The Best of Pickering
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Title Page, Copyright
Sam Pickering counts among the handful of contemporary writers who practice, with aplomb, the art of the essay. This genre is, in many ways, our most native accomplishment, and Pickering’s work stands firmly in the line of essayists from Thoreau and Emerson through Mark Twain, E. B. White, Robert Benchley, ...
When Edward, my younger son, was in high school, dinners were silent. One cold night his junior year, he said a single word, “Grapefruit,” this in response to the six-word question, “What do you want for dessert?” After Edward left the table, Vicki and I subjected his silence to paragraphs steamy with crisp verbs and tart nouns. ...
Part One: Dead Poets Stuff
Twenty years ago my father attended the Swan Ball, a dance held to benefit Cheekwood, a center for the arts in Nashville, Tennessee. Arriving shortly before Father, a newspaper reporter and an accompanying photographer settled into place at the foot of the long spiral staircase near the entrance to Cheekwood. ...
“Neil,” i said, shivering under a pile of blankets, “I have been bitten by the flu, not the political bug.” “Sam, all I know is what I read,” he answered. “The Hartford Courant says that among ‘those now being mentioned’ as Republican candidates in the Second Congressional District is ‘University of Connecticut Professor Samuel F. Pickering, Jr., of Storrs, ...
Part Two: Messing About
At the beginning of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Water Rat said to his friend Mole, “there is nothing— absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Instead of sculling through experience in hopes of exploring new psychological lands, the animals played. ...
On the first day of March I walked through the woods in the back yard and turning south followed the cut for the telephone wires down to the small marsh next to the high school baseball field. Cattails and bulrushes grew along the third base line, and behind home plate I found horse-balm, water horehound, ...
When Hornus Roebuck’s chimney began to smoulder, he didn’t telephone the fire department. Instead he ran out the back door, leaped over the fence, crossed Grace’s pasture, and burst into Noonday, Mother Noon’s store on Straddle Street. Mother Noon was Beaver River’s conjure woman, ...
A heavy gate blocked the dirt road. Made from pipes painted white and banded with red warning stripes, the gate hung on two iron bars. Bolted to the middle of the gate was a white metal sign stamped with black letters.STATE PROPERTY, it read, NO TRESPASSING. ...
Part Three: School Matters
“Dear Mr. & Mrs. Pikring pleas don’t get out to day after 5 in the evening.” My wife and I found this note on our door one day in March after we returned from the market. Again rumor predicted trouble in Latakia and we had been warned. We stayed in our apartment that night. This, though, was nothing new; ...
“We take Americans for many reasons. Either they are scholars, which you are not,” Tom Henn began after I had been in Cambridge four weeks. Tom was right. I had not come to Britain to study. I had been a student at Sewanee, so disciplined that classmates called me “Machine” ...
Like the indiscretions of youth, some ailments are too boring to be bandied about in medical journals. While a thousand scalpels would leap from operating rooms to preserve the honor of cholera morbus, hardly a lancet would be raised in defense of tennis elbow or housewife’s knee. ...
From My Side of the Desk
Not many children studied Latin at the Male and Female Select School in Smith County. To get enough students for the first-year class Quintus Tyler visited Sunday schools around Carthage. Some of Jesus’ best friends, Quintus told Sunday scholars, knew Latin well. ...
Part Four: Bookish Matters
At 6:30 I dropped Edward at the Dorrs’ driveway so he could ride to Loomis-Chaffee with his friend Geoff. The Gurleyville Road curved around Valentine Meadow like a hard rib. In the meadow mist pillowed fatty, near the lip blowing in straps. Along Route 44 fog whitened hollows, forcing me to drive slowly. ...
“Pr. Pickering,” the reporter from the Hartford Courant began, “the new edition of the Oxford American Desk Dictionary accepts the split infinitive. What’s your reaction?” When the reporter telephoned, I was pushing my foot down the left leg of a battered pair of trousers. ...
Selecting a Past
My right arm has become weak, and recently I have spent many hours in Boston undergoing tests at Massachusetts General Hospital. As I sat in waiting rooms, the names of diseases spinning through my mind, I realized that I had little control over my future. ...
Composing a Life
Last month I received a letter that began, “Are you the Samuel Pickering that went to Sewanee twenty years ago?” I did not know how to answer the letter. A boy with my name once attended college at Sewanee, and although I knew him fairly well and think I liked him, that boy had long since disappeared. ...
Pod Malone was the worst stutterer in Smith County, Tennessee. One evening after a meeting of the Knights of Pythias, Dr. Sollows, who had just read about a new treatment for stutterers at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, met Pod outside Read’s drugstore. “Pod,” he said, “have you ever attended a clinic for stutterers?” ...
Part Five: Familial Essays
Faith of the Father
On weekdays Vickery’s Store was the center of life in the little Virginia town in which I spent summers and then Christmas and occasionally Easter vacations. The post office was in a corner of the store, and the train station was across the road. In the morning men gathered on Vickery’s porch and drank coffee while they waited for the train to Richmond. ...
A still life has always hung over the sideboard in my parents’ dining room. When I was small the painting frightened me, and I wouldn’t look at it. The varnish over the oils had aged and turning dark hid the fruits in a pall of shadows. Like creatures from a troubling, half-remembered dream, ...
“John,” the letter from the Dean began, “if you are going to jog during the day, two pm., 3/8/86, don’t do it where you will be seen (Route 195). It presents a very negative view of university to the public.” My friend John is a neat, orderly man. Although his running shirts usually have something like “Tony’s Pizza” ...
After the Daffodils
Not long after Samp Griggs moved to Carthage and opened an accountant’s office beside Read’s drugstore, he got a sty on his eye and went to Dr. Sollows. “Now Sollows,” he said after the sty had been lanced, “what sort of people live in this burg?” “You’ve just come here from Lebanon,” Dr. Sollows answered. ...
The Traveled World
The last Saturday in may Francis drove me to Hanover, New Hampshire, and we looked at Dartmouth College. Thirty years ago I taught at Dartmouth. Not much had changed. In the middle of the green, men and women in Bermuda shorts practiced fly-fishing. Students were blond, and if not six feet two or three inches tall, ...
Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2009
OCLC Number: 647856402
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