The tone but not the words

From the Sunday NYT Magazine, Nathaniel Rich’s “Jungleland: The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans Gives New Meaning to ‘Urban Growth’ “:

Not everyone in the neighborhood has been satisfied with the work of the Nuisance Lot Maintenance pilot program. A Mr. Harris, who declined to give his first name, stood on a viewing platform built on the flood wall at the edge of Bayou Bienvenue. He ate sunflower seeds while three friends, lifelong residents of the Lower Ninth, baited lines for drum and redfish. Harris gestured at a cleared lot near Florida Avenue, at the edge of which stood a pile of construction debris left behind by the crew.

“If we’re going to pay you money to do that, I want professional work,” he said. “Hire some real professionals. I don’t want it to look like that there.”

Harris spit out his sunflower shells in disgust. A luxury motor coach, filled with tourists behind tinted windows, trundled down Florida Street toward the Make It Right houses. Seventeen expletives have been edited out of the following paragraph:

“Every day 20 tour buses come down this street to look at this neighborhood and take pictures,” Harris said. “Don’t tell me they’re just touring the city. If you’re trying to tour the city, then you’re in the wrong neighborhood. They just ride around in the part that’s been devastated. Lower Ninth Ward ain’t receiving a single penny for that. Why can’t I get something? Why does the man driving the bus get all the money? I ain’t a guinea pig. I don’t want to be put under a microscope. We’re the ones that suffered down here, who lost everything. There are still dead people that they haven’t accounted for. It’s frustrating. It took almost seven years for the Ninth Ward to look like what it looks like now, and it still don’t look like [anything].”

Nice stroke in the writing: gets the tone of Davis’s spewing anger just right, without brooding on the specific expletives the man used. A kind of executive summary of cursing.


One Response to “The tone but not the words”

  1. More tone without the words « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] its program of taboo avoidance by indirection — see “The tone but not the words”, here — this time in Margalit Fox’s obituary for writer Harry Crews: To critics who taxed him […]

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