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Announcements and Observations
A new Substack publication, a couple stories, my family's odd habit of using the same handful of male names over and over again generation on generation...
You may recall that my sister-in-law, the celebrated iconographer Solrunn Nes, writes a Substack newsletter dedicated to icons and their meaning. Now her husband, my dissolute eldest brother Addison, has started a publication of his own called “The Pragmatic Mystic.” He is, you see, a serious scholar of contemplative traditions, Western and Eastern, as well as a writer most of whose books either directly concern or indirectly touch upon contemplative practice. He describes the newsletter as “an ongoing discussion about the interior life, both Christian and interfaith.” I can say with some confidence that it will be a spiritually rich publication and I recommend it with great enthusiasm.
My brother’s son, also named Addison, is a very talented writer. In order, however, to avoid being confused with his father—and perhaps to avoid being inculpated in some readers’ minds by association with the whole unseemly “Hart” continuum—he publishes under a borrowed surname. Of late, two of his stories have appeared in literary journals, one with Olney Magazine, one with Epiphany. They are not especially indicative of his work as a whole—he can write in a great many styles, from the sparely taciturn to the lushly Parnassian—but they are good introductions to aspects of his attractively odd take on reality. And they are very good stories.
God knows why the name Addison seems to cling to my family (from the distaff side) age on age, like the mark of Cain. I have a cousin Addison as well, and had an uncle Addison—and, I should note, a grandfather with that name, which he had inherited from a line of forebears. Actually, in my mother’s family, the name is usually “George Addison Cooke Hodges,” with the “George” held in silent reserve as a proper Christian name, never to be used except on the day of baptism and the day of interment; but in the cases of my mother’s own offspring the “George” and “Cooke” were shed when my brother was christened and the “Hodges” when his son was. In general, my family on both sides has often been a little unimaginative in assigning names to male children. I mean, ask my uncle David, my cousin David, or my nephew David (the last—like my nephew Robert—being the son of my brother Robert, named after our father Robert.) Only the girls have ever seemed to get anything in the way of names uniquely their own (and then not in every case). Whether this is because of some lingering, subconscious Old World prejudice regarding the male line—thought of as the “proper” line of descent—or simply because of inertia I cannot say. Probably a little of both. But my wife and I called our son Patrick in part because no one in the history of my family had ever borne that name. The reaction of one of my elderly aunts (now deceased) on hearing the news was apparently to remark, “But that’s not a family name. We’re not Irish!” (There is some Irish on my father’s side, actually—or Anglo-Irish, at least—but this fact had been withheld from her for years.) Anyway, this is all à propos de rien (there was quite a dose of French on my mother’s side of the family, incidentally). I just happened to notice that some readers of this newsletter have occasionally confused my brother and my nephew for one another in comment threads.