pityitspithy

Depth in the Shallows

Month: July, 2017

True Grit

Made In Detroit

The Fiction Of Elmore Leonard

Leonard, a native of the South who ultimately spent his formative and adult years in the Detroit area, is well-known for capturing the dialogue and conversational oddities of a given place. This is true in his Westerns and crime novels, such as The Moonshine War, set almost entirely in other regions. But it was Detroit, writing in and about, that he was at his best. Reading his books, feels like eavesdropping on a conversation at the Lafayette Coney Island. He was known for spending hours at the courthouse in Detroit picking up language and story ideas. Leonard exceeded the inspiration and parroting dialogue he gathered as an observer. His characters have soul, and it makes even the ugliest sympathetic. In the quote below, a piece he wrote for the Chicago Tribune back in the 80’s, Leonard gets to the heart of Detroit, and to the people that are the heart of the city.

“There are cities that get by on their good looks, offer climate and scenery, views of mountains or oceans, rockbound or with palm trees; and there are cities like Detroit that have to work for a living, whose reason for being might be geographical but whose growth is based on industry, jobs.”

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The Prince of Planes

A Flight Of Fancy

Flight to Arras by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Saint-Exupéry, throughout his short life, was many things. But he is best remembered as a writer and a pilot. In the early days of commercial flight, he flew routes in Africa and South America. During an international race in 1935, he and his navigator crashed in the Libyan desert and nearly died. They were saved only when a Bedouin on a camel discovered them and rendered aid. This experience is memorialized in Saint-Exupéry’s book, Wind, Sand, and Stars. He also fictionalizes a bit of the experience in his best known work The Little Prince. In Flight to Arras, Saint-Exupéry tells of a terrifying mission over France following the German invasion during WWII. So much of what he wrote is poetic, and yet, it is rooted in harsh realities. It is as if we see the fragile beauty of life best when death lurks in the background. Saint-Exupery went missing on a reconnaissance mission over France in 1944 and was never heard from again.

“No single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born. It would be a bit too easy if we could go about borrowing ready-made souls.”

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