Literature of the Moment
August 22, 2007
It's odd how a small passage or turn of phrase or scene from a book can stick with you. I've noticed that with Garrison Keillor's "WLT: A Radio Romance"
The Blue Movers had plenty of songs about losing women, drinking, losing their jobs, shooting people, riding freight trains, finding other kinds of women and then losing them, too, but not so many songs about Jesus, so Slim brought in a singer named Billie Ann Herschel, who had performed with the Shepherd Boys, to do the hymns segment. She was twenty-four. She stood at the microphone while Slim stood behind her, playing guitar and looking at her slim hips under the cotton dress. While singing hymns, she liked to shift her weight from side to side, and he found it hard to keep his mind off her, not that he tried to--For some reason, it's the visual image brought forth by a young woman at a microphone, "slim hips under the cotton dress".
Also, this one (Mom Warning, some indelicate language about breasts ahoy.)
"Well," Art said, glancing around. "For fooling around with, the girls with the flat chests are your hot babes [...] so you want a woman with nice little tittles. And a talker. You always want a woman with good chops on her. She'll give you a lot of yap but she'll give you a lot of hubba-hubba too."That was Uncle Art leading Franny "down the garden path". I don't know about the "yap"/"hubba-hubba" correlation, but I do appreciate good conversational skills in my companions, so...
Franny wanted to know more--what is hubba-hubba,for example--but he didn't want to betray ignorance.
Uncle Art also gives him the categorizations of women's breasts, with my favorite (strictly for the richness of language) being "shirtful of hooters".
Finally, a bit of Salvation Army-related fantasia:
"The performer I admired the most, I think, was Uncle Albert, actually my dad's uncle. We hired him about 1927 and he stayed for twelve years until he died. We hired him because he broke his leg and couldn't be a street preacher anymore with the Salvation Army, which he had been for forty years. He was one of General William Booth's old stalwarts, and when Booth came over from London, he and Uncle Albert would go nightclubbing in Chicago. Neither of them touched a drop, of course, but General Booth loved to dance. He was wild about the turkey trot, the foxtrot, and the Buffalo, but of course he couldn't dance with young women, lest it lead to carnal desire, so he danced with Uncle Albert. After a hard day among the down-and-out and a long evening service, the General'd lean over and whisper, `How about a little hoofing?' and off they'd go. Around the hot spots of Chicago, two men dancing together was definitely eccentric. In fact, it was so eccentric that people who were as drunk as everybody in the clubs didn't believe their eyes, and so the old gents, decked out in their somber Army regalia, flung themselves around the dance floor in happy abandon, and left refreshed, and woke up at dawn to resume the Lord's work."Given how straight-laced and anti-frivolity the 'Army was back then (I remember reading some Salvation Army book from the 1930s arguing that going to a circus was likely to be a distraction from the mission at hand) this seems unlikely, but it does tie in with the apocryphal Booth quote, "Why should the devil have all the best tunes?" (on the subject of the Salvation Army co-opting secular tunes with new spiritual lyrics.)
Update of a Dozen Years Later Moment
In April 2019 I was surprised I hadn't commonplaced this passage, which has also stuck with me:
I come from St. Paul, Minnesota, a city full of angry maudlin Irishmen and flabby chinless men with limp mustaches waving their shrivelled dicks at the cruel blue sky.That comes from a sabotaged cowboy story radio script, which also has such tidbits as
Cowboy Chuck had earned vast wealth in the whiskey trade in Chicago and moved in with a dark Paraguayan beauty named Pabletta, whose breasts were pale and small and shivered at the thrill of his touchThere was also
[...] when Cowboy Chuck and Pabletta went swimming and Chuck stripped off the paper-thin white cotton shirt in which her taut nipples protruded like accusing fingers.You know, I was wondering where I got the phrase "nipples like accusing fingers" from...
Yet More Updates I read the book again, and found some other passages that have stuck with me:
Vesta held to the If-I-can-help-but-one-person-out-there standard of success, a standard that leaves little room for failure.
There is nothing smells so sweet as a sweaty woman, especially if some of the sweat on her is your own.
Jane Phipps was the one who said, It is always too late for grief.
As Dad said, "It's awful hard to carry a full cup."
"My brother is up in Moorhead pondering the imponderable. And I going to go to New York and screw the inscrutable."
"An Everclear is pure alcohol. So pure you feel it evaporating as it goes down. No frills, no coloring, no anise or juniper flavoring, no little olive or twist of lemon, no fruit. Everclear has but one purpose. It is the rocket ship of the barroom. Leaves no evidence on the breath. It's the preferred beverage of gospel singers."One that didn't quite stick back then but I've been thinking of:
Don’t concern yourself with things you can’t change, I say. It’s more important to make a very good cup of coffee in the morning and a very good piece of toast than it is to worry about Josef Stalin, because I can do something about breakfast and I can’t do anything about Stalin, and I’m sure he’s having a wonderful breakfast.