C's bookshelf: read

The Peculiar
Maggot Moon
The City and the City
The Road
A Certain Slant of Light
The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Brown Girl in the Ring
Well Wished
The Innkeeper's Song
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
American Indian Myths and Legends
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers

C S Peterson's favorite books »

Sunday, March 20, 2011


A friend of mine collects and sells antique ephemera.  She is from Austria.  I spent today sorting my antique ephemera, oh how it does pile up: my to do list from three years ago, a report card from the kindergarten class of my youngest, who is now eight, notice on an overdue electric bill – I think I paid it.  The lights are still on, at any rate.  My parents both passed away last year and I have boxes and boxes of ephemeral slips of paper they felt moved to keep.  All these little bits of writing: the bill for my father’s violin lessons when he was five, at the height of the depression, a Christmas card I made out of gilt paper when I was six – a nativity on the moon.  

It’s called ephemera I guess since it wasn’t meant to last.  All these little bits of writing; not even slices but glimpses of slices of a day, a time, a childhood that slipped away a moment ago when I was busy and not paying attention.  My Austrian friend grew up speaking a medieval dialect of German – way up in the mountains somewhere.  When she went to university, literature students would ask her to read ancient passages out loud to catch the sound of the past.  The dialect is all but gone now.  Spoken words, shimmering ephemerally, living and dying as they leave the speaker’s lips.  The writing, like an Egyptian sarcophagus, holds bones, shrink-wrapped with leathery skin, in a stab at immortality.


  1. Oh Katie - this is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. The ways you had us picturing what ephemera does, how it works, & then aligned it with that ancient dialect. The meanings of these things are fleeting, but stay longer if they are shared with the next generation. I think the last line is worthy of framing, the implication of bones, a "stab at immortality". Lovely words!

  2. Dear Katie,
    I like how you moved from the personal perspective to a bigger idea of a language. I read your last two sentences several times. I read them out loud.