Son of the Little Guy was Kinda Funny-lookin’

From the Coen Brothers’ movie Fargo:

“The little guy was kinda funny-lookin’.”

“In what way?”

“I don’t know. Just funny-lookin’.”

“Can you be any more specific?”

 

Here’s a descriptive passage I like:

QT_Flannery2Mr. Shortley, without appearing to give the feat any consideration, lifted the cigarette stub with the sharp end of his tongue, drew it into his mouth, closed his lips tightly, rose, stepped out, gave his wife a good round appreciative stare, and spit the smoldering butt into the grass.

“Aw Chancey,” she said, “haw haw,” and she dug a little hole for it with her toe and covered it up. This trick of Mr. Shortley’s was actually his way of making love to her.

(From “The Displaced Person,” a short story by Flannery O’Connor)

I appreciate O’Connor’s gothic sense of humor. The button is what makes it even more humorous: to know that this is one way Mr. Shortley makes love. Did you know that O’Connor was a cartoonist for awhile, early in her career, and even submitted her cartoons for publication? Click this link for more.

And another passage from another favorite writer:

QT_WandaHickeys2I struggled frantically to my feet, spilling Diet Pepsi over the front of my brocade smoking jacket as I flailed about. There wasn’t a second to lose. Lurching forward, grasping for the knob, I fell heavily over the coffee table. On hands and knees, I scrambled forward, hoping to kill the TV set before it was too late. With a groan, I realized that once again, I had lost. The late-late-movie curse had struck again. I sat back to accept my fate. (from Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters by Jean Shepherd)

Jerry Seinfeld cites Jean Shepherd as a major influence on his style of humor. I like to read Shepherd to see how to craft humor out of the seemingly little things in life.  It certainly worked for Seinfeld. I employed his technique of the everyday in my own humorous memoir Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak.

And here’s another paragraph I like, one of many, from Shepherd’s hilarious collection In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash:

QT_InGod2My father loved used cars even more than he loved the White Sox, if possible. A Used-Car Nut is even more dedicated than the ordinary car worshiper. A true zealot never thinks in terms of a new model. His entire frame of reference and system of values is based on acquiring someone else’s troubles. It is a dangerous game, and the uncertainty of it appeals to the true Used-Car aficionado the same way that Three Card Faro draws on the profligate.

I know the used-car world well. In my time I’ve owned a Pinto, a Buick, and a Corvair, all used cars or what is now euphemistically referred to as pre-owed vehicles. It sounds like the fleet Christopher Columbus would have taken to the New World had his trip been sponsored by Detroit instead of Spain.

 

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2 comments

    1. I didn’t know O’Connor was a cartoonist, either, until the book with her cartoons was published. I love her writing, though, especially her short stories. I’m going to paraphrase from memory, which is always risky. But I recall reading about O’Connor giving a lecture or a reading, after which students asked questions. Someone asked her about the symbolic meaning of the hat the Misfit wears in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” She replied by saying, well, it was a hot summer day in Florida and he wanted a hat that provide shade. In other words, no symbolism just common sense, a practical solution. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of symbolism in her stories. Another student at a different time asked her how come Southern Literature always included so many grotesque characters. She said that was because they could still recognize one.

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