Saturday, July 7, 2012

Just Because

The Secret Service was formed not to protect the president, but to protect the economy. During and after the Civil War, the sun shone brightly on counterfeiters, and they made plenty of hay. The bills were so crude then and counterfeiting was easy to do and difficult to detect. The economy tottered.

Hence the Secret Service. (Maybe there should be a new branch to protect the economy from banks.)

How do I know? Reading.

A few days ago, I read one of the best and funniest short stories I've read in ages, "The Revolt of Mother," by a writer of whom I'd never heard: Mary Wilkins Freeman. (Yes, I am an ignoramus. Though I read a lot and have been so doing for many years, I never made much of a study of American literature. Except the exceptions: Flannery O'Connor. Eudora Welty. The modernists. Charles Bukowski and John Fante. Some others.)

Anyone who's ever been married for a long time will understand this: 

“I wish you'd go into the house, mother, an' 'tend to your own affairs,” the old man said then. He ran his words together, and his speech was almost as inarticulate as a growl.
But the woman understood; it was her most native tongue. “I ain't goin' into the house till you tell me what them men are doin' over there in the field,” said she.
I won't tell you what happens.

It was in a volume of great American short stories, which volume included all the usual suspects: Hawthorne, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, great storytellers all.

What else am I reading? Marianne Moore's Complete Poems and I'm rereading Stet: An Editor's Life by Diana Athill.

What I really want to be reading, too, but I loaned it out or misplaced it: Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald. That book is just a lovely afternoon.

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