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Tag Archives: Daniel Woodrell

snippets from books

Which is the proper response to a written invitation?  When introducing couples what name is given first, the gal’s or the dude’s?  When does a man take his hat off, and why is he wearin’ one anyhow?  What is the usual hour of the day to start passing the jug around at an informal wine-tasting party?  Does shrimp cocktail call for this fork or that fork or some other goofy utensil you never heard of and wouldn’t recognize if the First Lady stabbed it into the back of your  ******* hand?

Jamalee had acquired a great thick dilapidated and somewhat dampened book of manners, and the book smelled like a cotton picker’s hatband.  She spotted lessons in that volume and tossed them before us, and we three snuffled after the kernel of meaning.  The main idea was that we should each of  shed the skin that limited us, the social costumery we wore that communicated our low-life heritage at a glance, and adopt a new carriage and a routine of manners and that air of natural-born worthiness that the naturally born worthy displayed.

“We weren’t raised with decent values,” she said.  “We’ll have to memorize some on our own.”

Jamalee needed to borrow a desert of hot sand and scour it through our skulls so we could start over with scrubbed-clean skulls and build uncrippled brains to stock anew with useful thoughts and habits and intentions.

This process went on over a span of days.

Jamalee would bow her tomato head, dive into the warped pages of that book, then trot out more protocol you couldn’t imagine ever needing to know.  She was teachy around many themes: learn this, taste this, become that different thing.  She wanted us to become “civilized,” which I think to her meant to ape the quality folks right down to spittin’ at our own shadows.

Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell

words that draw me in . . .

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There are several blogs that I love to visit (some on an almost-daily basis) and I’ve been re-visiting Tricia Sutton’s blog recently to RE-READ one of her posts about  ‘hooks’ or first sentences in books.  This idea appeals to me and each day as I sit down at my computer, my eyes roam the room (bordered by bookshelves with books higgedly-piggedly on the shelves) – thinking about the novels  that draw in a reader with the first sentence or the first paragraph.

Today I am going to randomly scan the book shelves in our library/office, choose a dozen of them and then record the  Hooks in Some of My Books.

1 – Cowboy Angst by Jasen Emmons

I was sitting on a padded stool at Fat Sam’s Saloon, tapping out paradiddles on the bar.  The owner, Ray, was next to me, a squat man, all breasts and belly, sweating heavily into his madras shirt.

2 – Poker Face by Katy Lederer

Inside the bag, it was money.  That was all.  Hundreds in paper-banded bundles of $5,000.  Back at home, it had been tens and twenties, but here in New York it was “C notes” and “Benjamins.”  A stack of ten was called “a dime,” while only one was called “a dollar.”

3 – No Heroes by Chris Offutt

No matter how you leave the hills—the army, prison, marriage, a job—when you move back after twenty years, the whole county is carefully watching.

4 – The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant

The brindled sow stood in the corner, glowering at the boy.  Jack Bondurant hefted a bolt-action .22 rifle with a deep blue octagon barrel, the stock chewed and splintered from brush and river stone.  He chambered a round, walked over to the sow and put the end of the barrel about a foot from a pink eye and squeezed the trigger.

5 – Bullet Heart by Michael Doane

The dry Dakota wind is howling against Delores Her Many Horses’ ear.  Yet when she awakens, she hears only the breathing of the white man next to her in bed.

6  – Give Us a Kiss by Daniel Woodrell

I had a family errand to run, that’s all, but I decided to take a pistol.  It was just a little black thirty-two ladystinger and I tucked it into the blue pillowcase that held my traveling clothes.

7 – Prayers for Rain by Dennis Lehane

The first time I met Karen Nichols, she struck me as the kind of woman who ironed her socks.

8 – The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.

9 – The Great Man by Kate Christensen
“It’s amazing how well you can live on very little money,” said Teddy St. Cloud to Henry Burke over her shoulder as she strode into the kitchen of her Brooklyn row house.  She hoped he was noticing that her hips and waist were still girlishly slender, her step youthful, and that he’d describe her accurately instead of saying she was “gaunt but chipper,” like that sour-faced squaw with the crooked teeth from The New Yorker who’d written the profile of Oscar a few years ago.  “I hope you’re a Reform Jew,” she added.  ‘I got prosciutto.”

10 – Foreskin’s Lament by Shalom Auslander

When I was a child, my parents and teachers told me about a man who was very strong.  They told me he could destroy the whole world.  They told me he could lift mountains.  They told me he could part the sea.  It was important to keep the man happy.  When we obeyed what the man had commanded, the man liked us.  He liked us so much that he killed anyone who didn’t like us.  But when we didn’t obey what he had commanded, he didn’t like us.  He hated us.  Some days he hated us so much, he killed us; other days, he let other people kill us.  We call these days “holidays.”  On Purim, we remembered how the Persians tried to kill us.  On Passover, we remembered how the Egyptians tried to kill us.  On Chanukah, we remembered how the Greeks tried to kill us.

—Blessed is He, we prayed.

11 – South of Haunted Dreams by Eddy L. Harris

South of Owensboro, Kentucky, a wooden sign hangs from a rusted post.  DAVIESS COUNTY COON HUNTERS’ CLUB, the sign says, and as I ride past, a cold hand touches the small of my back.

12 – The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the Terrace of The Dancers.

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