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Michael Carey

For more than 20 years, I have read James Joyce's "The Dead" at Christmas. The story, the last in the collection "Dubliners," has a lugubrious title in stark contrast with the setting, a festive Christmas party.

Joyce is known for complicated fiction replete with arcane references testing scholars' knowledge of mythology and religion. "The Dead" is, for the most part, clear, direct, fast-moving prose and tight story telling. The "action" often consists of conversation -- and reflection. The dead are present only in the characters' memories and have lived only in memory for years...

Michael Carey

Here is a prediction made with certainty. November will be 30 days of running commentary about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It's not even Halloween and bloggers, columnists, authors of 500-page tomes, videographers and filmmakers have begun bombarding Americans with Kennedy assassination fact, fiction and folklore...

Michael Carey

A friend of my youth was in Fairbanks last week. So was I. We had not seen each other in 40 years and spent three days reminiscing, explaining, confessing.

My friend, who last saw Fairbanks in the spring of 1968, found himself cast as Rip Van Winkle. The city on the banks of the Chena he remembered has largely disappeared. So have most of those who called it home. I don't know how many times I responded to questions about someone we knew with, "He died." or "She is dead." As for the teenage boys who became best buds in the early Sixties, they survive only in memories, photographs, a few news stories and police archives...

Michael Carey

Jack London's "To Build a Fire" is one of the rare pieces of fiction set in the Gold Rush that continues to attract readers. In vivid economical prose, London rapidly tells the story of a greenhorn who freezes to death, alone except for his dog, on a remote Klondike trail. This is a tale of small mistakes at 50 below zero (or colder) following a profound failure of judgment. When the man leaves his warm cabin without recognizing the danger the cold presents, he is doomed...

Michael Carey

"He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune."

So sayeth the English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Bacon insisted the single life is superior to marriage. In his cranky zeal, he failed to acknowledge we all are hostages to fortune -- and children far more the hostage than adults.

I found myself preoccupied with the fortune -- and misfortune -- of children while in federal court watching a civil suit brought by Cherry Dietzmann, the mother of Jason Anderson Jr., a 2-year-old shot in the head during a shootout between his father and law enforcement officers.

Jason Sr., a fugitive drug dealer, died in the March 2006 Homer clash...

Michael Carey

In January, a FedEx driver left a box on a bench outside my door. I wasn't expecting a delivery and couldn't find a return address. Instead, I found myself mumbling "Where did this come from?" After examining the content for half an hour, I resumed mumbling.

The box contained a 10 by 12 maroon scrap book full of old newspaper clippings and full pages of newspapers, some carefully pasted on crumbling yellowing pages, others stuffed in loosely. Many were from Newark, N. J. papers, others were from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The majority dealt with Alaska in the late 1950s. The scrapbook owner obviously was following Alaska's battle for statehood, then in its final stages...

Michael Carey

"Here is your test," said professor Grant, as he handed copies of a quiz to sleepy Ithaca College sophomores. It was barely 8 a.m., a little early for medieval philosophy. Nevertheless, I turned my eyes to Dr. Grant's questions and frowned while reading "Saint Bonaventura, arguing for the knowability of God, distinguished between knowledge by apprehension and knowledge by comprehension. What does he mean?"

I couldn't answer a question like that today but must have in 1964. I passed the course. For reasons beyond my apprehension and comprehension, the quiz wound up in a box of letters I brought home from college and has been there almost 50 years...

Michael Carey

Julius Frank Terbeba frightened me, and my fear was well founded. He shot two of my boyhood friends. He didn't set out to shoot them, but shoot them he did.

Tereba lived behind my parents in Graehl, across the Chena River from downtown Fairbanks. Our lot was long, running the length of the block from Front Street to Second Street. Tereba's place faced Second Street, which put him maybe 75 yards from my folks' house.

Sometime in the '50s, Tereba arrived in Graehl and built a home for himself and several small rental cabins. He was a craftsman. His cabins have attracted renters for more than half a century...

Michael Carey

The nation's columnists have exhausted themselves searching fiction for anecdotes and admonitions that will illuminate David Petraeus' affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

Not only have the writers rounded up the usual suspects -- Shakespeare, Homer, Sophocles -- Richard Cohen of the Washington Post invoked gritty Chicago novelist Nelson Algren who said "Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman who has more troubles than your own." (Algren was correcting Sophocles who warned don't sleep at Mom's.)...

Michael Carey

President Barack Obama won a narrow victory in the popular vote Tuesday, but a decisive vote in the electoral college. His victory in the battle of ideas was decisive too. In the swing states that turned the election, voters rejected major changes in entitlements, lower taxes on the wealthy, deregulation of industry, and harsher penalties against illegal immigrants.

Going into the campaign, Republicans believed they were riding the wave of history. Rarely have the election returns been so cruel to those so righteously certain of themselves.

Where does our state fit into the election story? Wednesday morning, a Democrat said to me "This is a great day to be a Democrat -- unless you live in Alaska."...

Michael Carey

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