Monday, October 08, 2012

Bee-loud glade

Some nice ink for ESCAPE VELOCITY: A CHARLES PORTIS MISCELLANY, edited by Jay Jennings and published by Butler Center Books (a division of the Central Arkansas Library System [!]):

Carlo Rotella at the NYTBR:

You can enjoy “Escape Velocity” as a stand-alone collection, but a Portis miscellany will always be read too as a key to the experiences and craft lessons that shaped the novels. Take the opening sentences of a piece Portis wrote in 1962 when The New York Herald Tribune, the writer’s newspaper where he worked alongside Tom Wolfe and Jimmy Breslin, sent him to check out an upstate hospital’s antismoking program: “Another day of lethargy in this bee-loud glade, trying to kick the smoking habit. It appears everyone will make it but me.” That “bee-loud” borrowing from Yeats perfectly catches the tetchiness of a two-pack-a-day man marooned among health nuts, and the second sentence pits the resistance implied by the first against the urge to compete with the other inmates for their clean-living oppressors’ praise.

And Alex Heard at The New Republic:

He once broke the arm of a loudmouth from The New York Times who had challenged him to arm-wrestle at Greenwich Village bar. “It was a just a freakish thing,” he insisted. “A weak bone or something.”

Escape Velocity features Portis's newspaper journalism, various magazine pieces (stories and a memoir), and a play. The back end is padded with some appreciations of Portis, by Ron Rosenbaum, Donna Tartt, Wells Tower, and myself (my 2003 Believer piece, now anthologized for the second time—I'm getting a lot of mileage out of it!). 


Saturday, October 06, 2012

Lord Jim

Slim Jim's target consumer niche is the elusive 18- to 29-year-old guy. It's a male rite of passage with teen guys to buy the first stick "you can afford with the change you have in your pocket," Mr. Marple says. (The standard Slim Jim "Giant Stick" retails for around $1.30.) "It's 'I'm becoming a man,' " Mr. Marple says. But then something happens to guys in their 20s, he says. "They seek variety in snacking, and they're moving to chips and Tostitos." —???

(Via Jane)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Ghost stories

Devin McKinney's Magic Circles is one of the best books about the Beatles I've ever read. His latest book is The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda (St. Martin's), which just came out on Tuesday. 

There's a brief but fascinating interview with Dev up at, with Joshua Glenn asking: Why Fonda, why now?

I see exceptionalism as a heinous doctrine. I don’t believe Henry Fonda was an exceptionalist. He took for granted in his work that American democracy is yet to be perfected, and that it’s the patriot’s obligation to critique it, poke it, watchdog it, be suspicious of it. In the years I was writing this book, that seemed to me the rarest gift an American artist could give, and Fonda gave it consistently over the course of nearly 50 years on the screen. He made me feel pride and strength in American capability in times when it seemed so much of our capability was only selfish, lazy, cruel, murderous. I trust that dimension of his relevance will come through to readers who have felt the same frustrations.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Now that's a lede!

"On the afternoon of Sunday, August 12, a stolen car sped down River Terrace, blasted through the stop sign at Vesey Street, and then—unable to negotiate the sharp turn at Vesey—flew over the curb, onto the sidewalk, and crashed into the wall of the Irish Hunger Memorial." —"Fast and Furious," The Broad Sheet


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