writing


I’m pondering the two extra half-used rolls of paper perched on the back of the toilet seat when I hear snuffling in the next stall.

“Shit!” a woman exclaims.

The toilet automatically flushes as I zip my pants and rebuckle my belt. For a moment, I reflexively fear mortifying my already-perturbed colleague. But she’s muttering again, and then her severe pointy black heels are tapping, furious and staccato.

Amused, I wash my hands; she emerges from the stall with something in her hands. I’m heading for the hand towels, which hang over the waste basket, but she cuts me off to thrust something deep within the recesses of balled and worried white papers.

I smile my crooked, haphazard smile. “Is everything OK?” She seems like she could use someone being nice to her.

My question hangs in the air for a few tenuous moments; I wipe my hands and discard my towel, then improvise a shrug and head for the door.

“Wait,” she stops me. I turn, heartened. She’s about my age, late twenties, and I think I recognize her as the executive assistant to one of the higher-ups. Her face is quaint, shaped like a little heart, and her liquidy brown eyes are kind.

“I don’t need your fucking pity,” she spits. “So I’m pregnant. So what? Don’t fucking judge me.”

“I … I’m not judging you,” I stuttered. The flecks of black and gold of the bathroom tiles were mesmerizing. “Have you thought about … you know, getting it taken care of?”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Who the fuck are you, Planned Parenthood?” she railed. She splashed water on her face and neck, then quietly dabbed herself dry. “Just … don’t tell anyone, will you?”

“No, no, I won’t … I never would.” She huffed out the door as I tried to respond. I smoothed my hair and returned to my desk; later, I saw her at the elevators, and instead of acknowledging me, she emphatically inserted her earbuds and made a show of fiddling with her iPod as if I weren’t there.

“It’s old light, and there’s not much of it. But it’s enough to see by.” –Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye (1988)

My favorite passage from the American Book Review’s list of the 100 best last lines from novels.

Beautiful Children, Charles Bock’s fiction debut (which more or less everybody orgasmed in anticipation of) is available as a free, downloadable PDF courtesy Random House until Friday, February 29 — get it here!

It’s gimmicky, sure, and I don’t know what the publisher’s end game is (demonstrate that even netizens occasionally express demand for finer forms of the written word?), but I’ll be honest, I downloaded it. And I can’t wait to start reading it, if only to be able to put forth an informed opinion about this middle-aged wunderkind everyone’s talking about.

Profusion of art is connected to my recent procurement of a combination printer, scanner, and copier. Fervor will fade soon, I imagine.

Related:

carq4znh.jpg

Snag this snazzy T — from which I stole my post title — at One Horse Shy for a cool $22.

Lots of language stuff going on right now — and not only in relation to my unending quest to update a certain stylebook that shall remain nameless, but in the mainstream media, too! Huzzah.

When I’m not getting my kicks reading insta-classics like Lapsing Into a Comma (Bill Walsh) and Woe is I (Patricia T. O’Connor),  I’m trawling through a pile of newspapers and magazines. Generally, they’re a fertile field from which to harvest examples of the uses (and misuses) of modern language; occasionally, they cross the line into explicitly surfacing issues of punctuation, style, and usage — as the Times did today in a story about the inclusion of a semicolon in the MTA’s latest public service ads about throwing away newspapers. It’s quite mawkish, not to mention obnoxiously high-handed, but I’m always secretly pleased that someone somewhere is still pondering the importance of clarity, concision, and coherence in writing.

Elsewhere: Mike Clark of the Greensboro News-Record recently took on the colon; the Daily Freeman reported on schoolchildren protesting a restaurant’s use of capitalization; and the Sydney Morning Herald also ran a (somewhat confounding) glossary of new words that already seem a bit dated — I mean, tanorexia? How Rachel Zoe, circa 2006.

If reading isn’t your thing (which … umm … would be nonsensical, as this text-heavy post is all about word nerdery….but I digress …), you can fake it until you make it with buy grammarrelated T-shirts!)   

Maybe it’s a fluke — or perhaps all this language lovin’ is in anticipation of National Grammar Day on March 4.  The Web site devoted to the holiday has some great links, and its creators even offer a recipe for a Grammartini. See, we’re only selectively curmudgeonly!

Escape
but
remember;
embrace
life’s
ambiguities.

(Inspired by Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.)

She knew as soon as she found the yellow legal pad etched with his erratic hand that it wasn’t something she should share. But, lacking the abiding sense of self-preservation that develops only around the age of 13 or so, she settled in the garage, sifting through the boxes her father was filling—boxes he would carry off in his silver Camry to a place unknown, a place she didn’t really want to know, either.

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