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Larry L. King, author of numerous essays, memoirs, and political narratives for Harper’s Magazine between 1965 and 1971, passed away on December 20 at the age of 83. King was a contributing editor for the magazine during Willie Morris’s tenure as editor-in-chief; he also wrote for Texas Monthly and many other publications, and was perhaps best known as the author of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which began as a reported story for Playboy and eventually became a Broadway musical.
The New York Times’s obituary identified some of the hallmarks of King’s writing:
Mr. King had a big personality suffused with humor, characteristics evident in his work. Critics often noted his affinity for the wordplay, wry attitude and joy in the existence of scalawags that were hallmarks of Mark Twain. Nor was he, like Twain, loath to cast aspersions on the dull, the self-righteous and the oafish.
The Times also singles out King’s “The Old Man,” which was published in the April 1971 issue of Harper’s. The memoir places King’s wry sensibility in the service of a sincere and tender exploration of his relationship with his father, a farmer and blacksmith whose time stretched “from five years before men on horseback rushed to homestead the Cherokee Strip to a year beyond man’s first walk on the moon”:
Old Man, I thought, what is the secret? What keeps you interested, laughing, loving each breath? I remembered his enthusiastic voice on the telephone when I told him I had given my son his middle name: “I’m puttin’ a five-dollar bill in the mail to buy him his first pair of long pants. Put it up and keep it. I want that exact five-dollar bill to pay for my namesake’s first long pants.” Grand satisfactions had visited his face earlier on our Austin trip when my son brought him a gigantic three-dollar pocket watch. The boy had shoved it at him — “Here, Grand Dad, this is for you, I bought it out of my allowance” — and then had moved quickly away from the dangers of sentimental thanks and unmanly hugs.
More from Harper’s Magazine:
Official Business — March 17, 2015, 4:01 am
Listen to the broadcast version of “American Hustle,” Alexandra Starr’s story, for the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine, about how elite youth basketball exploits African athletes.
Official Business — January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm
We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Pairs of moose-dung earrings sold each year at Grizzly’s Gifts in Anchorage, Alaska:
An Alaskan brown bear was reported to have scratched its face with barnacled rocks, making it the first bear seen using tools since 1972, when a Svalbardian polar bear is alleged to have clubbed a seal in the head with a block of ice.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”