Beautiful Writing

Pink Slip Pilgrimage: A Broke Writer Needs a Loan

7 January 2013

From Gawker:

There are as many roads to penury as there are paupers to follow them. As a writer, I always tried to see my own journey as material for nostalgic anecdotes to be delivered during acceptance speeches at some national awards galas. I like to imagine my struggles as leisurely, rather loopy jaunts.

Today, in real life, this jaunt is looking really rough. I’m on my way to sign over the pink slip on “Moby Dick,” my white 2000 Buick Century, as security on a loan, so that I can pay my rent, two weeks late and counting. My destination is a storefront in a bleak San Jose strip mall between a liquor mart and a shoe repair shop. A fuscia neon sign beckons: “Fast Cash! Paycheck Advance! Auto Title Loans!” There, my signed pink slip will net me $1000 in cold cash, which I promise to repay over two years at an interest rate of about 98 percent.

I back out of my carport, find a jazz station playing rueful sax, and hit the road. The rain that threatened all morning arrives now in earnest, and the mist on my windshield quickly turns to tears, as if to make up for the ones I’m holding back. Somehow, my whole life seems prologue to this humiliating ordeal. It could be worse, I console myself, which only reminds me that it may, indeed, grow worse. The wipers begin beating time to the bitter scold in my head: why didn’t you, why did you, why didn’t you, why did you?

. . . .

“It’ll be okay, mom,” says my daughter, guessing the reason for my silence. She sits beside me now, as she always has, and in a way nothing has changed-although her once downy head has grown into an avalanche of blonde-streaked waves, and the rattles and sippy cups have given way to a plastic box of eye shadow that she dabs on in the passenger mirror.

She has just graduated from college and is herself seeking a “real” job. In the meantime, she has moved back with me-compounding the financial pressures but giving me a comrade in the trenches. I understand, without taking it personally, that to not follow in my footsteps is for her almost a career goal in itself. Who can blame her? Financial turmoil has shaped her life since her father left us when she was three years old.

I merge onto Highway 280 South. The road is nearly empty on this Saturday morning. I picture commuters still enjoying their leisurely breakfasts before heading out to spend their spendable incomes.

As the miles unreel ahead, I cannot resist backtracking mentally over my own highway of choices that delivered me to this pass. How many wrong turns? How many dead ends, detours, directions unheeded? Or is the problem deeper still? The map is wrong. The destination does not exist.

Perhaps-now that science is revealing the biology of personality-I am just genetically wired to be broke. My inborn character quirks always seemed to have veto power over good intentions and resolutions. By age seven, I was already displaying the traits that have cleft my life like a fault line: dismissive impatience with saving, impulsive overgenerosity, dislike for routine and generalized temperamental unmanageability. Reading Aesop’s fable of the grasshopper and the ants, I quickly identified with my gangly orthopteral soul mate, shivering out in the cold with his inedible fiddle.

Link to the rest at Gawker and thanks to Brendan for the tip.

Their merry and varied songs

10 August 2012

 

At that moment, gay-colored birds of all sorts began warbling in the trees and with their merry and varied songs appeared to be greeting and welcoming the fresh-dawning day, which already at the gates and on the balconies of the east was revealing its beautiful face as it shook out from its hair an infinite number of liquid pearls. Bathed in this gentle moisture, the grass seemed to shed a pearly spray, the willows distilled a savory manna, the fountains laughed, the brooks murmured, the woods were glad, and the meadows put on their finest raiment.

. . . .

With this, the merry-smiling dawn hastened her coming, the little flowers in the fields lifted their heads, and the liquid crystal of the brooks, murmuring over their white and gray pebbles, went to pay tribute to the waiting rivers. The earth was joyous, the sky unclouded, the air limpid, the light serene, and each of these things in itself and all of them together showed that the day which was treading on the skirts of morning was to be bright and clear.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Translated by Samuel Putnam

Thanks to Russell for the tip.

He’s a going out with the tide

9 August 2012

‘He’s a going out with the tide,’ said Mr. Peggotty to me, behind his hand.

My eyes were dim and so were Mr. Peggotty’s; but I repeated in a whisper, ‘With the tide?’

‘People can’t die, along the coast,’ said Mr. Peggotty, ‘except when the tide’s pretty nigh out. They can’t be born, unless it’s pretty nigh in – not properly born, till flood. He’s a going out with the tide. It’s ebb at half-arter three, slack water half an hour. If he lives till it turns, he’ll hold his own till past the flood, and go out with the next tide.’

We remained there, watching him, a long time – hours. What mysterious influence my presence had upon him in that state of his senses, I shall not pretend to say; but when he at last began to wander feebly, it is certain he was muttering about driving me to school.

‘He’s coming to himself,’ said Peggotty.

Mr. Peggotty touched me, and whispered with much awe and reverence. ‘They are both a-going out fast.’

‘Barkis, my dear!’ said Peggotty.

‘C. P. Barkis,’ he cried faintly. ‘No better woman anywhere!’

‘Look! Here’s Master Davy!’ said Peggotty. For he now opened his eyes.

I was on the point of asking him if he knew me, when he tried to stretch out his arm, and said to me, distinctly, with a pleasant smile: ‘Barkis is willin’!’

And, it being low water, he went out with the tide.

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Thanks to Austin for the submission.

It was growing dark on this long southern evening

8 August 2012

In the Beautiful Writing Category:

It was growing dark on this long southern evening, and suddenly, at the exact point her finger had indicated, the moon lifted a forehead of stunning gold above the horizon, lifted straight out of filigreed, light-intoxicated clouds that lay on the skyline in attendant veils.

Behind us, the sun was setting in a simultaneous congruent withdrawal and the river turned to flame in a quiet duel of gold….The new gold of moon astonishing and ascendant, the depleted gold of sunset extinguishing itself in the long westward slide, it was the old dance of days in the Carolina marshes, the breathtaking death of days before the eyes of children, until the sun vanished, its final signature a ribbon of bullion strung across the tops of water oaks.

Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides

Thanks to Rhonda for the tip.

Beautiful Writing

7 August 2012

Passive Guy would like to start a new feature he’s calling Beautiful Writing.

Here’s only one of many examples:

But the slow street tango had begun. Somewhere it played; he could hear it, an old accordion. It was far back, or far ahead, he couldn’t be sure. Yet it moved toward him steadily. And the sound of it blurred his criteria and funneled down his alternatives toward unity. Inexorably, it did that, until there was nowhere left to go, except toward Francesca Johnson.

Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

Who better to recognize beautiful writing than an author?

So, PG would like to solicit recommendations from visitors to The Passive Voice for Beautiful Writing posts. He’s looking for 1-3 paragraphs from a book together with the author’s name and book title. Poetry is fine, too, but be careful to respect copyright and not include large portions of a poem.

Visitors seem to appreciate the quotes PG puts up each day and he thinks they might like some beautiful writing from time to time as well.

As with other recommendations he receives for possible post topics, PG will include the name of the person who suggests some beautiful writing. Fame and fortune are bound to follow.

Submit suggestions through the Contact Page.

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