Blogger Lance Mannion, whose real-life name was David Reilly, has died suddenly. I’ve been reading Lance for…I honestly don’t know. At least seventeen years, I would guess. He was a deeply literate man, with wide interests and voracious reading that informed his bright and curious writings. I didn’t visit his blog daily, but that’s OK, since he didn’t post to it daily. He was one of those bloggers whom you could tell worked hard on every post. He ignored the often-cited “laws” of writing online that advised brevity at all costs; even when he did do a short post, there was a thoughtfulness at work that you don’t find often.
Lance was also not precious about his tastes. He would write about literary figures and comic book movies at equal length, and that was just that. And he deeply loved his family, often posting about their own travails, like his sons’ educations (oh, the pride that shone through at their accomplishments!) and his wife’s own health struggles. There’s no love quite so tender as the person whose spouse is suffering.
He often began his blog posts by indicating that the text to come was taken from his notebooks. Apparently he liked to go to Barnes and Noble and sit in the cafe with his coffee and his notebooks and…write. There’s a certain charm to this, and it’s a kind of approach that I’ve often considered adopting.
Yesterday morning we Mannions made a pilgrimage to Barnes & Noble where I built this stack of books on our table in the cafe. I had no plans to buy any of them—as our poet pal Steve Kuusisto is wont to call it, B&N serves to its corporate dismay as a loitering library for too many of its customers, including me, most of the time. I’ve been known to buy more than a coffee on occasion—I was only looking through them to see which I wanted to put on reserve at the library. Mrs M looked aghast at the stack. She didn’t trust me to limit my choices. We’re in the process of being crowded out of our house by books I’ve taken out of the library that I intend to read, knowing I won’t get around to reading, but can’t bring myself to send back because, you know, just in case. I assured her I would be realistic this time.
Lance wrote easily about sports…
It’s been a long time since I was a football fan, and I haven’t watched it regularly in ages, since Joe Montana left San Francisco, in fact. But I watched Buffalo play Baltimore last week and I’m watching them play Kansas City tonight, because a good friend from my college days is an ardent Bills fan and I feel I have to root for them for her sake, but geez! Football is boring.
What are we watching? Two committees of old men playing eleven-level chess using young men as the pieces?
When I tweeted that point last week, a friend quoted George Will: “Football combines two of the worst things in American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” But Will was talking about the play on the field; the committee meetings he meant were the huddles. I mean the way football games are covered on television and the way we’re made to see them. The committees are the coaches, and the cameras and commentary focus on them as if what they’re doing is why fans at home are watching and who we’re rooting for.
…and politics (this post written in 2010, as it became clear to Democrats that the Tea Party was about to swamp them and there wasn’t shit they could do about it)…
After reading the article, though, I see Palin selling them something else, a magic ingredient of her own concoction. She’s selling them her unhappinesses and resentments, her sense of injury, her insecurities based on her sense that she is not what she ought to be.
She is selling them her own self-loathing.
Which makes her like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, obvious self-loathers who’ve made careers out of peddling their own insecurities to audiences willing to feel abused, misused, exploited, and despised by their betters.
There were hypocrites who sat in the meeting houses and nodded along as preachers like Jonathan Edwards told them they were sinners in the hands of an angry God who was looking for a reason to drop them like spiders into the fire and thought, “Yes, that’s exactly what they need to hear.”
But there were more members of the congregations who wanted to hear how much God despised them, how unworthy they were of His mercy and even His notice.
It’s another perversion of pride. “See, God, what a wretch and a sinner I am.” People can become as addicted to their self-loathing as to any other feeling.
Palin, Limbaugh, and Beck are enablers.
Pointing this out won’t do us any good come November.
…and Star Wars.
But the core of the original movies is the tale of the last Jedi Knights, and now I am going to say something complimentary about George Lucas.
Lucas based his knights on the Knights of the Round Table. Luke is King Arthur. (Interestingly, but fittingly, in the Expanded Universe, it’s Han and Leia who go on to rule over Camelot, while Luke becomes a version of Merlin. The Jedi don’t want power, after all.) Obi-wan and then Yoda share the role of Merlin. That’s always been obvious. The three prequels/sequels have underscored it.
And in the first three movies Lucas cared more about his main characters’ stories as knight’s tales than he did about their roles in the war that drives the plot. The war is only the background to the important stuff, which is why Lucas allows the war to be mainly fought and won by secondary and minor characters. Luke, Leia, and Han help save the day, but Lucas makes it clear that the rebellion itself doesn’t need them. This is why Wedge Antilles, Luke’s ace pilot pal, is an important character even though he appears only briefly in each of the original three movies. Wedge must be at least as good a pilot as Luke, but as far as we know he’s not strong in the force nor is he a famous hero. He’s one very good pilot among many. The Rebel Alliance has all the troops, all the Wedges, it needs to fight the war.
Which leaves Luke free to pursue his own ends.
Which he does.
That one kills me, because Lance name-checks me in it:
In Attack of the Clones, Obi-wan sets out to solve the mystery of who is trying to murder Padme, which reminds me that I promised Jaquandor that I would write a post about Obi-wan’s career as the Jedi’s top private detective.
I never got that post about Obi Wan Kenobi, Jedi detective. It’s OK, Lance…but if there is an afterlife, I expect you to have that shit ready for me.
Lance wrote about his father a lot. His father only died a couple of years ago. I occasionally got a sense in Lance’s writings, maybe a bit more frequently these past years, that he was beginning to sense that he was no longer the young man, that his own sun was closer to his own Western horizon than the Eastern one. I don’t know for sure if he thought any such thing, but it’s something I felt lurking in his writings.
This one I remember. He liked doing this kind of post, in which he just reported straight on things he saw unfold out there in the world. I think it was because of Lance that I started really noticing the intersection between “aggrieved white guy who votes Republican” and “owner of a pristine pickup truck”…but this isn’t political. It’s just a capturing-in-words of what happened when two people might have passed in the night…but didn’t.
Tonight I was at Barnes and Noble, having a dad’s night out, and not enjoying myself as much as I would have even five years ago—browsing through the new fiction I kept coming across author biographies that began, “So and so was born in 1980…”
While I’m in the cafe drinking my coffee, a barely 20 something girl sits down at the table next to mine. A golden blonde, with languid, shy eyes and a determined chin. She wears a black tunic dress with spaghetti straps and a slit up to her thigh, a red cardigan over her shoulders (which she lets fall to her chair and onto the floor when she gets up to go to the counter later) and she stirs the ice in her iced latte a hundred times as she looks deeply into one of the books she has brought from home in a ragged canvass pouch. She reads with her lips slightly parted in a small, enigmatic smile.
My middle aged male vanity kicks in when I notice her. There are many empty tables all over the cafe, why pick the one next to mine? I get the answer when I go to get a refill on my coffee.
At the table behind mine, and so directly across from hers, sits a young hero, another 20 something, with a granite chin, dark wavy hair, blue eyes, broad chest, a three day stubble and black rimmed Ben Franklins on the end of his nose. On the table in front of him is an empty coffee cup and a large cup of Pepsi.
Remember these props. The coffee and the Pepsi. They’re Chekhov’s gun, the one he said that if you bring it on stage in Act One has to go off in Act Three.
I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it; you’ll have to read the entire thing.
Sometimes when times got tight, Lance would reach out to his readers for a bit of financial help. One time I sent him $20…and a copy of Stardancer. I have no idea if he read it, or if he did, if he liked it. I’m not sure I need to know. There’s a GoFundMe for his surviving family.
Farewell, Lance Mannion. You inspired me to write better. I hope I did…and still will.