Category Archives: Literature

Excerpt from “70 Years of Miracles” by Richard H. Harvey ~~Eastland~~

During our time in Chicago, The Tribune ran a full-page ad about a boat excursion on Lake Michigan. I looked at that ad with great longing. Both my brother and my mother watched me as I stared at it.
“Dick, you’d like to go on that boat, wouldn’t you?” Lynn asked.
“I sure would,” I replied.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said. “We’ll put a bank on the table and all of us will put our spare cash into it. The night before the boat sails, we will open the bank. If there is enough for all of us to go, we’ll go and if there isn’t enough for all of us, then none of us will go. Is this a fair agreement?”
I agreed it was. I was willing to grasp at any hope at all.
We lived in an apartment house on Halstead Street. I ran errands for a doctor, an undertaker, and a dentist, who also lived in our apartment. We all did our part in putting what we could into the bank on the table.
As a boy, it was difficult for me to wait for the opening of the bank. The occasion is still fresh in my memory: I can see my brother trying to use a knife to slip the coins out of the acorn crockery bank, and because of the slowness of the process, finally taking a hammer and smashing it, causing the money to roll on the table. I was very excited as I watched him count it. And I was heartbroken when he announced it was $1.77 short.
It was more than I could take. I ran out of the house and went behind an old barn that was still at the back of the property and there I burst into tears. When I got control of myself, I returned to the house and my brother said, “Dick, I think we’d better stick to our agreement. We can’t go on the excursion, but tomorrow you and I will go down and watch the big boat sail.”
The next morning Lynn and I got up early. After he had done some chores, we took a streetcar to the Chicago Loop. We stood on the bridge at a good vantage point to observe all the excitement on the pier below. The flags were flying, the band was on the ship’s top-deck playing, and many, many people were waiting to board the ship.
The gangplank was lowered and the chain let down. The people poured onto the boat. In a short time the bell sounded, the whistle blew, and the chain was pulled across the gangplank.
Many of those left behind were very disappointed. Such cursing and swearing I had never heard before! As I remember, one man was permitted to crawl under the chain and go up the gangplank. The bell on the ship rang again, the whistle blew, the gangplank was pulled aboard, and the ropes to the pier were loosened.
And then, before our eyes, that giant ship, the Eastland, tipped over in the Chicago River. Something had happened on shore that had caused the ship’s passengers to rush to one side. About the only ones saved were those who had been on the top deck. Many of these crawled to shore over the bodies of those beneath them.
Soon, men were piling human bodies on the pier like one might stack boxes. The city sent dump wagons pulled by horses to carry the corpses to the funeral parlors.
God’s act of withholding $1.77 had almost certainly saved my life!

 

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Excerpt from “The Bourne Identity” by Robert Ludlum ~~Bourne~~

Beneath the statement he could feel the outline of a separate envelope, far shorter than the page itself. He lifted up the paper, the envelope was rimmed with a black border, typewritten words on the front.

Identity: Owner Access
Legal Restrictions: Access-Registered Officer, Treadstone Seventy-One Corporation, Bearer Will Produce Written Instructions From Owner. Subject To Verifications.

“I’d like to check this,” said the client.
“It’s your property,” replied Apfel. “I can assure you it has remained intact.”
The patient removed the envelope and turned it over. A Gemeinschaft seal was pressed over the borders of the flap; none of the raised letters had been disturbed. He tore the flap open, took out the card, and read:

Owner: Jason Charles Bourne
Address: Unlisted
Citizenship: U.S.A.

Jason Charles Bourne.
Jason.

The J was for Jason! His name was Jason Bourne. The Bourne had meant nothing, the J. Bourne still meaningless, but in the combination Jason and Bourne, obscure tumblers locked into place. He could accept it; he did accept it. He was Jason Charles Bourne, American. Yet he could feel his chest pounding; the vibration in his ears was deafening, the pain in his stomach more acute. What was it?
Why did he have the feeling that he was plunging into the darkness again, into the black waters again?
“Is something wrong?” asked Walther Apfel.
Is something wrong, Herr Bourne?
“No. Everything’s fine. My name’s Bourne. Jason Bourne.”
Was he shouting? Whispering? He could not tell.
“My privilege to know you, Mr. Bourne. Your identity will remain confidential. You have the word of an officer of the Bank Gemeinschaft.”
“Thank you. Now, I’m afraid I’ve got to transfer a great deal of this money and I’ll need your help.”
“Again, my privilege. Whatever assistance or advice I can render, I shall be happy to do so.”
Bourne reached for the glass of Perrier.

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Excerpt from “Famous for 15 Minutes” by Ultra Violet ~~Flowers~~

Ultra Violet (Isabelle Dufresne) visits Andy Warhol at the Factory in 1964

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Piles of silk screens are stacked along the west wall of the loft. I spot a large screen, about six feet by twelve feet, that depicts in dark ink the background of two flowers side by side, each about six feet in diameter, one larger than the other, and barely touching. We unroll on the floor some virgin canvas, on top of which we lay the flower stencil.
“What color?” he asks.
“Make it violet, since that’s my name and I’m a flower myself.”
Using a can opener, he lifts the top of a gallon can of deep violet Benjamin Moore paint. He adds a dollop of white and with a roller, applies it to the screen over one of the flowers.
“What about the other flower?” he asks.
“Orange? That’s complementary to violet.”
He opens a premixed can of orange paint and rolls the color back and forth across the other flower. The whole process takes a few minutes. We remove the silk screen and see those two colourful flowers pop out at us from the canvas.
I feel my heart jump with the excitement of experiencing the creation of this large Pop Art painting. I ask him if he’ll give it to me. After all, he’s never paid me for the films we are doing together. No, he won’t give it to me, but he’ll sell it cheap, below his dealer’s price. We agree on $2,000. I write him a check on the spot for $1,000 and later give him another $1,000 that I scrounge together. I still have the two receipts, on each of which he scribbled, “Two flowers, sold to Isabel defraine, $1,000.”
In 1970 Gordon Locksley, a Minneapolis art dealer, offers me $40,000 for the Two Flowers. In 1975 I am offered $125,000 by Ivan Karp of the O.K. Harris Gallery. In 1980 Andy tells me the painting is worth $200,000. I don’t know how much the scribbled receipts are worth. The painting hangs in my living room. It costs me a fortune just to keep it insured.

 

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Excerpt from “The Natural” by Bernard Malamud ~~Strike~~

Roy got Wonderboy and walked out into the light. A roar of recognition drowned the announcement of his name but not the loud beating of his heart. Though he’d been at bat only three days ago, it felt like years — an ageless time. He almost wept at how long it had been.
Lon Toomey, the hulking Cub hurler, who had twice in the last two weeks handed Roy his lumps, smiled behind his glove. He shot a quick glance at Fowler on second, fingered the ball, reared and threw Roy, at the plate, watched it streak by.
‘Stuh-rike.’
He toed in, his fears returning. What if the slump did not give way? How much longer could it go on without destroying him?
Toomey lifted his right leg high and threw Roy swung from his heels at a bad ball and the umpire sneezed in the breeze.
‘Strike two!’
Wonderboy resembled a sagging baloney. Pop cursed the bat and some of the Knights’ rooters among the fans booed. Mike Barney’s harrowed puss looked yellow.
Roy felt sick with remorse that he hadn’t laid aside Wonderboy in the beginning and gone into the game with four licks at bat instead of only three miserable strikes, two of which he already used up. How could he explain to Barney that he had traded his kid’s life away out of loyalty to a hunk of wood?
The lady in the stands hesitantly rose for the second time. A photographer who had stationed himself nearby snapped a clear shot of her. She was an attractive woman, around thirty, maybe more, and built solid but not too big. Her bosom was neat, and her dark hair, parted on the side, hung loose and soft. A reporter approached her and asked her name but she wouldn’t give it to him, nor would she, blushing, say why she was standing now. The fans behind her hooted, ‘Down in front,’ but though her eyes showed she was troubled she remained standing.
Noticing Toomey watching her, Roy stole a quick look. He caught the red dress and a white rose, turned away, then came quickly back for another take, drawn by the feeling that her smile was for him. Now why would she do that for? She seemed to be wanting to say something, and then it flashed on him the reason she was standing was to show her confidence in him. He felt surprised that anybody would want to do that for him. At the same time he became aware that the night had spread out in all directions and was filled with an unbelievable fragrance.
A pitch streaked toward him Toomey had pulled a fast one. With a sob Roy fell back and swung.
Part of the crowd broke for the exits. Mike Barney wept freely now, and the lady who had stood up for Roy absently pulled on her white gloves and left.
The hall shot through Toomey’s astounded legs and began to climb. The second baseman, laying back on the grass on a hunch, stabbed high for it but it leaped over his straining fingers, sailed through the light and up into the dark, like a white star seeking an old constellation.
Toomey, shrunk to a pygmy, stared into the vast sky. Roy ended the bases like a Mississippi steamboat, lights lit, flags fluttering, whistle banging, coming round the bend. The Knights poured out of their dugout to pound his back, and hundreds of their rooters hopped about in the field. He stood on the home base, lifting his cap to the lady’s empty seat.

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Excerpt from “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World” by John Baxter ~~Foie gras~~

My own introduction to foie gras was, in a way, my introduction to France, and to the rigor that sustained its apparent self-indulgence. On a visit to Paris in the 1970s, when Marie-Dominique was my girlfriend and not my wife, we lunched at one of the big brasseries near the Gare du Nord, where, she suggested I might enjoy foie gras as a starter.
Well, try anything once. And I didn’t want to appear gauche by admitting it was my first time.
The thin slices of liver, gleaming gold and beige with the slickness of fat, arrived, garnished with the gelée that gathers when it’s cooked. A metal dish contained slices of thin dry toast folded in a napkin.
“There’s no butter,” I said, scanning the table.
“Why do you need butter?”
“For the toast.”
“For foie gras, you don’t butter the toast.”
“Dry toast isn’t very inviting,” I protested. “Couldn’t we ask the waiter?”
Non!”
Her vehemence was startling. I shut up and ate my toast dry – to find, of course, that she was perfectly right. Foie gras is as fatty as butter and to combine the two would have been absurd. Even worse, from the French point of view, it would have transgressed the spirit of comme il faut – the way things should be. In doing so, it would have also, which was worse, invited the derision of the waiting staff (“Can you believe, this plouc of a tourist wanted butter with foie gras!”) and thus made us look foolish. This had already happened on an earlier trip to Paris for the BBC. After a hard day of interviews, the producer and I returned to our hotel and, not realizing the French never drink cognac before dinner, ordered a reviving Courvoisier while we waited for Marie-Do, whom we were taking to dinner.
As she sat down, the waiter asked superciliously, “Mademoiselle also desires a digestif?”

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Excerpt from “Not Dead Yet” by Phil Collins ~~Audition~~

The first person I see is a tall, distinguished-looking fellow in carpet slippers and what looks like a Noël Coward smoking jacket.
The only thing missing is a Sobranie being inhaled through a cigarette holder. He’s youthful-looking, but wonderfully casual, the kind of guy you want to be when you grow up. But if this is Peter Gabriel’s dad, how young is Gabriel?
Turns out it’s not his dad, it’s his band mate. Mike Rutherford, nineteen, is the bassist/guitarist with Genesis. Like my dad, his dad has a lot of experience with boats. Except his dad is a Royal Navy admiral.
A grand piano has been hauled on to the terrace, and hovering in the shadows, about to play it, is another chap. He introduces himself as Tony Banks, Genesis’ twenty-year-old keyboard player. My first impressions? I don’t really have any. Tony is reserved to the point of invisibiity, another politely spoken young man who won’t say boo to a goose – unless, I soon find out, that goose plays the wrong chord.
Finally I meet Peter Gabriel. He’s twenty and cut from the same fine cloth as his band mates. His demeanour can be summed up as hesitant, one hand clutching the other arm at the elbow, almost shy, very embarrassed, don’t-look-at-me-I’m-not-here. He’s in charge – well, his parents are, it being their house – but doesn’t want to be seen to be in charge.
‘Um,’ he begins, ‘maybe we should go indoors and listen to the album in the living room?’

Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Phil Collins

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Excerpt from “A Hard Day’s Night” by John Burke, based on the screenplay by Alun Owen ~~Puddles~~

Ringo moved away along the pavement.
A young woman came around the corner and headed towards him.
Now this is what Grandfather had been talking about. She was dainty and elegant, and it made you feel good just to look at her. There might be clouds in the sky behind and above her, the traffic might be gushing diesel fumes and the coke brazier might be laying a pall of grit across the pavement; but when creatures like this appeared, you knew that the world wasn’t such a dump after all.
The girl was stepping neatly, smilingly around a series of puddles. As there had been no rain today that Ringo could recall, the puddles must have come from a burst water main (which perhaps the workmen were repairing), a window cleaner’s clumsily handled pail (going up as the workmen dug deeper), or the dregs of a series of teapots (tossed away by the workmen after one of their breaks).
The setting was right, the mood was right. Ringo twitched the mackintosh from his shoulders and, with a flourish which would have turned Sir Walter Raleigh pale with envy, swept it across one of the puddles as the girl approached.
She faltered, then smiled graciously and walked over it.
Ringo backed away in front of her, whisking the mackintosh away and spreading it over the following puddles. The girl laughed and Ringo laughed back at her. Yes, you had to admit it: there were more things in life than beating out four in a bar and putting your earnings in the Post Office.
Suddenly the girl disappeared. One moment she was there, the next she had gone. And Ringo’s mackintosh had gone, too. By now, well and truly in the rhythm of the thing, he had reached out to snatch the coat away and spread it over whatever dark patch appeared next. But he groped at thin air.
And then the girl was yelling. And a man’s voice, a bit muffled, was adding a bass continuo.
The man appeared. He waved something in the air to get it freed from his head and arms – and the something was Ringo’s mackintosh. And the man, his head peeping furiously over the edge of the hole in the road, had someone clinging to him. It was the girl, collapsed over his shoulder. The workman tried to straighten her up, and found himself pinned in the hole with his arms round her.
Ringo, in what might be described as a flash of intuition – though this is not how the workman was describing it right at this moment – decided that he must have spread his raincoat over space rather than over a puddle. It was an unfortunate but perfectly understandable mistake.
The trouble was that nobody seemed disposed to understand. There was a general air of unpleasant criticism about.
A smart young man came hurrying round the corner as though he had lost something or as though he were anxious to catch someone up. His sleekness matched that of the young woman and it was clear that they belonged together. It was also clear that he was hurrying to catch her up and that he had in fact lost her – down a hole in the road, into the arms of a stupefied workman.
The workman was climbing out, supporting the girl.
The young man dragged the workman’s arm away from the girl’s shoulder and hit him, careless of the strikes or go-slow decisions which might result.
Ringo decided to abandon his mackintosh. He backed cautiously away over another sequence of puddles, and then turned to run.
He ran straight into the waiting policeman.

 

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