Highlights from Recent Reading

GOD, GIVE US MEN!

GOD, give us men!
A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.

— by Josiah Gilbert Holland

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The Hawaiian rode the donkey with my traveling bag balanced on his saddle horn. I rode the horse with my typewriter slung from the saddle horn. Well, my horse was dead. I don’t know how long he had been dead, but it must have been a long time. It was only the pull of the moon on him, like a tide, and the fact that occasionally I got off and lifted one of his legs ahead of the other, that gave us any progress at all.

from Home Country, by Ernie Pyle (1940)

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One day two little children got off a bus. They were so tiny they didn’t even know their own names. Travelers Aid had nothing at all to work on. The newspapers co-operatively ran the children’s pictures. Next day their mother called up from Bakersfield, three hundred miles away. She said she and her husband had put the kids on the bus, hoping to hitchhike through to San Francisco before the kids got there, and meet them at the bus station. But on the way up they got a harvesting job in one of the vegetable fields, so they just stopped and went to work. that’s one way to raise a family.

from Home Country, by Ernie Pyle (1940)

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I am not happy with the number of Cub losses in ratio to victories. — Cubs’ owner, William K. Wrigley (1949)

from The Game Is Never Over, by Jim Langford (1980)

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Nineteen-year-old -pitcher Jimmy St. Vrain, for example, was a terrible right-handed hitter. He decided to have a go at batting left-handed in a game against the Pirates. On the first pitch he actually hit the ball, a slow low grounder to shortstop Honus Wagner. Immediately, St. Vrain dashed across the plate with his head down and elbows pumping. Across the plate? Yes. Directly to third base. Wagner, along with everyone else at the park, was stunned: “I’m standing there with the ball in my hand looking at this guy running from home to third, and for an instant I swear I don’t known where to throw the darn thing. And when I finally did throw to first I wasn’t at all sure it was the right thing to do.”

from The Game Is Never Over, by Jim Langford (1980)

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“I’ve got to sail for America in a few days.”

“With Jane?”

“Well, of course with Jane, Good heavens, you don’t think I’m going to leave her behind. How soon can one get married?”

“Like a flash, I believe, if yer get a special license.”

“I’ll get two, to be on the safe side.”

“I would. Can’t go wrong, if you have a spare.”

Lord Uffenham was silent for a moment. He seemed deeply moved. “Did yer know,” he said at length, “that the herring gull, when it mates, swells its neck, opens its beak and regurgitates a large quantity of undigested food?”

“You don’t say? That isn’t part of the Church of England marriage service is it?”

“I believe not. Still,” said Lord Uffenham, “it’s an interesting thought. Makes yer realize that it takes all sorts to make a world.”

from The Butler Did It, by P.G. Wodehouse (1957)

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Whoa!

Paul Revere leaped into his saddle.

“Through every Middlesex village and farm, Bess, old girl!” he whispered in his mare’s ear, and they were off.

And, as he rode, the dauntless patriot saw as in a vision (in fact, it was a vision) the future of the land to which he was bringing freedom.

He saw a hundred and ten million people, the men in derbies, the women in felt hats with little bows on the top. He saw them pushing one another in and out of trolley-cars on their way to and from work, adding up figures incorrectly all morning and subtracting them incorrectly all afternoon, with time out at 12:30 for frosted chocolates and pimento cheese sandwiches. he saw fifty million of them trying to prevent the other sixty million from doing what they wanted to do, and the sixty million trying to prevent the fifty million from doing what they wanted to do. He saw them all paying taxes to a few hundred of their number for running the government very badly. He saw ten million thin children working and ten thousand fat children playing in the warm sands. And now and again, he saw five million youths, cheered on by a hundred million elders with fallen arches, marching out to give their arms and legs and lives for Something to Be Determined Later. And over all he saw the Stars and Stripes fluttering in the artificial breeze of an electric fan operated behind the scenes.

So tugging at the reins he yelled, “Who, Bess! We’re going back to the stable.”

Note: This piece was first published in 1924, when derision was not confused with disloyalty. [Imagine what Revere would think if he had a vision of America today?]

from The Benchley Roundup, by Robert Benchley

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Many present-day situations have parallels in the situations in the Alice in Wonderland books, but I like to believe that this is not because Carroll put sense into his nonsense, but because the present-day situations are sheer nonsense themselves.

from The Benchley Roundup, by Robert Benchley

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When I am writing a novel I must actually live the lives of my characters. If, for instance, my hero is a gambler on the French Riviera, I make myself pack up and go to Cannes or Nice, willy-nilly, and there throw myself into the life of the gambling set until I really that I am Paul De Lacroix, Ed Whelan, or whatever my hero’s name is. Of course this runs into money, and I am quite likely to have to change my ideas about my hero entirely and make him a bum on a tramp steamer working his way back to America, or a young college boy out of funds who lives by his wits until his friends at home send him a hundred and ten dollars. …

This actually living the lives of my characters takes up quite a lot of time and makes it a little difficult to write anything. It was not until I decided to tell stories about old men who just sit in their rooms and shell walnuts that I ever got around to doing any work. It doesn’t make for very interesting novels, but at any rate the wordage is there.

from The Benchley Roundup, by Robert Benchley

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He opened a wallet and extracted a card. He struggled to his feet and handed it to me. The card read: Goble and Green, Investigators, 310 Prudence Building, Kansas City, Missouri.

“Must be interesting work, Mr. Goble.”

“Don’t get funny with me, buster. I get annoyed rather easy.”

“Fine. Let’s watch you get annoyed. What do you do—bite your mustache?”

“I ain’t got no mustache, stupid.”

“You could grow one. I can wait.”

from Playback, by Raymond Chandler

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