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War Stories

from Saturday, November1st of the year2008.

I don’t normally like reading detailed accounts about war; I’ve never been into that whole department of bookstores where you can buy entire 700-page tomes about, you know, the Battle of Thermopylæ, or Dunkirk. I think I’m just not wired properly. In any event, I read this thing in the New York Times this morning and found it kind of touching. Essentially, at an army outpost in Nuristan, a piece of shrapnel hit a cook, and all the other men on the base ran to help him and get him to safety. The piece is solid; I felt, as the saying goes, “as if I hat bin thurr.” But how come articles that want themselves a Pulitzer always use the same awkward halting style:

If there is any universal and binding compact among military men under fire, it is this: If you are hit, we will come to get you. Among units that endure, it is a pledge more inviolable than law. And it comes with a corollary. You will do the same for me.

There is something inherently offensive to me about the period between the last two sentences, especially if you read it aloud. Try it out. Isn’t it mad awkward? Anyway, read the article. Good story. Now, if you want to talk about something amazing in the Times, please allow me to be the first to refer you to this unbelievably well-written and touching and hilarious article about the potential closing of the venerable lesbian bar Rubyfruit. This article is great because the language bears the traces of insiders to the community it is describing, as well as enough details to keep people who don’t happen to be 50-year old lesbians engaged. My roommate, when she read it, emailed me and was like, “you have to make sure that you read every single word of this shit.” Quite so: by the third internet page of the article, you get paragraphs like:

On a Sunday evening, the night before Rubyfruit shut down for renovations, Ms. Fierro held a party. By early evening, the place was filled with young women dancing and kissing. It was a striking change from the usual mellowness and the spare, slightly older crowd the space usually accommodated. As music pulsed, Ms. Ledwith stood on the bar and poured orange-flavored vodka into the open mouths of young women who, with their necks craned and tilted in expectation, resembled a cluster of chic baby birds.

Or, my personal favorite:

Because no employee was tall enough to turn on the ceiling-mounted projector, a large rainbow flag was retrieved from a corner office, and a worker jabbed the staff of the flag toward the ceiling in search of the “on” button.

I am completely freaked out that I’m going to be in London during the election! I woted early, but ajhfd647khfnä! GríðЯ8357kþþþ! Ø´eyurgurn! Etc. I am looking for a Safe Space in which to watch this thing, which will be at, like, 5 in the morning London Time. Sûfkejrwk3.


  • may you be dancing, albeit @ 5 london time.

  • Yes, what Charles said. Find a kindred soul in London at 5 (shouldn’t be difficult) and create a few of those marvelous modern dance moments you have with Sam.

  • المزمور المائة والحادي والخمسون

    انا صغيرا كنت في اخوتي، وحدثا
    في بيت ابي، كنت راعيا غنم ابي.

    يداي صنعتا الارغن، واصابعي الفت المزمار. هلليلويا

    من هو الذي يخبر سيدي، هو الرب الذي يستجيب للذين يصرخون اليه.

    هو ارسل ملاكه، وحملني (واخذني) من غنم ابي ومسحني بدهن مسحته. هلليلويا

    اخوتي حسان وهم اكبر مني والرب لم يسر بهم.

    خرجت للقاء الفلسطيني فلعنني باوثانه.

    و لكن انا سللت سيفه الذي كان بيده، وقطعت راسه.

    ونزعت العار عن بني اسرائيل. هلليلويا

  • Agreed. Go back and read some of the Pulitzer winners from Times Past, you’ll be shocked at how bad some of the writing in the Feature Writing category really is. Most of those articles are still fascinating though, which I guess goes to show how many other things go into making good journalism besides good prose.

    This Rubyfruit piece, on the other hand, has it all. This is the greatest newspaper journalism I have ever seen.

  • ‘Isn’t it mad awkward? ‘

    Not as much as the phrase ‘mad awkward’…


  • It was explained to me once that the choppy choppy style of newspaper sentences and, especially, paragraphs had something to do with the narrow columns of the printed newspaper. I’m not sure I believe this, but it pleases me in a “Materiality of Communication” kind of way.

  • I also like to imagine that the “wealthy financial consultant from Guyana” showed up in the bar and sang this. Because really the whole story is completely an operetta.

  • I stumbled onto some music by Hauschka the same way I stumbled onto yours I guess. Just wanted to pass that on to others. Carry on….

  • Shì.

  • It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out. A door slammed. The maid screamed.