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    The New YorkerColson Whitehead3/26/1929 min
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    The New Yorker
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    • bill
      Top reader of all timeScout
      2 years ago

      A short story about a prison fight. Colson Whitehead writes like Toni Morrison, so much so that the first paragraph practically startled me. I love that this is just called “The Match,” a modest, simple title, although the word “match” is infinitely loaded. The title is a spark and the story is a wildfire, an entire country, burned and burning. I don’t know what “The Match” has to do with me and that scares me.

      The cast of characters is extremely well-drawn. I love this portrait of Elwood:

      ”“Sturdy” was the word he returned to, even though the Tallahassee boy looked soft, conducted himself like a goody-goody, and had an irritating tendency to preach. Wore eyeglasses you wanted to grind underfoot like a butterfly. He talked like a white college boy, read books when he didn’t have to, and mined them for uranium to power his own personal A-bomb. His education, in fact, was to blame for his presence at Nickel. Though still a high-school senior, he’d been taking night classes at the local colored college. He was hitching to campus when the cops stopped the car that had picked him up; it was stolen. Nonetheless—sturdy.”

      And Turner: “Turner had seen the college kids with their nice shirts and ties sit in at the Woolworths. He’d had to work, but they were out protesting. And it had happened—they’d opened the counter. Turner hadn’t had the money to eat there either way. You could change the law but you couldn’t change people and how they treated each other.”

      This Hardee person is such a strong comic relief he practically recalls Twain, or even Shakespeare:

      “Director Hardee acted as master of ceremonies. He rarely left his office in the administration building. Turner hadn’t seen him since Halloween, when he’d dressed in a Dracula outfit and distributed sweaty handfuls of candy corn to the younger students. He was a short man, fastened into his suits, with a bald pate that floated in a cloud bank of white hair.”

      When Turner brings Elwood out to the two trees, I felt like I was reading a piece of missing history. It practically blurred the line between fiction and non-fiction. People, just like history, can be erased. Fiction fills in the blank. Turner means to show Elwood what “wasn’t in books,” and yet here we are reading about it, lightyears after the fact. Every aspect of this story is perfect. I’ll probably read this four of five more times before I die. I hope I do. And I think I’ll always remember this first reading, where I am right now (camper-truck) and what my life’s all about: reading a fuck-ton, basically, and trying to convince others to do the same.

      • DellwoodBarker
        Top reader this weekReading streakScoutScribe
        1 month ago

        Ace comment with highlights that really do stand-out!

    • DellwoodBarker
      Top reader this weekReading streakScoutScribe
      1 month ago

      This was Griff’s first term on the boxing team. He’d arrived at Nickel in February, right after the previous champ, Axel Parks, turned eighteen and was released back into the free world. Griff’s emergence as the baddest brother on campus had made him Axel’s natural successor. He was a giant, broad-chested and hunched like a big brown bear; his daddy, it was said, was on a chain gang in Alabama for murdering his mother, making Griff’s meanness a handed-down thing. Outside the ring, he made a hobby of terrorizing the weaker boys, the boys without friends, the weepy ones. Inside the ring, his prey stepped right up, so he didn’t have to waste time hunting. Like an electric toaster or an automated washing machine, boxing was a modern convenience that made his life easier.

      The coach for the colored team was a Mississippian named Max David, who worked in the school garage. He got an envelope at the end of the year for imparting what he’d learned during his welterweight stint. Max David made his pitch to Griff early in the summer. “My first fight made me cockeyed,” he said. “And my farewell fight set my eyes right again, so trust me when I say this sport will break you down to make you better, and that’s a fact.” Griff smiled. He pulverized and unmanned his opponents with cruel inevitability through autumn. He was not graceful. He was not a scientist. He was a powerful instrument of violence, and that sufficed.

      The final sentence of the first paragraph above is so damn effective.