Friday, September 11, 2009

SPRINGTIME ON MARS "Radio Vision" Susan Woodring

Eight years ago today, at about this exact time, I was sitting on my back porch steps drinking a cup of tea, watching the dawn of a beautiful late summer/early fall day, feeling my baby bump against my ribs and do back flips on my bladder. As moments go, it was a good one. A few minutes later I was gripped in hysteria, desperate not to give birth. I suddenly felt so vulnerable and unprotected and irresponsible for bringing a new life into an evil world.

Some could say President Kennedy's assassination shocked a naive nation. It also awoke conspiracy theories of lurking Russians and cloaked Cubans. "Radio Vision" tells the story of one woman's efforts to return to the mundane, the "comforting efficiency" (I love that line), after national tragedy and hysteria.

Susan Woodring engages the reader with insightful parallels. The character Marianne Binger is more relatable to the reader than Jackie Kennedy: same age, same number of children, wife of a public figure, chain smoker. Marianne is also as ambivalent about her community status as a minister's wife as we now know the first lady was. The most telling parallel exists in the tragic interruption of Marianne's everyday chores, like being caught mid-wave in the backseat of a convertible.

Marianne Binger's children are our own oblivious consciousness. They continue on with everyday rebellions while trauma and horror await right under their noses, and they expose the guilt that comes from not knowing. Woodring reminds us in her haunting narrative that life goes on, and we have more to fear in our own homes than from any conspiracy theory or terrorist. For when one asks Marianne's boys where they were when Kennedy was shot, they won't think of the convertible or the mysterious second gunman or even the young son's salute in his blue seersucker suit; they'll think of their mother at the bottom of the stairs.

I would never claim to know a thing about sociology or psychology. I can't expound on economic effect or public consciousness. I only really remember the stories, the personal stories of people who caught a plane at the last minute, barely made it to work on time after the holiday weekend, stopped to get a cup of coffee and got stuck in line long enough to save their lives. And then there are the people who live a thousand miles away from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania who never knew anyone to die that day but hung up their flag all the same, kept the news on for 3 straight weeks, ditched an NFL dream to join the fight. Congressional reports and Oliver Stone movies aside, the personal stories, like Marianne Binger's in "Radio Vision", are the ones I hope to remember.

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