August 22, 2007KR BlogUncategorized

Beyond the Imperative

A while back, Liz Lopatto asked the KR associates to write about books that were important to them. Enjoy this musing by Lucia Pizzo as the end of summer nears. –TM

I was reminded of Beloved, or more accurately, of Denver, the novel’s self-seeking heroine, when a customer told a bread-slicing me, “take your time,” as I frantically assembled his Bavarian order at a nearby bakery. Spending afternoons covered in flour, customers asking if my heritage matches my outfit (a dirndl, and it does), leaves much room for sifted thoughts. So when these words shook the strudel, my thoughts shifted from molasses to Morrison, and I heard them in a way similar to Denver’s when a boy commands, “take care of yourself.” Her self, now conceived of as something to touch, something she’s commanded to touch and care for, well, that’s how I came to see time: something to take, something that was mine.

Summer employment isn’t always a place that encourages the possession of time. Each pan of ninety-six kolache marks seven minutes of shaping the cookies, more if I’m beckoned, less if I drop a few. Eighteen minutes claim giving old bread to the chickens out back and bagging fresh bread for tomorrow’s sale. Mixed in are customers, some claiming that my time is mine.

But more than that: the time must be taken. It doesn’t stroll or gallop or pirouette through bakeries or elsewhere, given like countertop samples. There’s violence in the taking: to snatch and hold and label with a sticker of proclamation.

While time lulls, and the Kuchen melt in the window, I read. Or munch on carrots. Of late, Benjamin Hoff’s suggested Taoist perspective on time has found its way into the bakery. In The Tao of Pooh, he argues that Western Taoist philosophers do exist, citing A.A. Milne’s honey-seeking bear.

Kneading together strands of stories from the Hundred Acre Wood with a running conversation between its prominent characters and himself, Hoff presents a sugar-coated version of Taoism. With each passage, he draws a corresponding Taoist principle, which his discussions with Pooh and the others serve to further support.

As I count down the hours until closing, first by the clock and then by the boards of kolache, Hoff proclaims that the “main problem with this great obsession for Saving Time is very simple: you can’t save time.” While I balance the cash register, he continues excitedly with, “You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.” If time is something to be taken, this cannot be done with Rubbermaid in mind. Like stale bread, time naturally contains no preservatives and will not stay fresh for long.

“When we take the time,” Hoff chimes in with the voice of my bread-buyer, “to enjoy our surroundings and appreciate being alive, we find that we have no time to be Bisy Backsons anymore.” Using a misspelled note that Rabbit finds (Busy, Back Soon), Hoff turns this mentality of the constantly moving person, who works now to save time for later, into its own character: the Bisy Backson. Instead, by taking time daily, chewing it, and savoring it then, rather than having it day-old or as chicken feed, we become too content to want more.

Next time I slice bread, I’ll slice it slowly. I’ll take my time like Denver took her self, with intention, joining Christopher Robin in doing Nothing, “just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

About the Program

The Kenyon Review Associates Program provides Kenyon students with valuable experience in literary editing, publishing, and programming. KR Associates work closely with Kenyon Review staff, gaining valuable experience in a number of editing, publishing, and programming areas including manuscript evaluation, publicity and marketing, copy editing, developing web site and social media content, outreach programming, event planning and promotion, and other creative and editorial projects

KR Associates attend regular seminars conducted by Kenyon Review editorial staff, visiting readers, and publishing industry professionals. These seminars cover a wide range of topics including editorial philosophy, evaluation of submissions, print and electronic production, marketing, and design.

KR Associates enjoy also enjoy exclusive access to visiting writers and speakers, free issues of The Kenyon Review, and valuable work experience and employment references.

This program is made possible through an initiative of the Kenyon Review, part of the mission of which is to contribute to the enrichment of the academic, cultural, and artistic life of the Kenyon College community.

Requirements and Expectations

  • Submission Evaluation: All Associates are required to read and evaluate eight Kenyon Review submissions per week. Associates who are not able to complete their weekly submission assignments for more than two weeks in a row may not be allowed to continue in the program.
  • Trainings and Seminars: In-person attendance is mandatory at all trainings and seminars. We plan on scheduling six to eight seminars per semester, and most will take place on Thursdays during common hour.
  • Literary Engagement: Associates are expected to participate in literary events on campus and throughout the local community.

Application Details

The application deadline for the 2023-24 program has passed. Applications for the 2024-25 program will open in the fall of 2024. Please check back then for more details.

Questions? Please contact Tory Weber for more information.