Read “Complicated Manners: Memories of Breece D’J Pancake” by Marion Field (in Oxford American). Excerpt:
The night before he died, Breece went to the movies with his girlfriend, Emily. They saw The Deer Hunter.
The next morning was Palm Sunday, and Emily went to church while Breece stayed home with a cold. He went later, to a 3 p.m. Mass, and stopped by Emily’s place to let her know he’d pick her up Monday morning so she could ride with him to an out-of-town job interview.
After Mass, he went home and drank a few beers.
Around 6 p.m., a neighbor’s girlfriend was startled by the dark shadow of a man she did not expect or recognize when she walked into her boyfriend’s home with a sack of groceries. She screamed and dropped the bag and Breece rose from a chair in the unlit kitchen. According to the complainant’s report to the sheriff’s office, “Mr. Pancake cornered her and explained that he had a drinking problem and had a tendency to wander around.”
In the half-hour between the moments the woman dropped her groceries and the police arrived, Breece’s landlady, Mrs. Meade, knocked on his door and told him that police were on their way to question him.
He called out from his room that he was sorry, and as the sirens neared, he walked outside with the only gun he hadn’t gifted off, a Savage Arms over/under shotgun, serial number B366615, sat down in a plastic folding chair beneath an apple tree, propped the gun on the ground with the muzzle in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.
“Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston
It was eleven o’clock of a Spring night in Florida. It was Sunday. Any other night, Delia Jones would have been in bed for two hours by this time. But she was a wash-woman, and Monday morning meant a great deal to her. So she collected the soiled clothes on Saturday when she returned the clean things. Sunday night after church, she sorted them and put the white things to soak. It saved her almost a half day’s start. A great hamper in the bedroom held the clothes that she brought home. It was so much neater than a number of bundles lying around.
She squatted in the kitchen floor beside the great pile of clothes, sorting them into small heaps according to color, and humming a song in a mournful key, but wondering through it all where Sykes, her husband, had gone with her horse and buckboard.
Just then something long, round, limp and black fell upon her shoulders and slithered to the floor beside her. A great terror took hold of her. It softened her knees and dried her mouth so that it was a full minute before she could cry out or move. Then she saw that it was the big bull whip her husband liked to carry when he drove.
She lifted her eyes to the door and saw him standing there bent over with laughter at her fright. She screamed at him.
“Sykes, what you throw dat whip on me like dat? You know it would skeer me–looks just like a snake, an’ you knows how skeered Ah is of snakes.”
“Course Ah knowed it! That’s how come Ah done it.” He slapped his leg with his hand and almost rolled on the ground in his mirth. “If you such a big fool dat you got to have a fit over a earth worm or a string, Ah don’t keer how bad Ah skeer you.”
“You aint got no business doing it. Gawd knows it’s a sin. Some day Ah’m goin’ tuh drop dead from some of yo’ foolishness. ‘Nother thing, where you been wid mah rig? Ah feeds dat pony. He aint fuh you to be drivin’ wid no bull whip.”
“You sho is one aggravatin’ nigger woman!” he declared and stepped into the room. She resumed her work and did not answer him at once. “Ah done tole you time and again to keep them white folks’ clothes outa dis house.”
He picked up the whip and glared down at her. Delia went on with her work. She went out into the yard and returned with a galvanized tub and set it on the washbench. She saw that Sykes had kicked all of the clothes together again, and now stood in her way truculently, his whole manner hoping, praying, for an argument. But she walked calmly around him and commenced to re-sort the things.
“Next time, Ah’m gointer kick ’em outdoors,” he threatened as he struck a match along the leg of his corduroy breeches. Read More
Book shelves series #52, fifty-second Sunday of 2012: In which, in this penultimate chapter, we return to the site of entry #1.
The first entry in this project was my bedside nightstand. This is what it looked like back in January:
This is it this morning:
This is the major difference:
The Kindle Fire has changed my late night shuffling habits.
Here are the books that are in the nightstand:
I read the Aira novel but completely forgot about it, which I’m sure says more about me than it.
Have no idea why this is in there:
But it’s a fun book. With pictures! Sample:
Finally, Perec’s Life A User’s Manual—this is one of my reading goals for 2013. It seems like a good way to close out this penultimate post, as one of Perec’s essays inspired this project
“Every library answers a twofold need, which is often also a twofold obsession: that of conserving certain objects (books) and that of organizing them in certain ways”
—Georges Perec, from ”Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books” (1978)
Book shelves series #50, fiftieth Sunday of 2012
There are fifty-three Sundays in 2012. I ran out of book shelves last week.
Here are some shelves/books from my office (work).
One wall is floor-to ceiling shelves—the whole wall—but most of the space is filled with files, folders, and professional books.
I tried to picture some of my favorite stuff—dictionaries, guides, and anthologies that remain inspiring.
There is also a little corner where I keep stuff I read in my office—review copies or other books that I work with when I have a spare hour.
Here’s a shelf (double stacked, as you might be able to see) that gets constantly shifted around. There are a couple of books about usage here that I like to bring into the classroom.
Of course, the best usage guide is Strunk & White’s classic:
This illustrated copy was a gift from some dear friends.
Joseph T. Shipley’s The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots is a favorite.
Book shelves series #47, forty-seventh Sunday of 2012
So this is what happens—books pile up. Okay, maybe that sentence is missing a clear subject: I pile books up.
This stack mounded on my record player over the last week; I intended to shelve about half of these:
My shelving solution is woefully short-term (more double stocked shelves).
Anyway, this shelf is mostly other media, including DVDs, a few records, and playing cards.
Of note (perhaps) are the three illustrated volumes on the left that I’ve had forever.
The illustrated Kidnapped features art by N.C. Wyeth:
The illustrated Kipling was actually my father’s:
Have you read Adam Novy’s novel The Avian Gospels? It’s good stuff.
Like many bibliophiles, I’m a sucker for plain Penguins:
Book shelves series #45, forty-fifth Sunday of 2012
Yon shelf, murky, dim:
Homeboy on the end, once my parents’, tschotchke of time in ’80s South Africa, used to work as a bookend, now he just hangs out on this double-booked shelf.
Back layer, including a number of volumes (to be clear: Chabon, Martel, Diaz, Eugenides) I should just trade in.
(Also: I hate this project and wish I’d never started it).
Book shelves series #44, forty-fourth Sunday of 2012
Not a particularly beautiful shelf—it sits between a TV and a soundbar; houses an unused Wii, an analog clock, and a picture of my kids. The books camouflage cords and wires.
You can see the whole shelf in the top pic. The big pic on the right: a Kokeshi doll set on Henry Miller volume that was a gift from a friend years ago in high school.
To the left: Bukowski, Miller, Anaïs Nin. Then, a section of stuff you can’t really see, including an extremely tattered copy of A Passage to India.
Lower right: Mass-market paperbacks that were especially important to me over the years and as a result have managed to hang around—even in cases where they were replaced by handsomer volumes. Usually obscured by the clock. Includes stuff by Borges, Carson McCullers, Hemingway, Twain, Chopin, Richard Wright . . .