Brilliant Short Writings
As is my custom, I'll give you random passages chosen quickly from the books that lie beside my bed.
If you appreciate the flavor of a random passage, you'll like the taste of the book.
We should all read more.
There's a reason the New York Times named it One of the 10 Best Books of 2006.
It's Hempel's voice: pretty, in the way that only a woman's voice can be.
Clear-eyed, without affectation of any kind.
A little sad.
If Emily Dickinson had been born 121 years later, she might have been Amy Hempel.
p. 153, an excerpt from Hempel's story, And Lead Us Not into Penn Station,
On the nicer side of not a nice street, between God Bless the Cheerful Giver and his dog, and There But for the Grace of God Go I and his dog, a wino engaged me in the following Q and A:
Miss, am I bleeding?
Yes, yes you are.
From the nose.
And the mouth?
Just the nose?
I wonder how that happened.
Everything you can think of is going on here. Plus things that you can't think of, too. Those things are going on in groups….
Under a streetlight, a man and woman are talking. The man says he feels sure that the woman is going to shoot him and he can't help but wonder what caliber she has chosen.
Women who live alone in fear of intruders call the local precinct for advice. “Keep your doorknobs highly polished,” an officer tells them. “When someone breaks in, we can get clear prints.”
On the occasion of a star athlete's accidental overdose, a TV reporter takes his questions to the street. “What do you learn from this?” he asks the truant boys in a vacant lot. “What does it tell you that a young athlete takes this drug and dies?”
The boys fight for the microphone until one of them grabs it away. He says, “Man, you have got to build up to that dose.”
A man stops into a bar and rests his shopping bag on a stool…
A collection of the scribbles and self-notes written by Jack Kerouac in the years just before he became famous. Especially interesting when you know how the story ends, how the characters died, how the world was never quite the same.
p. 119, from Kerouac's journal entries of 1948
TUESDAY AUG. 17 – Babe Ruth died yesterday, and I ask myself: “Where is the foundling's father hidden?' – where is Babe Ruth's father?” Who was it who spawned this Bunyan? – What man, where, what thoughts did he have? Nobody knows. And this is an American mystery, the foundling becomes king, and the foundling's father is hidden… and there's greatness in America that this does always happen.
The halfhearted, low-budget cover screams, “I'm drivel and trash and the publisher knows it.”
But to judge this book by its cover would be a tragic mistake.
In this collection of essays, articles and columns written for various publications over the years, Tom Robbins proves himself wittier than Dorothy Parker, more colorful than Hunter S. Thompson, sharper in perception than Andy Rooney.
Piercing, even. A journalist of the highest order.
Buy the book. Throw away the ugly dust cover. You won't be disappointed.
p. 90, from Robbins' Miniskirt Feminism,
a reminiscence of the 60's originally published in the New York Times, (1995)
…The widespread donning of the miniskirt and doffing of the bra symbolized a burbling rebellion against constraint – sexual, societal, political, and religious. Among other things, our culture was being refeminized, and unharnessed women in abbreviated loinwrappings – looking good, feeling free! – expressed this in a way every bit as direct and immediate as men in frilly collars and waist-length hair. Old boundary lines were blurring like wet mascara, and much of the land was giddy with the hashish of social change. Humans, hopes, hemlines: all were as high as kites.
It wasn't merely that miniskirts (and their sisters in emancipated style, hot pants) were sexy. Rather, they were sexy in a decidedly playful way, a playfulness which carried over into many other aspects of life…
Short-short skirts have come back several times since then. But you know I'm right when I say it's not the same. Indeed, it may no longer be possible to stitch a zeitgeist into a few square inches of cloth.
Ah, but while it lasted, the 60's miniskirt was a sight to behold. More than a garment, it was a flag without a country, a banner without a slogan, a pennant without a team. Leather or satin, snug or flared, smooth or pleated, sassy or coyly demure, it was the all-embracing banderole that flew from the masthead of a heroic escapade. It was the happy standard of the heart.
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Have you searched for Easter Eggs hidden in the archives of the Monday Morning Memo?