Digging Out

A recent post had me on the brink of being buried in my piles of unread newspapers. I not only managed to dig my way out, but I also took the paper beast by the neck and looked all the way down its throat to see what was inside. And my goodness, what a full monster it was!

What did I find? All sorts of things! The New York Times is an amazing newspaper, particularly The New York Times Magazine, which comes with the Sunday paper. You never know what you might find on any given day, though. Here is just of sampling of the sorts of things that I’ve found so far.

  • There was a wonderful piece by Sam Anderson about the power of the comma. My favorite part: “Never underestimate a comma. . . . A sentence with a missing comma is a horse trailer coming unhitched on a highway at 70 miles per hour. A sentence with an extra comma is a boulder in your swimming pool.”
  • An interview with Fran Lebowitz, in which she said, “In my lifetime, I’ve read one zillion mysteries. That is not because I care about who did it. I don’t care. And I almost never figure it out. . . . I have reread mysteries numerous times and I don’t even remember who did it. I’ve read all the Agatha Christies. I’ve read all the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. He wrote many of them, but not enough for Fran. I’m always hoping to find one I’ve never read. . . . One thing I like about mysteries is that they end. Which is true of so little else.” This is how I feel about mysteries, too!
  • A disturbing poem called “March” by Laura Kasischke. It begins like this: “It’s the murderer who got away with it, sitting / on a park bench thinking about snow / and how it’s over. Little flower-faces peeking out of dirt to shriek Hello!” I had never heard of this poet, but she has at least two collections of poetry and several novels to her name. I am interested to read more of her work.
  • A great quote on the difference between the class system in England and the class system in the U.S.: “At least posh people in England have the decency to feel guilty.” (Richard V. Reeves, author of “Dream Hoarders”). Like a lot of people in this country, I have been getting more and more concerned about how wealth is distributed in this country.
  • This great proverb by Saadi, a 13th-century Persian poet: “Empty words disgrace the one who speaks them, like serving a walnut shell without the nut.” Imagine how you’d feel if someone said they were going to feed you but then gave you just an empty nutshell. That’s outrage, in a nutshell!
  • Speaking of nuts, there was a great article by Michael D. Shear that mentioned how Obama ate only one snack at night and that it was was always exactly seven almonds. Obama said later in an interview that he doesn’t actually count the number of almonds, and that this was just a joke between his wife and his chef about how he needed to loosen up. I enjoyed both the original article and the follow-up. These days, I enjoy anything that gives a glimpse into Obama’s personal life. I’m nostalgic for the president who ate nuts in moderation, now that we’re saddled with a president who is nuts and doesn’t understand the meaning of “moderation.”
  • A tip by Malia Wollan on how to break down a door, which said (among other things) this: “Do not hit a locked door with any body part other than your foot. You will be tempted to use your shoulder. Don’t.” Good to know! The Tip is a regular feature of the Sunday magazine, and the subjects are varied (“How to Build an Igloo,” “How to Avoid Icebergs,” “How to Tell a Ghost Story,” etc.). Most of the tips are useless to your average person on your average day, but that’s part of their charm.

I took all these wonderful gems (and many more), cut them out, and pasted them in a scrapbook that I call “My Inspiration Book.” If I were ever to run out of things to write about, I know my scrapbook would give me inspiration. Without this scrapbook to hold the best parts of what I’ve read in the newspaper (and magazines, and the Internet), I don’t know how I could have avoided being buried in it all!

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