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!). 



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