Take an old cold tater and wait

3 notes

"Paint me a small railroad station then, ten minutes before dark. Beyond the platform are the waters of the Wekonsett River, reflecting a somber afterglow. The architecture of the station is oddly informal, gloomy but unserious, and mostly resembles a pergola, cottage or summer hour although this is climate of harsh winters. The lamps along the platform burn with a nearly palpable plaintiveness. The setting seems in some way to be at the heart of the matter. We travel by plane, oftener than not, and yet the spirit of our country seems to have remained a country of railroads. You wake in a pullman bedroom at three a.m. in a city the name of which you do not know and may never discover. A man stands on the platform with a child on his shoulders. They are waving goodbye to some traveler, but what is the child doing up so late and why is the man crying? On a siding beside the platform there is a lighted dining car where a waiter sits alone at a table, adding up his accounts. Beyond this is a water tower and beyond this a well-lighted and empty street. Then you think happily that this is your country - unique, mysterious and vast. One has no such feelings in airplanes, airports and the trains of other nations."

— The first paragraph of Bullet Park by John Cheever (Alfred A. Knopf, 1969); in the opinion of this old chunk of coal, one of the greatest openings to a book ever.


Filed under John Cheever Bullet Park words books books books Alfred A. Knopf 1969 trains America