Just In Time For Mother’s Day

So I expanded the Friends folder in my email archives because I was looking for Wombat-Socho’s email address since I’m on the Rule 5 post train these days, and I saw an indicator that I had an unread email from my mother.

An unread email from my sainted mother? I thought. Since we talked often and saw each other at least once a week, we did not email each other often; most of the emails in the folder include photos to help me build up my library after I had a hard drive crash about that time. So I clicked in to see what it was. Perhaps a forward that I’d not opened yet?

Oh, but no.

I just somehow dropped something else in the folder.

I read through all the emails; they were sometimes one line missives with attached photographs. Which I am likely to see in the slideshow that’s the screensaver on one of my computers, so I didn’t have to dig into the attachments.

Ah, I do miss her.

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Missing From The Book Sales

I spotted this on Facebook:

And my first response was owned? Past tense?

Whereas I do have a bunch of specialty encyclopedia sets, like The Book of Popular Science, The Complete Handyman Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia, the Time-Life Old West series (okay, the last is a stretch), I don’t actually have a set of general interest encyclopedia like the World Book, Encyclopedia Britannica, or Funk and Wagnalls.

So, suddenly, of course I want one.

The World Book was the Internet of my day before the Internet. I remember spending at least one Saturday afternoon with my brother, reading all the Greek and Roman mythology articles hypolinked with See and See Also references. Now, of course, you can do the same thing with Wikipedia.

I don’t remember seeing a collection encyclopedias at a book sale in recent years–but of course, I have not actively looked for them, so they might have just escaped my notice.

But we are coming to the right number of decades from their heyday and popularity that they’ve already been cleaned out of homes with no children or grandchildren to use them.

Also, I would imagine book sales are loath to touch them as I cannot imagine that anyone would buy them in this day and age. However, I’m hopeful to stumble across a set at a church sale somewhere along the line. Because now that I know they’re gone, I miss them.

Kind of like how you don’t see old computers in garage sales any more. Thirty years after that old Commodore was put in the basement or the closet, it’s already gone into a garage sale or garbage can by now–or into the hands of collectors or dealers. You don’t even see old computers and whatnot in antique malls.

Ah, how things slip away, and we don’t even see them go.

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The Lileks/Copperfield Convergence

Yesterday, in my review of David Copperfield, I quoted this passage:

I have often remarked-I suppose everybody has–that one’s going away from a familiar place would seem to be the signal for change in it. As I looked out of the coach-window, and observed that an old house on Fish Street Hill, which had stood untouched by painter, carpenter, or bricklayer for a century, had been pulled down in my absence, and that a neighbouring street, of time-honored insalubrity and inconvenience, was being drained and widened, I half expected to find St. Paul’s Cathedral looking older.

Today, in The Bleat, James Lileks talks about his college daughter returning home:

It pains to say it, but I always dreaded going back home after I’d left for college. I had to be someone else, or at least I wasn’t going to be 100% of who I thought I was. Parents were happy to see me, everything was fine . . . there were questions, of course, but no interrogations. I had to sneak cigarettes. I had to reacclimatize to the Shrine Bedroom that held my previous life. All the high school trophies, the beatific picture of myself in 4th grade on the wall, old sci-fi books, records I didn’t want, drawers with cast-off things.

This is nothing unusual. One of the big newspapers ran a story last week about 30-somethings driven home by COVID or other knock-on effects, and how they remade their childhood bedrooms into new and fabulous spaces. It all seemed pathetic and suggested that no one running these sections thinks it’s odd that 30+ single men are faced with the dilemma of replacing their old action figures with their new action figures.

Anyway. Going back from college. If there was anything that seemed sad, it was the sense that nothing had changed, nothing had moved forward. Everything was where it had been and where it would always be. When you’re young you’re making your own world anew, and stepping back into a place where every object was precisely where you left it last time made you feel like you were visiting a mausoleum of childhood.

Okay, they’re kind of opposites, but one can hold very similar feelings at the same time, ainna?

When I came back from the university for school breaks, I was in the same room, which was kind of Spartan, and when I moved back after college, I lived with my sainted mother for about three years, but we moved from the “childhood” home down the gravel road about eight months after my return. And we’d only lived in the house down the gravel road for a year and a half of my high school years; before that, it was the trailer park for, what, three and a half years? And my aunt’s basement for a year and a half. So I didn’t really have a childhood bedroom to ossify.

Now, of course, everything has changed everywhere I have lived so that they’re completely new places by now. So I can’t go home again because I didn’t really have a “home,” and I’m coming to realize that I really don’t have any family to greet me when I got there. Present immediate family excluded, of course, but the environs around Nogglestead are developing pretty rapidly, so much so that I can already say, “I remember when these were just fields,” and I have only been here eleven years (which is longer than most of my immediate neighbors, even those in the houses that were already present when we moved in). And, to be honest, we will probably redo the boys’ rooms once they move out, so they won’t have that particular experience–or we’ll move further out into the hinterlands when they leave. But they will have a static idea of the house they grew up in because we haven’t really modified Nogglestead since we moved in, either.

Dickens noted the differences development made over a hundred and fifty years ago; I have to wonder what he would have thought of the 21st century, where the pace of change of cities and towns might very well have helped cut us off from our sense of our own past and the past in general.

But getting to a pat conclusion lamenting the state of the world based on two disparate quotes is the blogger’s stock in trade, baby.

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Book Report: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850, 1986)

Book coverWell, I finished this book, finally. As you might recall, gentle reader, I have been reading it for some time. I started it before I began the library’s winter reading challenge (which I finished on or around February 22), so it was the book I picked up after Wuthering Heights). I read the sixteen books in the reading challenge whilst this book carried a bookmark, and I’ve nibbled at it for four months. Which, truth be told, as a serial, actual readers would have gotten parts of it doled out after years. And, one gets the sense that Dickens kind of wrote it like the writers of Lost with one eye on the reception and chatter of previous installments.

So, to make a long novel a short blog post, the book talks about the aforementioned David Copperfield, who is born to a widowed mother and they live together with a live-in housekeeper, Peggotty. Copperfield’s mother remarried a harsh man, and Copperfield is bundled off to live with the housekeeper’s family, to a cheap boarding school, and then as an apprentice at a wine merchant. Along the way he meets characters to figure in subplots, including the charismatic but ne’er-do-well Steerforth, a childhood associate whom Copperfield admires greatly; Peggotty’s brother and his adoptive family, including the sweet little Em’ly, her eventual betrothed Ham, and old Mrs. Gummidge; Traddles, another school friend, who is dull and plodding but dogged, and the free-spending Micawbers who are often one step ahead of the debt police. Copperfield runs away from the wine merchant to Copperfield’s aunt, the father’s sister, who starts well-to-do but loses it all; a businessman that Copperfield lives with and his daughter Agnes; Uriah Heep, the assistant to the businessman who was such an antagonist that a rock band a hundred years later took his name as their own; the owner of a law firm where David catches on and his pretty daughter whom Copperfield eventually marries; and the absent-minded school professor and his very young wife.

These characters move through the currents and subplots of the book. The main plots are that Heep is slowly taking over the Mr. Wickfield’s business through manipulation and fraud while he continues to act abased, and that Steerforth seduces and runs away with little Em’ly, and Mr. Peggotty vows to wander looking for her until he finds her and brings her home. Subplots include Copperfield’s rise through the trades and becoming a writer; Copperfield marrying his boss’s daughter and being a bit unsatisfied in the match; the loss of the aunt’s fortune; and, to be honest, a whole lot of other threads run through the book. The characters wander in and out and combine and recombine. The book has 747 pages in this Reader’s Digest World’s Best Reading edition, so Dickens could take his time–and he did.

The chapters and sections move leisurely, so it’s okay to take it slow and read it in portions, wandering away to movie tie-in paperbacks during the reading. The book meanders quite a bit into the subplots, character studies, and explanations of different elements of Victorian England. However, about 150 pages before the end, suddenly Dickens gets the urge to wrap things up, and so he starts rather abruptly resolving things–the pace of the last dozen chapters or so is quite faster than the others. I often have this knock on men’s adventure paperbacks, too, so maybe I’m just not ready for the books to end when they do.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book, sometimes more than others, and I’m glad to have read it. Although I just picked up The Pickwick Papers this weekend, I probably won’t dive right into it. Perhaps Dickens will only be an annual tradition with me (Barnaby Rudge being last year’s Dickens). However, I certainly have a soft part in my heart and a large part of my bookshelves (well, relatively, but probably less than Stephen King) for Dickens.

But I did put some markers in the book. Let’s see if I can recreate what I was thinking some months ago.

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Lileks Identifies A Lacking I Had Not Acutely Noticed

Lileks today has a picture from downtown Minneapolis:

That’s a pussy willow. We don’t have those in Missouri. Unlike when I said we didn’t have white birch only to find that the park near our house in Old Trees was riot with them, I checked the range of the American Pussy Willow, which appears a bit in Northern Missouri, but certainly not here in the Ozarks. When I was a boy, and later a student at the university, I would have seen blooming pussy willows every spring. And as a man, I had not noticed I was not seeing them until today.

A couple points:

  • Aren’t you afraid of stealing Lileks’ photo here? C’mon, man, he still could have the Nonfungible Token on it (Link via Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit).
  • Aren’t you afraid by naming that tree several times that you’ll suddenly be beset with Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans looking for, erm, spicy pictures of Alyson Hannigan? Gentle reader, I am counting on it. I could use the traffic. So below the fold, I’ll post a picture of Alyson Hannigan.

At any rate, I have the sudden urge to plant some pussy willow trees at Nogglestead; likely, though, they would fare only as well as the Lileks lilacs.

Continue reading “Lileks Identifies A Lacking I Had Not Acutely Noticed”

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Getting Along With Little Doggies

The Ozarks Multisport Club is holding its duathlon series in person this year, way up north of Springfield, so I shan’t attend this year as it would be an hour in the car each way before the suck occurs.

Since it’s not virtual, that also means that this little guy over on FR 190 will miss me as I won’t be passing by at speed every weekend.

Although, to be honest, he’s a bit lazy; its the cattle on the other side of the road that would run along the fence line inside the pasture that as I ran or rode by. Although, to be honest, it’s not just the horns one must fear.

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Meanwhile, In Missouri

As you know, gentle reader, I like to have my pool opened early in April so that the water is clear enough that we can jump into it and swim in April, no matter how cold it is, because I am from Wisconsin, and my boys have Wisconsin blood in them.

Which means this often happens.

Let it be known that I might not jump into that water this weekend.

Also, I really should have cut some more firewood yesterday afternoon when it was seventy degrees.

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Brian J. Gets The First Dose

Not of a vaccine, gentle reader–I am not rushing out to get it, and the more it becomes a legal or “moral” thing, the more I will #Resist. I mean, I don’t run out and get a flu shot every year, either. It’s just that I’m a little leery of pharmaceuticals.

But on Sunday, one of my boys’ retired teachers asked my beautiful wife and I if we’d been vaccinated. She has–her mother has been in seclusion since this thing began, and they’re hopeful that once they’re two or three weeks out from vaccination, my wife can come over and go into her mother’s house and they can sit on opposite sides of the room with masks on. And maybe gloves.

But me, I’m making plans for car trips to places in the Midwest and Florida and ordering my life around what I can do when I don’t have the proper papers on my person at all times. Which, to be honest, won’t be too much different from my life now.

But when I shrugged because I had not gotten the jab, the conductor of the church bell choir said, “Shame on you.”

Indeed. Shame on me for not aligning my morality with what government, politicians, and right-thinking society demands at any given moment.

I suppose there could be more of this to come, but you can’t make me pariaher, and certainly you cannot shame me into doing something based merely on your opinion of me.

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Brian J. Could Blame The Magical Algorithms

As you might know, gentle reader, I left a full time position in October and started looking around for a new thing to do, whether that’s full time contracting again or another full time position. I’ve currently got part time project, so I have some freedom to take my time. Although given the pace of my interviews early on (and before I actually left my full time job), I expected to have caught on somewhere else by now. I’ve gone through several rounds of interviews with different companies only to be ghosted or brushed off with an automated email (and, I am pleased to say, I have also withdrawn from others when determining they’re not what I am looking for).

Given the state of the tech industry today, it crossed my mind that I might be an untouchable because of my political views which employers might have easy access to.

I mean, take a look at this blog running nearly twenty years now. In its early days, I was pretty political, mocking Democrats a bunch and being snarky rather than reasoned. However, that’s gotten boring over time as my perspective has changed but the eternal struggle between the individual and all sorts of collectives do not. I still textually shake my head at various diktats and make mock of certain actions or ideas, so someone doesn’t have to go far into the archives to learn I am a wingnut.

I have seen some visitors during this time that hit the blog on the front page, go through some archives, and then never return. Recruiter? HR? I wonder.

I also have a ten-year-old Facebook presence. Facebook has pegged me as Extremely Conservative, which is not particularly nuanced in my libertarian but voting Republican in this First Past The Post electoral system philosophy. However, it’s one data point that I could see and that is quite likely available to Facebook customers and unknown applications perhaps in the hiring industry.

So. Does that impede me behind the scenes?

Well, given the state of the industry, this story kind of backs up my paranoid internal conspiracy imaginings:

The business world’s discrimination against anything “Trump” has reached an epidemic level, touching former aides to the president, anybody pictured near the Jan. 6 Capitol protest, and now those who endorsed him on social media posts.

A new survey of hiring managers provided to Secrets found that backing Trump on social media is the top reason to reject a job applicant.

The apparent reason: Human resources departments want to avoid “tiffs” between employees.

“Likely to avoid future office tiffs, a significant portion of hiring managers admitted to negatively judging candidates based on the political content posted. For 27% of hiring managers, social media posts endorsing Donald Trump for president would negatively impact their decision to hire a candidate,” read the analysis of the poll done for Skynova, an online business software company.

Yeah, well. (Story via Behind the Black.)


I guess I could worry about the algorithms behind the scenes keeping a man down, but that’s rather akin to worrying about the wee folk tying my shoelaces together (although, not to be pollyannish, as the algorithms could be real). I can’t control that. And, upon further review of my job application tracking spreadsheet that runs back six years, I really haven’t gotten a lot of job offers through the blind Internet box submissions. Most of my work comes from people I know or previous clients. So I can’t blame the recent political atmosphere.

At any rate, I have often said that a company that has HR staff is too large for my startup tastes, and this is still true. Something will turn up, and until it does, I need to enjoy Travis McGee-like bits of semiretirement while it lasts.

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When Bill Gates Comes To Town

The realtor who helped us find Nogglestead advertises realty listings in Ozarks Farm and Neighbor right next to his stockyards ad. Most of the time, he has a bunch of listings with a couple of SOLD or UNDER CONTRACT stamps on them to show that he’s a realtor who can get properties sold.

This last issue, though, shows a very high success rate indeed.

What does this mean? Bill "Bill Gates is the biggest private owner of farmland in the United States. Why?" Gates has come to town?

Or that land continues to be a hedge against possible economic calamity to come?

Also note that Tom still has listings for two lots in the new subdivision going in down the road across from the little church that used to be in the middle of nowhere. Other pastures just south of here are up for sale for subdivisions. Twelve years after he helped us find Nogglestead, suddenly we live in the suburbs. I mean, yesterday morning, I saw the local family of deer crossing my back yard, and they’re up to eleven, which means the predators are staying away and the deer have lots of tasty landscaping to eat nearby.

I feel a bit like Natty Bumpo here. I sometimes fantasize about moving further out into the country. Maybe out to Freistatt or Peirce City.

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Another Strange Easter Tradition at Nogglestead

I have already told you the story of the Easter Chewbacca (which Chimera successfully knocked behind the clock, so it resides there to this very day, and the Easter tie (which I did wear to church this morning).

Now, the story of the Easter bucket.

I got some stuff for Easter for the boys this year. Last year, Easter fell right after the lockdown, and I was still limiting my trips out of Nogglestead, so I didn’t get anything for the boys. And the gap gave me time to forget that we had discarded the old Easter baskets from years before because my boys had beat each other with them between the holidays.

So when I went out to look for the baskets in the garage last night, I only found one that had been part of another Easter disbursement of some sort.

So I used a decorative bucket instead for the oldest.

They’re old enough to buy their own candy year-round, which they do whenever they have money in their pockets and the weather allows. So they only got a couple peeps and a couple of chocolate eggs, a magazine or two each, a tin of Altoids, and a yo-yo. Most of the candy is likely eaten except for a tin of Altoids which has already been spilled.

And the Easter Bucket might just become a tradition. I mean, the oldest only has three more Easters, so it doesn’t make sense to spend a couple of dollars on one at this late date.

So another, albeit brief, strange tradition is born.

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Meanwhile, In The Powerline Week In Pictures, We Get My Area

This weeks Week in Pictures at Powerline features a meme from my area:

If I am not mistaken, that is Kearney facing east. North of Kearney, there’s only Interstate 44 and then non-overpass intersections north.

Of course, I hardly ever see the intersection going that way–when I’m going to ABC Books, I take US 65 north to Kearney and then turn west on Kearney to get to Glenstone and my favorite bookstore.

I have seen the sign on rare occasions when I have wanted to catch the highway from Kearney or when I have gone east on Kearney to a sports facility formerly known as The Courts, where my boys had a basketball camp and my youngest briefly played in a basketball league.

Not as weird as seeing a known intersection in a CAPTCHA.

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Unclear On The Concept

I picked at the margins of cleaning up my garage last weekend, getting rid of a couple of bins of glass in various forms (jars, bottles, broken), and I discovered that at some point in the past, I had stored a stepping stool by putting it on the top shelf.

In my defense, I think the then-immediate impulse was to get it off of the floor, and I did. Besides, everyone who would want to get something from the top shelves in the garage these days is tall enough to reach the top shelf (my oldest is about to be taller than I am–what?) or is married to/begat someone tall enough to reach it. This particular stool doesn’t see much use at Nogglestead aside from maybe some painting duty (I’d have to check the colors of paint spattered on it to see if this is actually the case).

As it’s not actually blocking the garage door from opening, I shall keep it there, likely for years. Like so many things these days.

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Someone Forgot One

I am so something that I saw something else.

I saw Hewlett Packard mainly because I just ordered a new laptop. No, scratch that: Some months ago, I ordered a new laptop, and Hewlett Packard sat on my money for a couple of months and then sent me a laptop directly from its factory in China which I just received. And rather don’t trust now that I’ve seen where it shipped from.

You know what else marks one kind of a person from another? Getting a new computer/laptop/device and immediately thinking, “Eh, what a chore to set it up” instead of “Cool! I can’t wait to try the new version of Civilization/other game that I bought this computer to run.” I mean, it marks me old that I still run computers for the most part and don’t get excited–or even get the latest mobile devices until the battery on my current one cannot take a charge. But it marks me older yet that I don’t jump right on the new computer, either.

Also, I am not much into gaming on the computer these days, so I don’t need the gee-whizzery of the latest modest improvement.

And even though I saw Hewlett Packard first, I think the other two are more fun.

(Image via Ms. K.)

UPDATE: I am not alone.

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Chores You Didn’t Know Existed

Today, I will have spent over an hour aligning the mylar covers on my record sleeves.

As you know, gentle reader, I have a burgeoning record collection. Not one that goes all the way to the ceiling–yet!–but it does fill the record shelving I made in 2019 pretty tightly.

And, in the process of taking them out and putting stacks of them back into the shelves, the sleeves slide a little out on the record sleeves, so they extend in varying lengths out of the shelving.

So today I decided I would reshelve recent listenings and align the sleeves on all of the LPs. It would also give me a chance to find the sleeve for Brahms’ Fourth Symphony which had been shelved with the record still on the record player and thus was lost in the disarray. And maybe find the record for one of my copies of The Lonely Bull which somehow got shelved without its sleeve–more likely, one of the boys put it into another sleeve when we asked one of them to pick a record (and they probably picked John Denver).

I took a quick snap to show you it wasn’t a complete waste of time:

You can see that I’ve done the top two shelves; they all looked like that bottom shelf when I started.

What makes it a partial waste of time is that they will probably look like that again soon. But that’s what chores are: A revolving door of tidy and needing to tidy.

And, hopefully, I will find the Swedish Gospel Singers LP that has been a Sunday morning tradition at Nogglestead for eight years now, I guess, except for when I lose it in rearranging the Christmas albums and whatnot.

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Just One?

A strong coffee half an hour before exercising increases fat-burning

You know, by the time I hit the YMCA in the mornings, I have already had three or four cups of coffee. And I have been known to dope up before a triathlon with a lot of coffee. As a matter of fact, before my second Y Not Tri, I was sitting in the lounge of the YMCA before my heat, pounding styrofoam cups of coffee, when my personal physician walked through. Not to participate that year–to watch his daughter play basketball. But I was afraid he would rat me out for using Performance Enhancing Drugs.

Coffee, metal, and Advil: The basics of my exercise routine.

(Link via Instapundit.)

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Lights Out, Costs Up

In 2008, I lamented how the cost of lighting was going up as the backed-into ban on incandescent bulbs meant you could not buy a light bulb for twenty-five cents as all the energy-efficient others cost $4 each.

Each of them, though, touted you would save seventy cents a year in power costs [citation needed] over the twenty years that the bulbs would last [citation needed].

Well, gentle reader, as you know, Nogglestead didn’t have many regular light bulb sockets when we moved in. I have since replaced the kitchen light fixtures, which previously took a finicky circular fluorescent light bulb, with fixtures that use regular bulbs.

But, you know what? The touted energy-saving light bulbs are not lasting as long as advertised.

I am replacing the LED, CFL, and halogen lights about as fast as the incandescents. So the cost savings promised has not materialized, and the more expensive bulbs with their precious metals and toxic compounds, are more expensive to make and buy than the simple piece of hot wire in the incandescents.

Oh, but we will do better once we’re back to candles.

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One Writer’s Pinch At-Bat Strikeout

On the World Famous Ace of Spades HQ Hoity Toity Book Thread, someone recommends Thom Jones:

235 I’d like to recommend “Pugilist at Rest”, by Thom Jones. This book was a finalist for The National Book Award in 1991. The book is actually a series of short stories, of somewhat autobiographical reflections. A former boxer and Viet Nam veteran, among other things. The stories are real and raw. From the flap:

“Jones’s stories -whether set in the combat zones of Vietnam or the brittle social milieu of an elite new England college, whether recounting the poignant last battles of an alcoholic ex-fighter or the visions of an American wandering lost in Bombay in the aftermath of an epileptic fugue-are fueled by an almost brutal vision of the human condition, in a world without mercy or redemption. Physically battered, soul sick, and morally exhausted, Jones’s characters are yet unable to concede defeat: his stories are infused with the improbable grace of the spirit that ought to collapse, but cannot.”

Posted by: Brave Sir Robin at March 14, 2021 10:38 AM (7Fj9P)

This sounds like a light-hearted, happy, optimistic book that will pick you right up when you’re feeling low. The author sounds like quite the phenom, though:

Thom Jones made his literary debut in The New Yorker in 1991. Within six months his stories appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, Mirabella, Story, Buzz, and in The New Yorker twice more. “The Pugilist at Rest” – the title story from this stunning collection – took first place in Prize Stories 1993: The O. Henry Awards and was selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 1992.

If stories were drinks, Jones’ would not be those little froo-froo drinks with paper umbrellas and fruit in them, they’d be straight shots from a bottle you keep in the bottom drawer of a battered old desk.

Gentle reader, I myself read The Pugilist At Rest almost thirty years ago because an editorial assistant at Harper’s recommended I do.

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