In my imagination (I never met him), Fussell had always been what an English professor should be: erudite, frank, worldly, unworldly, acerbic: library and cosmopolis unto himself. When, out of the blue, I was asked to adjunct a nonfiction writing class at Penn, I said yes, even though, as the crow flies, the gig made absolutely no sense. Every week I headed down to Philly on Amtrak, and every week I faced down the same revelation: that instead of the runnels of blood-strewn ditches, my prose is filled with pita chips, iced coffee, Facebook, and procrastination. Nonetheless, we front our losses as they come. I taught my class as honestly as I knew how; I loved my students; and every week, autumn falling over West Philly, I threw the black bag back over my shoulder, still blessedly heavier than itself, and the sum of its contents.
He would sit--at a typewriter, and he had all these pocket notebooks, and the pocket notebooks would be open at his left- hand side on the typing table--and he'd be typing. He could type faster than any human being you ever saw. The most noise that you heard while he was typing was the carriage return, slamming back again and again. The little bell would bing-bang, bing- bang, bing-bang! Just incredibly fast, faster than a teletype. And he'd laugh and say, Look at this! And he'd type and he'd laugh. Then he'd make a mistake, and this would lead him off into a possible part of a new paragraph, into a funny riff of some kind that he'd add while he was in the process of copying. Then, maybe he'd turn a page of the notebook and he'd look at that page and realize it was no good and he'd X it out, or maybe part of that page. And then he'd type a little bit and turn another page, and type the whole thing, and another page, and he'd type from that. And then something would-again, he would exclaim and laugh and carry on and have a big time doing it.
Lou Little explaining to the newsreel audience how this football player went mad & shows how on a Columbia Practice Hillside it started with father & son, the gray reaches of the Eternity Library beyond-I go visit my sweet Alene in her subterranean pad near the 3rd Avenue El & Henry St of old Mike Mike milkcan Lower Eastside Dreams & pink murders & there she wont ope the door because I cant get the job I tried so hard to get & the woman said my form wasn't right but Neal made it but regretfully it is he's shipping out & I'm on the ship with him telling him "If you wash dishes dont say a word, if you're a yeoman do yr work all well"--I can see he hates to go without me to this other Grayshore--Sitting before my stove on a cold gray Saturday morning with my coffee & my pine, eating jello- remembering the little jello cartoon that filled me with such joy as a kid on Sarah Avenue, the little prince wouldn't take pheasant or delicate birds or celestial puddings or even Mominuan icecream but when the little bird brought his jello inverted in a rill mold cup he went wild & saved the kingdom, red jello like mine, in the little dear lovable pages--of long ago--My form is delight delight delight
Ring, ring ring-
Shh, the sky is empty-
Shh, the earth is empty-
Look out, look in, shh-
The essence of jello is the essence of arrangement-
Be nice to the monster crab, it's only another
arrangement of that which you are