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Tangent Lives (Part 3—A reflection)


In its first thirteen months, this blog has suggested that the people outlined here aren’t real—with a handful of exceptions. The vast majority don’t exist and probably never have, for one obvious reason: real people are nuanced complex creatures influencing and influenced by their fellows in a constant evolutionary state. My limited abilities have given you postcards, when you should have been given novels about Dickensian characters told with the complexity of Proust. I can dream.

Half-term Agincourt mayor Ed Flynn (no relation to the former half-governor of Alaska) and his beautiful widow Amity Burroughs Flynn are composites of many people I have known—and some that I hope not to. But I also hope that aspects of their necessarily cropped profiles have resonated with your own life experience. Agincourt is, after all, about us. But it is also by us, to the extent that I’m able to involve more participants in the matrix. Hint, hint.

I have a meeting next week to discuss a new venue for The Project, as we’ve come to call it. Yes, I am both grateful and relieved to have this opportunity, but I also hope to negotiate the best conditions for you to maximize the Agincourt experience—whatever the hell that is.

The first thirteen months of this blog have been reflective, setting out what I’m trying to accomplish and how this organic participatory process has worked, or not. The next thirteen months—dare I say it?—are going to be a rollercoaster. And the best I can hope for is your forebearance when I’m stressed, cranky or depressed (and I will be all of them), as well as your constructive criticism, even your active participation, as we approach the Big Day in the fall of 2012.

In the meantime, Howard doesn’t seem to be finished with the Flynns. I’ll trust his insights over mine any day.

“A few figs from thistles…”

by Howard A. Tabor

Ordinary People

I’ve never read Judith Guest’s novel Ordinary People. It only took four years from book to film, though, and I’m certain that much was changed and some may even have been lost in the transition from paper to celluloid. It is one of my favorite movies, however, in which each of the four principal characters (played to critical acclaim by Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch, Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore) are brought together by the missing fifth character, Hutton’s older brother lost in a foolish boating accident. 

Edmund Fitzgerald Flynn and Amity Burroughs Flynn may have been ordinary people, like Judith Guest’s characters, who were also thrown into extraordinary circumstances. The Flynns migrated literally half way across America, from Boston to the Midwest, from a dense urban area to a small town with far less diversity and fewer places to hide. They may even have arrived thinking that Agincourt would be like a play, a theatrical production, with a handful of defined roles, two of which they had chosen for themselves. 

Ed Flynn lived here only five years; yet his wife Amity was among us those five and twenty-five more. We know nothing of their lives before and only what the fat file of news clippings have to say, 19th century equivalents of sound bites and talking points while they were here. From those clippings, I’ve outlined many of Ed Flynn’s activities (women in the 1890s were nearly invisible, except in upper class cultural settings) and shown them to a psychologist friend of mine who’s willing to put Ed retroactively “on the couch” and interpret him in an early 21st century frame of reference. If Ed were alive today he’d be sporting the number 301.81, Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the current diagnostic manual.

Our guess is that Ed lived the NPD role from arrival to his untimely death at age forty-eight, but that Amity, freed from her husband’s shadow and perhaps appreciating the changing role of women at the turn of the last century, may have blossomed as her own person. The portrait we have of her (painted by New York artist Joseph Newman and now part of the Tennant Memorial Collection) shows a stylish but introspective woman. And the clippings cast her as latterday suffragette and social activist. I wish Aunt Claire were here to offer another perspective. Between the two of them—Ed and Amity—his life doesn’t interest me in the least. But Mrs Flynn may very well have changed, grown, become worthy of that elegant mausoleum at The Shades where they rest. 

On their respective shelves, I hope that she’s on top.

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