One Saturday Mr. Purifoy appeared there, to my surprise. He was AA, or as he liked to call it, ND. The letters stood for Nameless Drunks, his jocular cacophemism for Alcoholics Anonymous. Saying the words always made him laugh.
Now to the more recent past and a place in southern New Mexico, bright land of bargain motels and fair dealing, where I was doing some research on Pancho Villa’s 1916 raid across the border. My room was in a motel I will call the Ominato Inn, not quite a dump, with a weekly rate of $130 flat, no surcharges. The price quoted was what you paid, with no tourist penalties, bed taxes, bathroom duties, or other shakedown fees piled on, such as to make a joke of the nominal price. There should have been a pair of signs out front, flashing back and forth:
NOT QUITE A DUMP AT DUMP PRICES
All this is by way of saying that in the United States we haven’t got any actual royals, and yet almost the very first stories we hear are about princes and princesses, kings and queens. When a little American kid first learns that there is such a thing as real, live princes and princesses, who live in actual palaces, this is liable to come as a terrific shock, though in general a pleasing one. One would like it to be true; it’s a very nice idea, that there is such a thing as an incorruptible person for whom everything will — everything must — come right in the end.
American Short Fiction’s managing editor Jess Stoner is reading local newspapers from one state a week and reporting on the big headlines in a better attempt to understand America. As she puts it, “Not to snark, not to make fun of people from unincorporated towns who write letters to the editor, but to share with you a more complicated, less yell-y look at where we are, with the hopes of better understanding where we might be headed.” The first state is Alabama.
It’s Thanksgiving here in America, a day of infamy for turkeys.
E.L. Doctorow has been doing that hard work for more than half a century, producing novels and stories that have illuminated the American soul by bringing American history to life. It’s why he deserves his Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. It’s what makes him a national treasure.
I learned from McDonald’s that there was a whole class of books out there that were especially worth reading.
More than tragedy or romance, history is filled with irony.