How to start: This is a fun collection of stories!
Favourite quotes: “He sang with facial expressions that caused him to cut himself shaving. He shaved with a straight razor rather than wasting money on blades, and he bled as he sang, the foam on the razor stained pink and his face stuck up with bloody clots of toilet paper. I was afraid that, reaching for a note, he’d cut his throat.” (p 15)
“I’d done it out of the same wildness that made for an alliance between us - a bond that turned life comic at the expense of anything gentle. An impulsiveness that permitted a stupid, callous curiosity, the same dangerous lack of sense that had made me ride one day down Luther, a sunless side street that ran only a block, and, peddling at full speed, attempt to jump off my J. C. Higgins bike and back on in a single bounce.” (p127)
“A curfew of cold had emptied the streets.” (p 164)
“Picnics on a windowsill: braunschweiger, Jewish rye, mayonnaise, raw onion, potato salad blushing with paprika, a cold beer, an enormous garlicky sea green pickle tonged just minutes before at the corner deli by a young woman with high cheekbones and a slavic accent, her golden hair standing from turquoise combs that could hardly contain the weight of curls, ample breasts so loose they had to be bare in the sleeveless blue sundress she wore, and the blond hair growing profusely under her arms flashing as she dipped into a huge glass crock where a school of kosher pickles darted away and tried to hide amidst the dill weed, roiled seeds, and wheeling peppercorns.” (p 217)
“Children herded by billowing nuns, jostled into lines.
”The pigeon-launching church bells tolled one o’clock, if a single ring can be considered a toll. Its reverberation filled my apartment.
”That was lunch at the Loyola Arms Hotel - on one or another of those days when nothing happened really but lunch - and yet I don’t remember ever feeling more free, or more alone, than when I’d watch the children marching into school, surrendering the street back to the pigeons and shadow until it was empty and quiet again, and I sat propped in the window, draining the foam, with the length of an entire afternoon still before me.” (p 232)
“At eight a.m., he was waiting in the doorway when the Chinese herbalist came to open his pharmacy. Mick stepped into the shop’s alien atmosphere of dried herbs and powdered animals and inhaled a smell that seemed in itself curative.” (p 264)
“The boy and his gran seem more real to him than his room in the present. Suddenly, it’s clear to him that memory is the channel by which the past conducts its powerful energy; it’s how the past continues to love.” (p 283)
Tangential: This interview he gave makes me want to sit down and write!