I figured out why the Chinese respect their elders—’cause if they didn’t, they’d kill ’em. If you see an old person on their feet somewhere, get them a chair, ’cause they probably wanna sit down. I used to wonder why people could sit somewhere for long periods, doing nothing; now I know why, ’cause I began doing it myself. Just resting. In this country, we keep old people alive because of their ‘wait checks’: if they quit living, their social security checks are greatly reduced. I recall the story of the Chinese traffic jam caused by some guy threatening to jump off an overpass: some other guy got out of his car, walked up and pushed the guy over, just to get the traffic flowing again.
Russell finally removed the crazy youthful portrait of me from these articles, thereby freeing me to write about old people. Russell should publish his collection of party portraits, cause he’s got some doozies: Popper’s party portrait is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.
Lydia Davis is the best and the worst American Short Story writer of the last three decades. She’s an extremely talented and willful artist, matching great stories with history’s greatest, while her longer and shorter pieces are usually no good. “A Mown Lawn” and “Alvin the Typesetter” are two excellent pieces, among many.