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I was neither dazzled nor drugged into sex when I was 14 – I was embarrassed into it. I was walking along the street, one Friday morning, on my way to the Notting Hill Gate library, feeling cross after a row with my father, when a man with an American accent, in his twenties, suddenly appeared and started walking beside me. He asked my name. I ignored him. He repeated his question over and over again. That stuff happened. You just kept on walking when strange men spoke to you or exposed themselves. But this one was really persistent. He marched alongside me and then said that he was a singer and he’d written a new song. He wanted to know what I thought of it. When I said piss off, again, he started to sing. Loudly. These days, of course, I might well sing loudly in the street myself and not give a toss. But 14 is different. I was excruciated. A man singing to me full-throatedly as I walked down the road made me publicly ridiculous and clearly everyone on the planet was turning their head to stare at me. And laughing. I was beside myself with embarrassment. That, at any rate, was what my 14 was like. I hissed at him to stop and he said he would if I went to the recording studio where he worked and listened to him singing his song properly. It was just round the corner, a few minutes from where I lived. Then he started to sing again. He was amiable and quite funny, not frightening, if much too insistent. –“Diary,” Jenny Diski, London Review of Books
Related: Mary Gaitskill’s “On Not Being a Victim,” March 1994 (subs only);
Wikipedia on fictitious entry;
Christians to run Christian prison, creating instant metaphor for an entire generation of socially-conscious novelists;
Obama’s a one-term president–if he stops the war(s);
Blue Dog Democrats are in the blue doghouse;
“Fire Sudan envoy Scott Gration”
Let’s take a step back first, as I had to in the original article, to explain a literal red herring. Before modern refrigeration and speedy transport, fish could not be got to customers more than a few miles inland before it went bad. Various methods were invented for preserving them, using salting, smoking or pickling. Kippers are herrings that have been split, salted, dried and smoked. Yarmouth bloaters are made by a variation on kippering but are whole fish and do not keep so well. Arbroath smokies are smoked haddock. Red herrings are a type of kipper that have been much more heavily smoked, for up to 10 days, until they have been part-cooked and have gone a reddish-brown colour. They also have a strong smell. They would keep for months (they were transported in barrels to provide protein on long sea voyages) but in this state they were inedible and had to be soaked to soften them and remove the salt before they could be heated and served. –“The Lure of the Red Herring,” World Wide Words, Michael Quinion (via)
“I don’t know why it’s like this, but it’s a rule: never ever approach the gallery directly. Never ever. I didn’t make this rule and I don’t want the world to be like this, but it is. Don’t ask for a studio visit, don’t ask to show them your work, don’t do anything. Sooner or later something will happen.” –“How to Make It As An Artist In New York 101,” Leon Neyfakh, The New York Observer
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.”