In Exceeding Calm and Frenzy

Choice Bits: George Saunders, Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf

My recent experience reading for the first time writing by George Saunders was like OMG. Here are some George Saunders lines from the stories in his book Tenth of December:

“Kissing him last night at the pep rally had been like kissing an underpass.”

“Dad had once said, Trust your mind, Rob. If it smells like shit but has writing across it that says Happy Birthday and a candle stuck down in it, what is it?”

“Like a library where sweaty men went to cook spaghetti.”

I reread Jazz by Toni Morrison and for the first time read God Help The Child. Sometimes I have to put the book down, when it comes to Toni Morrison, so overwhelming is the magic of her writing. She can be funny, too, like this line from Jazz describing somebody dancing: “It was like watching an old street pigeon pecking the crust of a sardine sandwich the cats left behind.”

Virginia Woolf:  “Well, tell us the truth,” we bade her… The truth!” we demanded. “Oh, the truth,” she stammered, “the truth has nothing to do with literature,” and sitting down she refused to say another word.

And then in exceeding calm and frenzy, reading John Cage made me feel like an artist again, he and Cecil Taylor and James Baldwin. (James Baldwin’s collection was curated by Toni Morrison!) And all the women astronauts, orchestra conductors, jockeys, actors, entrepreneurs, I have loved them, black, brown, yellow red, white, and beautiful.

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