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“On May 15, 1943, after days crammed in a box car, Mr. Arouch– along with his parents, three younger sisters and his brother– arrived at Auschwitz. His mother and sisters were immediately taken to the gas chambers. ‘My family and I arrived at Auschwitz at 6 in the evening,’ Mr. Arouch told The New York Times in 1989. ‘I was standing all night until the next day, naked. The Nazis cleaned us with water, disinfected us, shaved our heads and put numbers on our forearms.’ His number: 136954. Soon after, a camp commandant drove up in a large car, stepped out and asked if any of the prisoners were boxers or wrestlers. Mr. Arouch raised his hand. ‘The commander did not believe me because of my height,’ Mr. Arouch recalled. The commander, he said, drew a ring in the dirt; another prisoner was brought forth; and in the third round the other prisoner went down for the count. It was the first of more than 200 fights that Mr. Arouch would win, with only two draws, he said. They were ‘like cockfights,’ he said.”
“Teachers say they resort to physical punishment because of the inherent problems of India’s public education system, specifically, the immense challenge of maintaining control of huge classes of unruly children. ‘Most children in my school are criminal-minded,’ says Dr. S.C. Sharma, the principal of a government school in South Delhi. ‘We have caught them stealing fans from classrooms and even the iron grills from the windows. How do you discipline such kids?’ In Sharma’s school the teacher-student ratio is 1:63, compared with a recommended ratio of 1:35.”
“As he paced around the table, the hush that enveloped John Higgins’s comeback was momentarily broken. The loaded silence, sprinkled with self-conscious coughing, suddenly gave way to a buzz of discussion, and every neck inside the packed Crucible Theatre here craned to one corner of the audience. Halfway through the tension-racked deciding frame of a match at theWorld Snooker Championship— with Higgins facing a tricky shot— a spectator had fainted. Not two hours earlier, another fan had done the same.”
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”