Category Archives: Passages

Resentments of Things Past

This is another excerpt from “He May Be a Fool But He’s Our Fool: Lester Maddox, Randy Newman, and the American Culture Wars,” from my new collection Let the Devil Speak:

  The tune has varied little over the decades. Whether it’s Spiro Agnew snarling about effete intellectual snobs or Dan Quayle chirping about “the cultural elite,” the message is that the world is being run into the ground by elitists who look down on hardworking Americans while opening the gates to barbaric gays/ blacks/ immigrants/ Islamists, or any other boogieman of the moment. Sometimes the speaker makes the mistake of being too frank in public, as happened when Rev. Jerry Falwell went on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club broadcast a mere two days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and announced, with smoke from incinerated humans and buildings still thick in the air over southern Manhattan, that the attacks reflected God’s anger at “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians.” But even when it fails to win elections, culture war rhetoric serves the purpose of shoring up the hardcore supporters – the base. In that case, failure is almost preferable to success. It keeps the base unified and, above all, angry. Resentment is the cheap fuel that keeps the culture wars running, and like most cheap fuels it generates an appalling amount of pollutants.  

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The Cockroach and the Governor

This is another excerpt from “He May Be a Fool But He’s Our Fool: Lester Maddox, Randy Newman, and the American Culture Wars,” from my new collection Let the Devil Speak:

     Those with a deep knowledge of pop culture and the civil rights era will remember Lester Maddox as the Atlanta restaurateur who race-baited his way to the governorship of Georgia, and who did in fact appear on a December 1970 broadcast of The Dick Cavett Show. (The description of Nebraska-born Cavett, a museum-quality specimen of the mid-twentieth-century WASP, as “a smart-ass New York Jew” immediately announces the unreliability of this particular narrator.) Though Maddox got the bulk of that night’s airtime, the show opened with a brief appearance by an entomologist from the Museum of Natural History, who displayed samples from the museum’s insect collection – most memorably, a hissing cockroach. For anyone who had seen the photo of Maddox and his son chasing an African-American man out of their Atlanta restaurant, threatening him with a pick handle and a pistol every step of the way, it was an appropriate lead-in.



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What the Devil Said

This is an excerpt from “He May Be a Fool But He’s Our Fool: Lester Maddox, Randy Newman, and the American Culture Wars,” from my new collection Let the Devil Speak:

     Great devil speeches crop up in the most unexpected places, and can dominate the stories in which they appear. Mention the film The Third Man and likely the first thing you’ll think of is black market profiteer Harry Lime’s discourse on how the bloody reign of the Borgias produced the innovations of the Renaissance, while the peace and prosperity of Switzerland produced nothing grander than the cuckoo clock. (It was actually invented in Germany, but nobody wants to interrupt Harry Lime when he’s on a roll.) In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Serpent invites Eve to bite into the forbidden fruit by asking her why a just and loving god would want to deny his creations full knowledge of the world he has created for them: “Why but to keep ye low and ignorant.” Bite into the forbidden fruit, Satan promises, and “ye shall be as Gods/ Knowing both Good and Evil as they know.” Shylock’s “Hath not a Jew eyes?” soliloquy in The Merchant of Venice may well be the ultimate devil speech. Shakespeare’s audience would have heard it as the self-justifying rant of a villain, but its sentiments have upended that role so completely that for a modern audience it is Antonio, not Shylock, who comes off as the villain.

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Support the Troops

From “The Unforgivable Thing,” an essay in my new collection Let the Devil Speak:

     Support the troops! I saw it on the magnetized yellow ribbons that appeared on the backs of cars, trucks, and SUVs. I heard it intoned on news programs even as the invasion of Iraq showed its first signs of turning into a long, bloody wallow of corruption and stupidity. And in the spring of 2004 I heard it snarled by a fireman as his colleagues gunned their engines and swerved their big shiny vehicles in front of our anti-war group and gave dozens of men, women, and children a righteous taste of patriotic tailpipe exhaust. The firefighters were supposed to stay at the back of the parade lineup so they could peel away to answer any emergency calls without too much disruption, but that morning it was more important for them to tell us that we, with our American flags and red-white-and-blue banners, did not belong in their parade.

     “Support the troops!” The fireman who barked it at us was so enraged by our mere presence that he couldn’t even bring himself to look straight at the group. He shot us a single sideways glance, red-faced with indignation, then took his place alongside one of the lumbering vehicles. He didn’t care if we were carrying a long banner with the names of the soldiers who had died in Iraq up to that point. He didn’t want to be reminded of dead soldiers. After all, it was a Memorial Day parade.

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Passages: Robert A. Heinlein

Back in my bright college days, when dinosaurs roamed the quads, a girlfriend gave me a copy of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress as a birthday present (I was born on Bastille Day) and once I finished the book I went on a Robert A. Heinlein tear. Round about the fifth or sixth book, I came across this passage, which I still think is the most charming thing the man ever wrote:

One winter shortly before the Six Weeks War, my tomcat, Petronius the Arbiter, and I lived in an old farmhouse in Connecticut. I doubt if it is there any longer, as it was near the edge of the blast area of the Manhattan near-miss, and those old frame buildings burn like tissue paper. Even if it is still standing it wouldn’t be a desirable rental because of the fall-out, but we liked it then, Pete and I. The lack of plumbing made the rent low and what had been the dining-room had a good north light for my drafting board. The drawback was that the place had eleven doors to the outside.

The hero goes on to explain that Petronius hated snow, and whenever there had been a snowfall would insist on having every door opened for him in the hopes of finding summer behind one of them.

The Door into Summer is a fun, quick read, but nothing else in the novel lives up to that opening.   

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Beware of authors

In “The Boarding House,” one of his Rambler essays, Samuel Johnson talks about his search for affordable quarters:

When I first cheapened my lodging, the landlady told me, that she hoped I was not an author, for the lodgers on the first floor had stipulated that the upper rooms should not be occupied by a noisy trade. I very readily promised to give no disturbance to her family, and soon dispatched a bargain on the usual terms.

After a short time as a tenant, Johnson becomes curious about the previous lodgers. He learns of the tailor who complained about the lack of light and skipped out owing a few weeks’ rent; the young woman from the country who paid her rent promptly but had to be dismissed because of frequent visits from a male “cousin”; and a pleasant gentleman who turned out to be a counterfeiter, and who narrowly avoided capture by creeping out the window and across the roof as the local constable thundered at the front door.

At last, a short meagre man, in a tarnish’d waistcoat, desired to see the garret, and when he had stipulated for two long shelves and a larger table, hired it at a low rate. When the affair was completed, he looked round him with great satisfaction, and repeated some words which the woman did not understand. In two days he brought a great box of books, took possession of his room, and lived very inoffensively, except that he frequently disturbed the inhabitants of the next floor by unseasonable noises. He was generally in bed at noon, but from evening to midnight he sometimes talked aloud with great vehemence, sometimes stamped as in rage, sometimes threw down his poker then clattered his chairs, then sat down again in deep thought, and again burst out into loud vociferations; sometimes he would sigh as oppressed with misery, and sometimes shake with convulsive laughter. Whern he encountered any of the family he gave way or bowed, but rarely spoke, except that as he went up the stairs he often repeated,

This habitant th’ aerial regions boast.

hard words, to which his neighbors listened so often, that they learned them without understanding them. What was his employment she did not venture to ask him, but at last heard a printer’s boy inquire for the author.

My landlady was very often advised to beware of this strange man, who, tho’ he was quiet for the present, might perhaps become outrageous in the hot months; but as she was punctually paid, she could not find any sufficient reasons for dismissing him, till one night he convinced her by setting fire to his curtains, that it was not safe to have an author for her inmate.

A bad bunch, those author types.

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What the clown knew

Jazz great Charles Mingus was always looking for ways to combine words and music, usually in the form of settings for poetry, as with “The Chill of Death” from Let My Children Hear Music, or “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes. Late in life, he approached Joni Mitchell about adapting some of T.S. Eliot’s poems — an encounter that led to Mitchell’s album Mingus.

For my money, Mingus’ most perfectly realized fusion of words and jazz was the title track of The Clown, the 1957 album I like to spring on people who’ve never tried Mingus before. (Pithecanthropus Erectus and Mingus Ah Um are also good introductions to this superb American composer.)

Man, there was this clown. And he was a real happy guy, a real happy guy.

He had all these greens and all these yellows and all these oranges bubbling around inside of him, and he had just one thing he wanted in this world. He just wanted to make people laugh – that’s all he wanted out of this world. He was a real happy guy.

Let me tell you about this clown. He used to raise a sweat every night out on that stage, he just wouldn’t stop. That’s how hard he worked. He was tryin’ to make people laugh. He used to have this cute little gimmick where he had a seal follow him up and down a step ladder, blowin’ “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean” on a B-flat Sears Roebuck model 1322-A plastic bugle – a real cute act. But they didn’t laugh.

Oh you know, a few little . . . things . . . here and there, but not really. And he was booking out on all these tank towns, playing the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club and the American Legion hall, and he just wasn’t making it. And he had all these wonderful things going on inside of him, all these greens and yellows, and all these oranges. He was a real happy guy, and all he wanted to do was make people laugh. That’s all he wanted out of this world, was to make people laugh.

And then something began to grow, something that just wasn’t good began to grow inside of this guy . . .

The music is a bouncy waltz tempo, with a jolly sliding trombone part and overdubbed laughter. The narrator is Jean Shepherd, who in the days before he became the amiable nostalgia-merchant of A Christmas Story was a late-night radio jock whose free-form monologues addressed those he called “night people” — nonconformists and ne’er-do-wells capable of passing among the day people but always longing to break free of the conformist straitjacket. Anyone unfamiliar with Shepherd’s earlier work is in for a shock with this piece.

“Tank town” is a bit of obsolete showbiz slang, from the days when railroad engines would stop to draw water for their boilers from an overhead tank. Small clusters of stores grew up around these stops, simply to cater to people getting off the train and stretching their legs. In other words, a “tank town” was synonymous with Nowheresville — a flyspeck community hardly worth stopping at. An entertainer who played lots of tank towns would have a pretty bleak career.

Mingus had conceived a loose storyline about a clown who only becomes successful after he pulls out a gun and commits suicide in front of an audience. Shepherd, who loved jazz and prided himself on improvising with words the way musicians did with notes, gradually transformed the story during rehearsals into something that was, in a subtle way, even grimmer. Mingus pronounced himself delighted with the result.

You know it’s a funny thing. Something began to trouble this clown . . . you know, little things . . . little things once in a while would happen that would make that crowd begin to move. But they were never the right things.

Like for example that time the seal got sick on the stage, all over the stage, the crowd just . . . just broke up. Little things like that, and they weren’t supposed to be in the act, and they weren’t supposed to be funny. This began to trouble him and this began to bother him, this little thing began to grow inside. All those greens and all those oranges and all those yellows . . . they just weren’t as bright as they used to be. And all he wanted to do was to make that crowd laugh. That’s all he wanted to do.

There was this one night in Dubuque when he was playing this Rotary Club. All these dentists and all these druggists, all these postmen sitting around, and they were a real cold bunch – nothing was happening. He was leaving the stage when he stumbled over his ladder and fell flat on his face, just flat on his face, and he stands up and he’s got this bloody nose and he looks out at the crowd and that crowd is just rollin’ on the floor – he’s knocked ‘em flat out. This begins to trouble him even more. And he sees something – he begins to see something . . . hmmm?

Clowns crop up often enough in Mingus’s work — e.g., “Don’t Be Afraid, the Clown’s Afraid, Too” — to suggest they had a very personal meaning to him. One of the curious things about “The Clown” is that the protagonist is feeling alienated because the audience expects him to do what clowns do — take pratfalls, slip on banana peels, get a blast of seltzer in the face, whatever. But if this clown is a stand-in for any artist, then doing the expected thing is not enough. Despite what he may think, this clown wants to do more than make people laugh. They have to laugh when they’re supposed to, at the things the clown wants them to laugh at.

Even in his nightclub days, Mingus was famously insistent on having the audience’s full attention: he thought nothing of chastising people for talking too loudly during his sets, and on one occasion, when two women kept chattering through the group’s performance, he grabbed a microphone and slammed it on the table in front of them. One of his best albums, Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, is recorded as a dream-gig, with Mingus thanking an imaginary nightclub audience for shutting up, not ordering drinks, and staying in their seats. He was also angry, not without justification, at what he saw as second-class treatment — not only for himself as a black man, but also for jazz musicians in general as the popular audience headed in another direction.

And right about here things began to change, but really change. Not the least of which, our clown changed his act. Bought himself a set of football pads, a yellow helmet with red stripes, hired a girl who dropped a five-pound sack of flour on his head every night from maybe twenty feet up. Oh man, what a bit! That just broke them up every night – but not like Dubuque!

And all those colors? All those yellows, all those reds, all those oranges? A lot of gray in there now, a lot of blue. And all he wanted to do was to make this crowd laugh, that’s all he wanted out of this world. They were laughing all right. Not like Dubuque, but . . . they were laughing.

And the dough started to come in, and he was playing the big towns, Chicago, Detroit. . . . And then it was Pittsburgh one night – real fine town, Pittsburgh, you know. About three quarters of the way through his act, a rope broke. Down came the backdrop, right on the back of the neck, and he went flat. And something broke. This was it. It hurt way down deep inside.

He tried to get up. He looked out at the audience and man you should . . . man you should have seen that crowd – they was rollin’ in the aisles! This was bigger than Dubuque!

This was bigger than Dubuque! He really had ‘em going . . .

This was it. This was the last one. This was the last one. This was the last one. He knew now. Man he really knew now. But it was too late. And all he wanted to do was make this crowd laugh – well, they were laughing. But now he knew.

That was the end of the clown. And you should have seen the bookings coming. Man, his agent was on the phone for twenty-four hours. The Palladium . . . MCA . . . William Morris. But it was too late.

He really knew now, He really knew.

He really knew now . . .

William Morris sends regrets.

What did the clown realize in his last moments on earth? What was it that he knew . . . he really knew? That audiences are basically sadistic? That all his artistic striving was meaningless? That success always comes too late? That an artist has to kill himself on stage, every night, and it’s all the same to the audience?

I don’t think Mingus (or Shepherd) believed any of that, though I’m sure the thought crossed their minds more than once. I don’t know if either man ever addressed “The Clown” in an interview. If so, please send e the link. What the clown knew. That’s what I’d like to know.

Oscar and the women

Santo Domingo summers have their own particular allure. For two months, Santo Domingo slaps the diaspora engine into reverse, yanks back as many of its expelled children as it can; airports choke with the overdressed; necks and luggage carrousels groan under the accumulated weight of that year’s cadenas and paquetes; restaurants, bars, clubs, theatres, malecones, beaches, resorts, hotels, moteles, extra rooms, barrios, colonias, campos, ingenios swarm with quisqueyanos from the world over: from Washington Heights to Roma, from Perth Amboy to Tokyo, from Brijeporr to Amsterdam, from Anchorage to San Juan; it’s one big party; one big party for everybody but the poor, the dark, the jobless, the sick, the Haitian, their children, the bateyes, the kids whom certain Canadian, American, German, and Italian tourists love to rape—yes, sir, nothing like a Santo Domingo summer, and so for the first time in years Oscar said, My elder spirits have been talking to me, Ma. I think I might go. He was imagining himself in the middle of all that ass-getting, imagining himself in love with an Island girl. (A brother can’t be wrong forever, can he?)

So curious a change in policy was this that even Lola quizzed him about it. You never go to Santo Domingo.

He shrugged. I guess I want to try something new.

One of the best things about Junot Diaz’ novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is that it doesn’t read like something that took well over a decade to write. It has the same deceptively light touch and tidal surge of the stories in Drown, his debut collection from last century. When I interviewed him on the occasion of that book, Diaz (a Dominican-American who grew up in Parlin, studied at Rutgers and peppers his work with references that ring plenty of bells for anyone familiar with the Middlesex-Union-Essex corridor) said he actually hated writing short stories. Novels, he said. He preferred novels by a mile.

After reading Oscar Wao, I could see he wasn’t just spouting quotes. Here is the work of a man who benefits from having room to stretch out:

After his initial two weeks on the Island, after he’d got somewhat used to the scorching weather and the surprise of waking up in another country, after he refused to succumb to that whisper that all long-term immigrants carry inside themselves, the whisper that says You Do Not Belong, after he’d gone to about ten clubs and, because he couldn’t dance salsa or merengue or bachata, had sat and drunk his Presidentes while Lola and his cousins burned holes in the floor, after he’d explained to people a hundred times that he’d been separated from his sister at birth, after he spent a couple of quiet mornings on his own on the Malecón, after he’d given out all his taxi money to beggars and had to call his cousin to get home, after he’d watched shirtless, shoeless seven-year-olds fighting each other for the scraps he’d left on his plate at an outdoor café, after the family visited the shack in Baitoa where his moms had been born, after he had taken a dump in a latrine and wiped his ass with a corncob, after he’d got somewhat used to the surreal whirligig that was life in the capital—the guaguas, the cops, the mind-boggling poverty, the Dunkin’ Donuts, the beggars, the Pizza Huts, the tígueres selling newspapers at the intersections, the snarl of streets and shacks that were the barrios, the masses of niggers he waded through every day and who ran him over if he stood still, the mind-boggling poverty, the skinny watchmen standing in front of stores with their shotguns, the music, the raunchy jokes heard on the streets, the Friday-night strolls down the Avenida, the mind-boggling poverty—after he’d gone to Boca Chica and Villa Mella, after the relatives berated him for having stayed away so long, after he heard the stories about his father and his mother, after he stopped marvelling at the amount of political propaganda plastered up on every spare wall, after the touched-in-the-head tío who’d been tortured during Balaguer’s reign came over and cried, after he’d swum in the Caribbean, after Tío Rodolfo had got the clap from a puta (Man, his tío cracked, what a pisser! Har-har!), after he’d seen his first Haitians kicked off a guagua because niggers claimed they “smelled,” after he’d nearly gone nuts over all the bellezas he saw, after all the gifts they’d brought had been properly distributed, after he’d brought flowers to his abuela’s grave, after he had diarrhea so bad his mouth watered before each detonation, after he’d visited all the rinky-dink museums in the capital, after he stopped being dismayed that everybody called him gordo, after he’d been overcharged for almost everything he wanted to buy, after the terror and joy of his return subsided, after he settled down in his abuela’s house, the house that the diaspora had built, and resigned himself to a long, dull, quiet summer, after his fantasy of an Island girlfriend caught a quick dicko (who the fuck had he been kidding? he couldn’t dance, he didn’t have loot, he didn’t dress, he wasn’t confident, he wasn’t handsome, he wasn’t from Europe, he wasn’t fucking no Island girl), after Lola flew back to the States, Oscar fell in love with a semiretired puta.

When I first encountered Diaz through “Edison, New Jersey,” a story about an alienated young Dominican-American man split between his ethnic roots and his surrealistic day job (delivering and installing pool tables in white suburbia), I was impressed by the sheer readability of his work. That quality is all through Oscar Wao, and it deserves all the praise it’s been getting — including, how about that, a Pulitzer Prize.

Passages: Martin Amis

Through the good offices of James Marcus I came across these two passages from Martin Amis’ memoir Experience, a work that has a warmth and poignance missing from his fiction:

I see [Saul] Bellow perhaps twice a year, and we call, and we write. But that accounts for only a fraction of the time I spend in his company. He is on the shelves, on the desk, he is all over the house, and always in the mood to talk. That’s what writing is, not communication but a means of communion. And here are the other writers who swirl around you, like friends, patient, intimate, sleeplessly accessible, over centuries. This is the definition of literature.

Nice, right? Now this, about the aftermath of a troubling visit at Bellow’s house with Christopher Hitchens, when Amis and Hitchens found themselves helplessly laughing off their tension and anxiety:

But feelings were being mourned: feelings about the first half of life. Youth can perhaps be defined as the illusion of your own durability. The final evaporation of this illusion parches the skin beneath the eyes and makes your hair crackle to the brush. It was over. There would be hell to pay. Dying suns of a certain size perform the alchemist’s nightmare: they turn gold into lead. And there we were, in 1989, heading towards base metal. Transmutation had come to him, and would soon come to me.

The first will be instantly accessible to any serious reader. The second might have more impact for Readers Of A Certain Age right now. Wait a while, then come back to it.

More than passable

Early geographers had a habit of studding their maps with representations of monsters supposed to exist in the regions they delineated, and my geographical memory works the same way. For elevenyears after D Day, the five-mile stretch of beach under the cliffs between Port-en-Bessin and Pointe du la Percee, on the Channel coast of Normandy, was marked in my mind by a line of American soldiers waist-deep in water and immobilized by fear. Descending arcs of tracers were entering the water around them, an LCT (Landing Craft, Tank) was burning nearby, and they could not bring themselves to move. They seemed as permanently fixed in time and space as those Marines in the statue of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima, but the circumstances were different. While the men stood there, the LCIL 88, on which I was a deeply impressed observer, went in one their right and landed its passengers, and then pulled out. That image of the beach, for me, superseded pleasant earlier memories of the same strip of coast. Prior to 1944 I had visualized the water there as blue under a summer sun, as it had looked to me in 1926, when i strolled along the tops of the cliffs behind it. After 1944, I remembered it as gray, except for the lines of the tracers, and disquietingly narrow between the LCIL 88 and the beach.A.J. Liebling, “The Men in the Water,” Normandy Revisited

The Library of America has just issued a collection of A.J. Liebling’s World War II reportage, originally published in The Road Back to Paris and Mollie and Other War Pieces, and his 1958 followup Normandy Revisited, in which his return to France stirred memories of D-Day along with musings on the way those apocalyptic events were entering the collective memory — or not, as the case might be. It’s all terrific stuff.

Liebling’s standing among journalists as a writer’s writer is second only to that of Joseph Mitchell, and Liebling had a vastly wider range than Mitchell. Where Mitchell’s legacy can be contained within a single volume, Liebling’s body of work sprawls across several books and almost as many genres.

As Allen Barra once put it:

His methods, no matter how many people have claimed them as an influence, were too arbitrary, and his temperament too personal and idiosyncratic, to leave a pattern for greatness that others would follow. In truth, despite the frequent comparisons to his friend Joseph Mitchell, there really wasn’t anyone much like Liebling back in the ’40s and ’50s. Liebling was always much better than those who claimed to be influenced by him, including Wolfe, who finally gave up chasing Liebling’s ghost to pursue John O’Hara’s — not exactly a trade up. As Herbert Mitgang pointed out, reading Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black” turned out to be better preparation for covering World War II than the apprenticeship served by some of his fellow war correspondents in the press boxes of professional football games.

If Liebling actually had a philosophy as a writer, it could probably be summed up in three brief tenets, which run through all his books. 1) Know your subject really well. 2) Don’t ever force the humor; always look for it and you will find it. And 3) Spar with the little guys, but put on the eight-ounce gloves when taking on the big shots. The last one was his main point.

Late in life, Liebling became an astringent and observant critic of the trade he had mastered and surpassed without ever quite leaving (“Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one,” remains his most famous line) and I first encountered Liebling through his 1961 book The Press. But whenever I see Liebling’s name, my first thought is a passage from “Acceptable,” the final essay in his book Between Meals. In it, Liebling reminisces about the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1920s, and the women he met there:

To one I owe a debt the size of a small Latin American republic’s in analysts’ fees saved and sorrows unsuffered during the next thirty-odd years. Her name was Angele. She said: “Tu n’es pas beau, mais t’es passable.” (“You’re not handsome, but you’re passable.”)

I do not remember the specific occasion on which Angele gave me the good word, but it came during a critical year. I am lucky that she never said, “T’eis merveilleux.” The last is a line a man should be old enough to evaluate.

My brain reeled under the munificence of her compliment. If she had said I was handsome I wouldn’t have believed her. If she had called me loathsome I wouldn’t have liked it. Passable was what I had hoped for. Passable is the best thing for a man to be.

To get the full measure of Liebling’s gratitude, you can look at a photo or, better still, read this description of him by novelist James Salter:

Physically, Liebling was not attractive, yet women liked him. Bald, overweight, and gluttonous was how he described himself. He ate and drank to excess. He was shy and given to long silences. He wore glasses. His feet were flat and it was painful for him to walk, especially in later life when he had gotten so large, a fellow writer said, it was impossible to walk beside him on the sidewalk. He also had gout. Despite this, women were often fond of him, even pretty women. As a friend of his explained, he made them feel intelligent. This was not a tactic, it was genuine.

I’m glad to have this first LoA collection but I hope there will be others joining it soon. The press criticism, the articles about boxing, the essays about food, the random acts of journalism — all deserve to be returned to the light of print. It’s only appropriate. Liebling was a man who appreciated a big dinner, and a single course of his work will never be enough.