“Torquatus” | great weather for MEDIA: Suitcase of Chrysanthemums | 1 August 2018

Many thanks to the editors of great weather for MEDIA, especially Jane Ormerod, David Lawton, Mary Slechta, and Thomas Fucaloro, for publishing a story of mine. What an honor. The anthology is available in print.

I first heard of this magazine when two of its authors, Eliel Lucero and Britt Haraway, participated in the same Best Small Fictions 2016 reading as me. I loved both of their readings, and had never heard of the magazine that published them. I changed that quickly, and when I went to AWP in 2017 made a point of stopping by the GW4M table and checking them out.

It’s a great magazine, run by writers and artists, and I’m so pleased to have a story join their company.

About “Torquatus.” It was inspired by William Maxwell’s reading of the great Horace Ode, Diffugere Nives (translated by A.E. Housman).

I love William Maxwell, deeply, as a writer.  Reading his novels puts me in a trance, transports me to a place where my own feelings mix with his narrative feelings. It’s a wonderful buzzy understanding. His narrative voice is so beautiful.

But then, in this video, he’s very old. His actual voice is a bit raggedy, a bit phlegmy, but he is yet boyish in his earnest intellect, his open admiration for Housman. What stands out for me, and I’ve shared this quote a number of times and people always want to know who said that? who was he? William Maxwell has this to say about living to age 90:

“You’re standing in a sort of pivotal position with the past. You remember more, of course, but also you are detached from it, so that it’s as if you were reading a long Russian novel; you don’t anymore grieve over the mistakes, you think ‘oh, that’s what those characters did,’ and then ‘how interesting.’ That’s how I think of the past.”

Now, another thing one might wonder is who or what is Torquatus. I won’t say much because I’m a poor student of Roman history (I hope to change this one day, there are such riches in the books), but if you’ve ever seen this statue in an Art History book (or in real life), it is called The Dying Gaul, or The Dying Galacian.

The Dying Gaul, Capitoline Museum, Rome. Photograph (c)2005 Mary Harrsch
The Dying Gaul, Capitoline Museum, Rome. Photograph (c)2005 Mary Harrsch

You’ll notice the warrior is wearing a necklace.  Here is a summary of the fight that killed him. His opponent, a proud man who would not suffer insults, a warrior himself small of stature but equipped with a fighting knife with a curved blade that was novel as they fought on a bridge, upset the odds when he killed the enemy. It was so unexpected, a real David and Goliath event, and the small soldier, Titus Manlius, then took the Gaul’s necklace, a collar made of twisted gold chain, and wore it himself. Torquatus is Titus Manlius’s nickname.

So, here is “Torquatus,” a story that means to emulate what a muse does as the story of her effects, her effects on a small child who did not understand what she saw when she saw it, is told.

Thank you for stopping by my website. great weather for MEDIA: Suitcase of Chrysanthemums is available in print at this time, or you can come to NYC on November 13, 2018 and hear me recite it at the GW4M reading event.



great weather for MEDIA: Suitcase of Chrysanthemums
great weather for MEDIA: Suitcase of Chrysanthemums.
NOTE: The featured image of this blog post is the cover art for GW4M:Suitcase of Chrysanthemums by Jodi Lynn Concepcion.