Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why I love Ron Rash

Pretty simple.  He writes passages like this one (from The World Made Straight):

"Leonard turned and watched the red and white ride called the Octopus fling riders into the sky.  Beneath its flailing arms, in the nexus of thick black cables, grease-caked gears, and pulleys, crouched a man in a grimy tee-shirt and jeans.  He was old, brow and biceps wrinkled, long hair falling to his shoulders in a gray tangle.  But he moved with the dexterity of a spider monkey as he hunched and scurried between the supports and electrical systems to keep the machine going, its wide arms appearing to hurtle forward but in reality returning again and again to where they had always been.  Like God at the center of his universe, Leonard thought, watching the scabbed, grizzled hands at the controls."

A tiny world in a paragraph.  I could almost live there for a little while.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Colson Whitehead- Sag Harbor

I started reading Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor this morning.  So much I could put up here, but this one was just too good to pass up.  I'm sure there will be more to come (guy's brilliant).

"I walked up to where the beach crumbled away into the ocean.  Left Left faced the Atlantic, not that meager, lapping bay crap.  Not big enough to surf in except in front of an advancing hurricane--you had to go up to Montauk for that, and none of us was so inclined.  There were no houses beyond the waves, no slim spits of land, as on our turf.  Just invisible continents.  It was the Edge of Things, and the Edge liked to grab at you, pull you in.  I wasn't even toe-deep in the water when I heard my mother's warnings in my ears, "Watch out for the undertow!," which wasn't a bad philosophy, really, applicable to most situations in a metaphorical sense, but I hated being so conditioned.  I never went past where I could feel the bottom beneath my feet, so riptides and undertow weren't much of a concern.  But you could feel it, even in the shallows--the ravenous pull when the ocean sucked back into itself to gather for the next wave, the next volley in its siege against land and landlubbers--i.e., you.  The ocean was kidnapping arms and a muffled voice that said, You ain't much at all are you?  Nope not much at all.  Sand beneath my feet, that was my rule."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tom Franklin on William Gay

When I read this opening paragraph to Tom Franklin's tribute to William Gay, I knew immediately I'd have to post it here:

"He cut his own hair. In warm weather, hed bathe in the creek behind his house. He hunted ginseng in the woods when the season was right. He tended a vegetable garden that grew tomatoes, squash, okra, carrots, and onions. He smoked Marlboros. He sometimes wrote in a tree house on his property. Women loved him. They wanted to take care of him, to fatten him up. He never drove. He wrote. He wrote in yellow legal tablets, one stacked on another. His favorite restaurant was Waffle House. In the 60s, he heard Janis Joplin play in Greenwich Village, and when he requested a Bob Dylan song, she snapped, We don't do covers, sir. He loved him some Bob Dylan. He lovedDavid Letterman, too, and the Cubs. He loved SeinfeldDeadwood, William Faulkner, Bill Clinton, AC/DC. He loved movies, though he never went to a theater. Most of all he loved his children, and his grandchildren. He had high Cherokee cheekbones and small brown eyes that got lost when he smiled. The skin of his face had deep lines in it that seemed to hint at hard living. When the writer Janisse Ray met him, at Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi, she said, “You look like a man who's been shot at.” And he did, he looked like a man whod been shot at. Thered be weeks he wouldnt answer his phone. It might be disconnected, or it might just ring and ring. If it went on too long, wed all start worrying, his friends, calling one another. Have you talked to William? Have you talked to William?"

Read the rest of this amazing essay here:

Friday, April 27, 2012

William Gay- Charting the Territories of the Red

The opening of one of my favorite short stories.  How could you read this and not continue?
(From The Southern Review Spring 2001)

"WHEN THE WOMEN CAME BACK from the rest area, slinging their purses along and giggling, Dennis guessed that someone had flirted with them. He hoped they'd keep their mouths shut about it. He was almost certain that Sandy wouldn't say a word, but you never knew about Christy.

Well, we got flirted with, Christy said. She linked an arm through his and leaned against him, standing on his feet, looking up at him. The sun was moving through her auburn hair, and there were already tiny beads of perspiration below her eyes, on the brown, poreless skin of her forehead. She smelled like Juicy Fruit chewing gum.

Dennis unlaced his arm from hers and stepped back and wiped his wire-rimmed glasses on the tail of his shirt. He was wearing jeans and a denim shirt with the sleeves scissored out at the shoulders. He glanced at Wesley. He put the glasses back on and turned and looked at the river. Moving light flashed off it like a heliograph. I guess we need to get the boats in the water, he said.

Wesley had both of Sandy's hands in both of his own. Her hands were small and brown and clasped, so in Wesley's huge fists they looked amputated at the wrists. Who flirted with you? Wesley asked.

Sandy just grinned and shook her head. She had short dark hair, far shorter than Wesley's. Wesley was looking down into her sharp, attentive face. The best thing about her face was her eyes, which were large and bluegreen and darkly fringed with thick lashes. The best thing about her eyes was the way they focused on you when you were talking to her, as if she was listening intently and retaining every word. Dennis had always suspected that she did this because she was deaf. Perhaps she didn't even know she did it.

Sandy had once been beaten terribly, but studying her closely Dennis could see no sign of this now. Perhaps the slightest suggestion of aberration about the nose, a hesitant air that she was probably not even aware of. But her skin was clear and brown, the complex and delicate latticework of bones intact beneath it."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Single Shot- Matthew F. Jones

Enjoying this one, largely because of great descriptive passages like this one:

"The smell is of fertilizer, damp soil, and adolescent growth. The sporadic spark of fireflies intrudes on the darkness. A night, in his past life, for hand-holding, duet whistling, blanket love. John pulls the .45 from the glove box, checks to see that it's loaded, shoves it down the front of his pants, and steps from the truck. Beneath his feet the dirt is powdery and soft. From his left comes a rustling sound. He wheels that way and sees four sets of glistening eyes that, in less than a second, are gone. Raccoons. He hears them scurrying through the field... Standing fifty yards to the right of the cabin, concealed beneath a willow tree, he watches the dark house inhale the night air through its wide-open, sash-covered windows, and thinks how he doesn't really know Simon, and never did. A hard worker, hunter, drinker, with streaks affable, morose, and mean, he has, like John, few close friends."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Affliction- Russell Banks

"If he had taken himself out behind the barn one morning during his life with her and shot himself in the head, inflicted on himself in one awful blow all the violence he had battered us with during the years we lived with him, it still would not have released us, for our mother loved him, and so did we, and that awful blow would have been inflicted on us as well. His violence and wrath were our violence and wrath: there had been no way out of it."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Volt- Alan Heathcock

From "Lazarus"

"Sometimes," he tried again, "what's needed is just a good slap in the face.  Maybe if you want to slap someone you ought to.  Maybe it'd help as much as anything."

Martha sat forward.  "Vernon," she said, "we'd be slapping folks until our hands were raw."

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