Monthly Archives: September 2012

Style No. 28: Gangsta

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Style No. 28: Gangsta

(First time here? Click to find out what’s going on, or read the original anecdote in the margin.)

Gangsta

Yo, for real dog, there was like this mad-fly young playa all oranged-out like he been dipped in an Orange Julius blender or some shit. And check it, he blowing on this muhfugging whistle like he making love to your grandma but thinking about some other ho at the same time. Then this other young G from his clique got his arm all up around this whistling-ass muhfugger, and he be mad-dogging the crowd like some dirt about to go down, for real.

But what tripped me about the whole thing? Yo, this grandma, this great-grandma, walks by, and I know she holding. She got it all up under her do-rag, yo. She headed up to the crack spot, I’m telling you, dog. I could see it in her eye, mad nervous and all. Like the cops about to bust down her shit and she going to catch a case off that yayo. Yeah dog, that’s a fucked up grandma, for real.

Hey but at the same time? This muhfugger behind acting like he trying to start something. He got that look in his eye, yo, that serious look. And I’m like, yo even though he looking the other way, I know he be tripping. He better check himself, for real.

Yo dog, there was like this mad fly dungeon being all like ‘What’s up sky, you my bitch now,’ and I was like, dog, Paris is the bomb, for real. Clicked this shit at Vincennes in 2011.

Review: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

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This is an excellent book, and if you want to have some fun you should pick up a copy.

Now, the details.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a Western before. But then it’s not every day one is shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Giller Prize, and wins the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, a Governor General’s Literary Award, and a bunch of other distinctions. So I decided, on the recommendation of all these institutions and on my impression after flipping through the first pages, to give it a try. I have to say, I enjoyed myself.

The principal charm of the book lies in its first-person narrator, Eli Sisters, who comprises one half of the hitman duo Eli and Charlie Sisters. Here is a character who is at once earnest and ambivalent, vulnerable and unflinching. The simple honesty with which he tells their story — with the kind of nonchalance more befitting the life of an accountant than a hired assassin — is pleasingly juxtaposed against the brutal violence they both suffer and are obliged to inflict. And it’s funny too. This book has a lot of laughs.

As the brothers are on a mission from Oregon to California in search of a man who must die, they are constantly on the move and encountering unusual characters — from witches to bears to brandy-soaked whores. These supporting elements are intriguing and well-crafted, and some add significant depth to the story — particularly the melancholy women Eli falls for while his brother is busy getting drunk and having a good time. These encounters bring out Eli’s vulnerability, and add a new dimension to the narrative: he is not just a killer on a mission, but a self-doubting man worried about how to be more attractive to the honest ladies of the Wild West.

Consequently, the novel carries a strong charge of physical and emotional excitement, which the brevity of the book’s scenes reinforces. The novel has a regular structure, and most sections are only four pages long. These scene breaks give readers a lot of signposts to show they are making progress through the book, and making the prospect of a short reading session on a busy day appealing, as you are sure to complete a scene or two at the very least.

Where the pace does slow is when the Sisters brothers finally catch up with their man. The narrative settles in here for a longer stretch in one setting. But this is still full of danger, death, and humour, and the plot continues to drive toward its conclusion — I think I simply missed the excitement of being on the road with the brothers. The one exception to this, perhaps, is a scene covering the background of the man the Sisters brothers have been sent to kill. While it offers an interesting story in itself, I found myself distracted from the main narrative and unsure how it supported the main plot, which I wanted to get back to. We were, however, back to it quickly.

While the plot’s action — the killings, the arduous horse-treks, the love interests, the gold dust, the prostitutes — is exciting in its own right, where the book really shines is in Eli’s musings on these events. Unlike the Westerns we know, full of self-assured heroes and decisive doings, The Sisters Brothers is replete with ambivalence and ambiguity, and is among the most introspective additions to the genre. This is where the story’s relevance to today’s world is strongest, as readers are guided through a mentally rewarding series of reflections on the opaque subjects of career, love, and family.

In the end, thought, what I really want to say is I liked Eli Sisters. I miss him already. I think about him days after I put the book down. I admire the way he spoke and thought, and I smile when recalling the humour in his turns of phrase.

I admire, equally, Patrick deWitt‘s writing talent. When his next book comes out, I’ll be there. Meanwhile, you should mosey along and have a look at The Sisters Brothers.

 

Style No. 27: Ignorance

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Style No. 27: Ignorance

 

 

First time here? Click to find out what’s going on, or read the original anecdote in the margin. Otherwise, read below!

Was it a statue or a real man? Yeah, one of the two, probably. None of my business, when it comes down to it. Did I click this in Paris in 2011? Might’ve been there. But how am I supposed to remember? Look, I’ve taken a lot of pictures, what can I say.

Ignorance

Hey man, I told you everything I know. What more do you want from me? Yeah, maybe I saw the young boy. Was he dressed in orange, or blue or pink? Hard to say. Look, I’m not a t-shirt inspector, I’ve got better things to do.

A whistle? There could’ve been. But if I had to note down every whistle I saw in the street, I’d need to take it up as a full-time gig. So what can I say? Might’ve been a whistle, might’ve been kazoo or a lollipop, or just a punk sucking his thumb. Ask the kid, why don’t you.

His arm? Wrapped around him? Hey, it’s possible — among friends especially. But don’t expect me to confirm anything, I’m not the frigging hug police. That’s your job. Was he eyeing the crowd in the distance? Well, what the hell do I care if he was? If it floats his boat, let him eye donkeys dancing disco. None of my business.

What? Was the grandmother nervous? Hey, take a good look. Do I look like a geriatric psychologist to you? Yeah, you know what, she probably was nervous, because she could drop dead any minute. If I was that old I’d be nervous too. What can I tell you?

A secret object, hidden beneath her head shawl? I’m sorry — does my shirt say Fashion Week Panel Judge? Do I strike you as a man concerned with the rags old ladies employ to keep their heads together? Anyway, what’s it matter? She wouldn’t be the first. What the hell else is a head shawl good for?

And the man? I might’ve seen him. Then again, there were a lot of guys out there. Did I notice the serious look? Come on. Half the guys out there look like suicidal funeral home directors. Even celebrities got 99 problems, never mind the rest of us. So why not look serious? What reason, exactly, would he have not to look serious?

 

Style No. 26: Insistence

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Style No. 26: Insistence

Hey hey, everybody. Style No. 26 here for you, in case the first twenty-five didn’t leave you sated 🙂

Is it your first time here? Click to find out what’s going on, or check out the original anecdote in the margin. Happy reading.

There were two women. They were speaking, these two women. The location was Nizamuddin Dargah — the location of the two women who were speaking — and this Dargah itself was located in Delhi, India, Delhi in particular and India in general being known for their Dargahs and for their pairs of women speaking. Clicked this in 2011.

Insistence

There was a boy, a young boy dressed in a t-shirt, which was orange (the t-shirt). This young boy in an orange t-shirt was thinking. At the same time as he was thinking, and thinking deeply, this young boy dressed in an orange t-shirt blew a small wind instrument. The small wind instrument he blew, this young deep-thinking, orange t-shirt sporting boy, was a whistle.

His best friend had his arm wrapped around him, this young, orange, thinking, whistling boy. This arm was wrapped around him — the young boy — in a best friend-like manner. He was, for his part, the best friend with his arm wrapped around the orange think-whistler, eyeing the crowd in the distance.

And then there was a grandmother, a nervous grandmother. She was passing by, this nervous grandmother, and had an object hidden under her hair garment. This object, well hidden as it was beneath the hair garment, which belonged naturally to the nervous grandmother, was secret.

While the young boy blowing his whistle, thinking deeply, and being orange was ensnared by the arm of his best friend who was at the same time eyeing the crowd in the distance, and equally while the unsettled, superannuated female was passing by with an object beneath her head shawl, an object which was hidden, at the same time as all of this there was a man behind them. This man was serious and looking a particular way. The particularity of that way — the way of the serious man behind them — was in its oppositeness, it being opposite to the way of the orange whistler-thinker and his best friend.

 

Style No. 25: Logical Analysis

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Style No. 25: Logical Analysis

(First time here? Click to find out what’s going on, or read the original anecdote in the margin.)

Logical Analysis

A young boy.

A whistle.

A deep thought.

A young boy blowing his whistle and thinking deeply. It’s the protagonist.

A best friend.

A wrapped arm.

A crowd in the distance.

A best friend with his arm wrapped around the protagonist eyeing the distant crowd. It’s the supporting character.

A nervous grandmother.

A hidden object.

A head shawl.

A nervous grandmother with a hidden object beneath her head shawl. It’s the intrigue.

A serious man.

A knowing look.

An opposite direction.

A serious man looks knowingly in the opposite direction. It’s the concluding incident.

A truck. A pineapple. A pineapple truck. It’s the scene. A worker. A fruit crate. A worker hauling a fruit crate. It’s the activity. Munnar, Kerala (India). 2011. Munnar, Kerala (India), in 2011. It’s the time.

Style No. 24: Onomatopoeia

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Style No. 24: Onomatopoeia

(First time here? Click to find out what’s going on, or read the original anecdote in the margin.)

Onomatopoeia

Tweet-tweet, a little boy hisses through his whistle, his orange t-shirt fluttering in the wind while his imagination whirs in the background. His best friend, arm clapped around him, eyes the murmuring crowd in the distance. A suspicious grandmother with something to hide, tsk tsk, slithers past balancing a wobbly object under her head shawl. Meanwhile, ugh, some squelchy man shuffles his feet behind them, zapping the other direction with his eyeballs.

A young boy looks on as, eee-ohh, a donkey passes in the background. Clicked this near Sikasso, Mali (2012).

Style No. 23: Prière d’insérer

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Style No. 23: Prière d’insérer

(First time here? Click to find out what’s going on, or read the original anecdote in the margin.)

The title of today’s style doesn’t have an exact translation in English, but it literally means “kindly put this in.” Essentially, it’s a press release for a novel. When a book comes out in France, the publisher will circulate a press release to generate interest, and this has a particular name: prière d’insérer. It’s pretty much the same as what you’d find on the back cover of a book. Time to browse some books!

Prière d’insérer

The reputed novelist Audrey P. Scrodchild’s new mind-blowing work lends her usual deft treatment of various subjects to the thrilling happenings of this particular story, which will appeal to audiences of staggering breadth.

This gripping tale kicks off with a mysterious young boy dressed in orange who is locked in tense conflict with a small wind instrument. To make matters worse, he is tormented by the shrouded enigmas of his inner world. As the story progresses and the stakes continue to be raised, the youthful protagonist finds himself variously under an arm, beside a nervous grandmother, and in proximity to a hidden object.

Then, when the novel unputdownably approaches its enthralling climax, a serious man bursts onto the scene and looks knowingly the other way with consequences readers will brood on for decades.

This ensemble is carried off with the style, verve, and undigested awesomeness the book-reading public has come to crave of Ms. Scrodchild. To not read this book would be to sin against your own imagination.

Ms. Scrodchild’s Chicago penthouse. Clicked this in August 2010.