JOURNALIST 2: The most important thing is what’s happening on the street. If there’s a dog demonstrating on a corner, the Boss wants to picture it. Yesterday he told me to look for ‘scenes of everyday life’. But I find all the pushing and shoving very disagreeable. I had to join in with the Watch on the Rhine – let’s go, it’s starting up; look at them, I know the mood, we’ll suddenly find ourselves right in the middle, singing God Save the Emperor.
JOURNALIST 1: God forbid! We could be writing about it instead of standing here. The Boss says we’ve got to make the public hungry for the war and the paper, the two things go together. The detail, that’s what matters, with light and shade and lots of Viennese atmosphere. We need to show how all class distinction was abandoned – people waved from cars and carriages – a lady in the finest lace stepped out of her car and threw her arms round a woman with a faded headscarf. All of one heart and one mind.
A sentence is a thought caught,
enough said, but what was meant by that?
When you scan it with your eyes
I want it to writhe underneath your army boot,
tease and curse you with its sexfulness,
shine with sweat, spit, and call you ignoramus,
because you are.
Yes, Jerry boy,
you are no better than a stick in sunless sand.
When you read the first word,
and assume the end
this sentence sticks a hot acupuncture needle
long enough to reach your cozy tucked-in brain.
When you read, you should be tumbling
up and down,
your heartbeat rolls the digits like a dealer crisp cards,
your eyes wide with amazement when you start picturing
all the possibilities of this, single, win,
please God, just this once,
I’ll make it up to you,
I’ll go to the church and go to the AAs,
because I am a mess,
I’ll buy her flowers and stop by her grave more often,
I’ll by my kid a new edition toy, and I’ll repaint the charred kitchen walls,
I’ll share, I’ll give a donation to Uncle Danny’s little poor witless boy,
Oh, I will,
I will !
Your body heath is now equal to a cremation furnace
either empty or full,
your head, about to explode
because of the annoyance.
Nothing is happening, Jerry.
Did you notice anything?
A sign from above?
Did the wind come by to cheer you up?
Or sweet smell of homemade food?
Or buzz of a phone or a pool of laughter?
No, it’s that thing again.
It’s driving you insane.
Its foot stuck in the doorway,
the snug smile,
simply begging for a slap.
What was that?
What did she mean by all that?
“Oh, yes. Of course, you may have to wait. But eventually a bus will come.” Then he touched me reassuringly on the shoulder. “I can see it might get a little lonely standing out here. But once the bus arrives your spirits will rise, believe me. Oh, yes. That bus is always a joy. It’ll be brightly lit up, and it’s always full of cheerful people, laughing and joking and pointing out the window. Once you board it, you’ll feel warm and comfortable, and the other passengers will chat with you, perhaps offer you things to eat or drink. There may even be singing—that depends on the driver. Some drivers encourage it, others don’t. Well, Fletcher, it was good to see you.”
let’s cut the battered ropes of need,
the auburn marks now leave the skin,
please, please, take heed,
unattach this frayed heart pin.
flung it towards the pyramids screaching under the night,
on it, stars piling up like a stack of pancakes,
and you gulp them with your hunting knife,
but know this, I’ve just upped the stakes.
chase across the earth, unforgiven,
rolling it like a boulder in toothache rain,
like a frosty bubble, just enliven,
squeeze the world through a hoop of newborn pain.
look at the ivy dripping from the treetops,
nibble on Time, slurp the sugary air,
go on now and don’t wait for moths,
you cannot mend this snare.
PAPER PILLS, concerning Doctor Reefy
HE WAS AN old man with a white beard and huge nose and hands. Long before the time during which we will know him, he was a doctor and drove a jaded white horse from house to house through the streets of Winesburg. Later he married a girl who had money. She had been left a large fertile farm when her father died. The girl was quiet, tall, and dark, and to many people she seemed very beautiful. Everyone in Winesburg wondered why she married the doctor. Within a year after the marriage she died.
The knuckles of the doctor’s hands were extraordinarily large. When the hands were closed they looked like clusters of unpainted wooden balls as large as walnuts fastened together by steel rods. He smoked a cob pipe and after his wife’s death sat all day in his empty office close by a window that was covered with cobwebs. He never opened the window. Once on a hot day in August he tried but found it stuck fast and after that he forgot all about it.
Winesburg had forgotten the old man, but in Doctor Reefy there were the seeds of something very fine. Alone in his musty office in the Heffner Block above the Paris Dry Goods Company’s store, he worked ceaselessly, building up something that he himself destroyed. Little pyramids of truth he erected and after erecting knocked them down again that he might have the truths to erect other pyramids.
Doctor Reefy was a tall man who had worn one suit of clothes for ten years. It was frayed at the sleeves and little holes had appeared at the knees and elbows. In the office he wore also a linen duster with huge pockets into which he continually stuffed scraps of paper. After some weeks the scraps of paper became little hard round balls, and when the pockets were filled he dumped them out upon the floor. For ten years he had but one friend, another old man named John Spaniard who owned a tree nursery. Sometimes, in a playful mood, old Doctor Reefy took from his pockets a handful of the paper balls and threw them at the nursery man. “That is to confound you, you blathering old sentimentalist,” he cried, shaking with laughter.
The story of Doctor Reefy and his courtship of the tall dark girl who became his wife and left her money to him is a very curious story. It is delicious, like the twisted little apples that grow in the orchards of Winesburg. In the fall one walks in the orchards and the ground is hard with frost underfoot. The apples have been taken from the trees by the pickers. They have been put in barrels and shipped to the cities where they will be eaten in apartments that are filled with books, magazines, furniture, and people. On the trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy’s hands. One nibbles at them and they are delicious. Into a little round place at the side of the apple has been gathered all of its sweetness. One runs from tree to tree over the frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted apples and filling his pockets with them. Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.
The girl and Doctor Reefy began their courtship on a summer afternoon. He was forty-five then and already he had begun the practice of filling his pockets with the scraps of paper that became hard balls and were thrown away. The habit had been formed as he sat in his buggy behind the jaded white horse and went slowly along country roads. On the papers were written thoughts, ends of thoughts, beginnings of thoughts.
One by one the mind of Doctor Reefy had made the thoughts. Out of many of them he formed a truth that arose gigantic in his mind. The truth clouded the world. It became terrible and then faded away and the little thoughts began again.
The tall dark girl came to see Doctor Reefy because she was in the family way and had become frightened. She was in that condition because of a series of circumstances also curious.
The death of her father and mother and the rich acres of land that had come down to her had set a train of suitors on her heels. For two years she saw suitors almost every evening. Except two they were all alike. They talked to her of passion and there was a strained eager quality in their voices and in their eyes when they looked at her. The two who were different were much unlike each other. One of them, a slender young man with white hands, the son of a jeweler in Winesburg, talked continually of virginity. When he was with her he was never off the subject. The other, a black-haired boy with large ears, said nothing at all but always managed to get her into the darkness, where he began to kiss her.
For a time the tall dark girl thought she would marry the jeweler’s son. For hours she sat in silence listening as he talked to her and then she began to be afraid of something. Beneath his talk of virginity she began to think there was a lust greater than in all the others. At times it seemed to her that as he talked he was holding her body in his hands. She imagined him turning it slowly about in the white hands and staring at it. At night she dreamed that he had bitten into her body and that his jaws were dripping. She had the dream three times, then she became in the family way to the one who said nothing at all but who in the moment of his passion actually did bite her shoulder so that for days the marks of his teeth showed.
After the tall dark girl came to know Doctor Reefy it seemed to her that she never wanted to leave him again. She went into his office one morning and without her saying anything he seemed to know what had happened to her.
In the office of the doctor there was a woman, the wife of the man who kept the bookstore in Winesburg. Like all old-fashioned country practitioners, Doctor Reefy pulled teeth, and the woman who waited held a handkerchief to her teeth and groaned. Her husband was with her and when the tooth was taken out they both screamed and blood ran down on the woman’s white dress. The tall dark girl did not pay any attention. When the woman and the man had gone the doctor smiled. “I will take you driving into the country with me,” he said.
For several weeks the tall dark girl and the doctor were together almost every day. The condition that had brought her to him passed in an illness, but she was like one who has discovered the sweetness of the twisted apples, she could not get her mind fixed again upon the round perfect fruit that is eaten in the city apartments. In the fall after the beginning of her acquaintanceship with him she married Doctor Reefy and in the following spring she died. During the winter he read to her all of the odds and ends of thoughts he had scribbled on the bits of paper. After he had read them he laughed and stuffed them away in his pockets to become round hard balls.
nice one 😀
A concise, often witty, turn of phrase that should be shared out of context on Twitter or Pinterest.
Novel where someone (preferably male) matures into the ideal state of bitter disillusionment.
Evocation of fear and pity. Best exemplified in modern storytelling by Lifetime Network original movies.
A form of textual analysis. No one knows what it means. Apply liberally.
Use to describe any French novel of the 20th century. Serve with coffee and cigarettes.
First, Outer, Inner, Last.
Deride genre fiction at all times. If a writer uses genre tropes, praise her for genre bending. (See LITERARY FICTION).
Use to describe any big ambitious novel that does not meet your aesthetic and/or moral needs.
All poetry is composed in iambic pentameter.
A writer’s immature work, which she usually (wisely) withholds from publication. After the…
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