The Unbearable Banishment: dear England: thank you for the language. we’ve made a few improvements.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

dear England: thank you for the language. we’ve made a few improvements.

Damon Runyon was an American fiction writer who wrote short stories about New York City in the 1920’s and 1930’s. His style of writing employs the New York City Wise Guy vernacular of that era. His street smart characters were the inspiration for the musical Guys and Dolls starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando.

Since we here in the U.S. are slipping into a new depression (Canada is laughing their asses off at us) the New York Times thought it might be interesting to revisit Runyon’s world, since the depression figured prominently in many of his stories.

I had not read any of Runyon’s stories in a long, long time and I forgot how beautiful and rich the language is. He’s Dashiell Hammett with a sense of humor. His prose drips with atmosphere. Do you know how if you hear a riff by Keith Richards or The Edge, you know instantly it’s them? After you read a few of Runyon’s tales, you’ll be able to identify him within three sentences. The Times printed several wonderful examples of Runyon's New York on the ropes. (A Runyonesque phrase if ever there was one!) Here’s my favorite:

There is very little scratch anywhere and along Broadway many citizens are wearing their last year’s clothes and have practically nothing to bet on the races or anything else, and it is a condition that will touch anybody’s heart.

He describes a winter day as being, …colder than a blonde’s heart. God, I wish I could write like that. He even looked the part:


Fun fact: Runyon was born in Manhattan. Manhattan, Kansas!

8 Comments:

OpenID daisyfae said...

so being born in Ohio will not condemn you to writing copy for the daily farm report on the local AM radio station!

March 1, 2009 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Rob said...

I didn't know who Damon Runyon was.

However, I do recall hearing the name. It was in this little ditty by Alice Cooper, called Department of Youth. Kind of a cute tune, really.

We're in trouble all the time
You read about us all in the papers
We walk around and bump into walls - a blind delegation
And we ain't afraid of high power
We're bullet proof
And we've never heard of Eisenhower
Missile power, justice or truth

We're the Department of Youth
Your new Department of Youth
We're the Department of Youth
Just me and youth

We talk about this whole stupid world
And still come out laughing
We never make any sense
But hell that never mattered
But we'll make it through our blackest hour
We're living proof
And we've never heard of Billy Sunday
Damon Runyon, manners or couth

We're the Department of Youth
Your new Department of Youth
We're the Department of Youth
Just me and youth

We're the Department of Youth
The new Department of Youth
We're the Department of Youth
We've got the power
We're the Department of Youth
And who gave it to you?
Donny Osmond!
What?!

March 1, 2009 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: Not always. But sometimes...

Rob: Department of Youth is from Alice Cooper's Muscle of Love, the album that caused me to bail out on him. He sang a duet with Liza Minelli that was suppose to be...I don't know...ironic or campy but it was simply awful.

March 1, 2009 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger sid said...

colder than a blonde's heart? That made me giggle.

March 2, 2009 at 5:57 AM  
OpenID popomaticjeff.com said...

I think there is a song in Guys & Dolls called "Runyonland". Unfortunately, I heard the new version of the show that opened last week isn't very good.

March 2, 2009 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger Sonny Amou said...

Of course you know that Runyon was a HUGE influence on William Kennedy, a mutual favorite author of ours. His "interview with a dead guy" passage from Very Old Bones (I think) is a direct homage to Runyon. I'll have to look for a copy of his short works out here.

Criminally forgotten writer. Good post, amigo.

SA

March 2, 2009 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Sid: I have first-hand experience with cold blonde hearts.

Jeff: Did you see the review in the Times this morning? You heard right. They panned it.

SA: One day the world will wake up to William Kennedy. Until then, it's up to us to keep the flame burning.

March 2, 2009 at 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Rob: Department of Youth is from Alice Cooper's Muscle of Love, the album that caused me to bail out on him. He sang a duet with Liza Minelli that was suppose to be...I don't know...ironic or campy but it was simply awful.


Nope. Welcome to my Nightmare

But that's okay. Although I still listen to Alice Cooper on occasion (*rare* occasion), he's mostly a memory from my own yout'.

March 3, 2009 at 2:50 PM  

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