Envy, the green-eyed monster and one of the Seven Deadly Sins, is not one of my weaknesses…until I come across a bit of prose so fantastic that I wonder why I bother even trying. [Along these lines, the writer Mark Salzman was a promising student cellist when he saw Yo Yo Ma perform at Tanglewood and decided on the spot that “his playing was so beautiful, so original, so intelligent, so effortless that by the end of the first movement I knew my cello career was over….”].
Here is what I mean. Earlier this week I was looking for a good mystery to read and chose A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang. I like English mysteries, especially the tricky ones, so the Booklist review that included, “The mystery itself is clever and should keep even the most experienced whodunit finders guessing,” sent me right out to buy a copy. I wasn’t disappointed. If you can think of a better way to describe a city and its occupants by class, send it to me. Here’s what Christopher Huang wrote:
This was St. James. Clubland. The men traversing these streets walked with that air of self-assurance that comes from belonging to a privileged set. In bookish Bloomsbury, the Londoners drifted around the British Museum in the wake of literary romance. In the working-class areas of the East End, such as Limehouse or Whitechapel, they trudged with a grim determination, playing the cards they’d been dealt. South of the Thames, in Battersea, where in 1913 John Archer became the first black man elected as borough mayor, they simmered after a better tomorrow. But in affluent St. James, they simply knew that they were the Empire.
Wow. Just wow.
The second piece of prose I can’t get out of my head is, unfortunately, not fiction. It concerns the recent College Admissions Scandal. Fortunately, Caitlin Flanagan’s piece–They Had It Coming—in The Atlantic is both insightful and delightfully snarky. Flanagan worked for a few years as a guidance counselor at an elite high school in Los Angeles. Here’s a description of meeting with the students’ parents:
Before each meeting, I prepared a list of good colleges that the kid had a strong chance of getting into, but these parents didn’t want colleges their kids had a strong chance of getting into; they wanted colleges their kids didn’t have a chance in hell of getting into. A successful first meeting often consisted of walking them back from the crack pipe of Harvard to the Adderall crash of Middlebury and then scheduling a follow-up meeting to douse them with the bong water of Denison.
I don’t know anything about Denison—but can’t you just picture the meeting? That is really good writing.
And now…back to reading “A Gentleman’s Murder.” Have a good week!
*All three photos courtesy of Unsplash.