Friday, February 16, 2007

long brush, stories, white among grey

A window cleaning firm has an intriguing extending arm, which reaches windows 45 ft above ground level. I pass one today in operation. Attached to the light, extending arm is a hose. This feeds a brush similar to those used for washing cars. The combination of arm, hose and brush must be exceptionally light, because one man can operate it, fully, extended without apparent difficulty.

A year or so ago I bought a paperback from the Oxfam Bookshop called True Tales of American Life. I forgot about it until today, and now I cannot put it down. It is based on something called the National Story Project, in which members of the public were invited to submit true stories about themselves. The stories were read on a radio show called Weekend All Things Considered. The book is a collection of the stories edited and introduced by the novelist Paul Auster, who was involved in selecting them for the programme and reading them on air. The stories are short, on average about 500 words, some even shorter. They have been edited skilfully so as to leave a taste of their original language, but, as they are presented by a man who is a brilliant stylist, they flow like a clear stream. In fact you forget the form and are drawn immediately into the humour, sadness and joy of the narratives. They are written by people of all ages and from all walks of life. They seem to me to say more about American life than a roomful of sociologists, economists or historians.

As you walk down the steep roads, which lead to the High Street, you often see flocks of pigeons wheeling against the tree-clad slopes of the Common opposite you. Today, I spot a white pigeon in the middle of a flock of grey ones, glinting against the mass of bare branches.

1 comment:

Lucas said...

I also have True Tales of American Life and am really interested to read your review of it. We got it from Oxfam in Brighton to read on holiday. Now that I've read your review I'm going back to it.