover $5.95

Justin Tussing is the author of The Best People in the World: A Novel

One Response to "Catastrophe"

    Danielle Trussoni February 5th, 2006 at 8:15 am

    Can't wait to see you read next month Justin.
    Good luck on your tour.

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