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"...the yellow fingers from the coffin nails they smoked..."

It is always worth itemising happiness, there is so much of the other thing in a life, you had better put down the markers for happiness while you can. When I was in that state, everything looked beautiful to me, the rain slicing down looked silver to me, everything was of interest to me, everyone seemed at ease with me, even those slit-eyed cornerboys of Sligo, with the yellow fingers from the coffin nails they smoked, the yellow stain above their lips where the fag was stuck in permanent. Accents like bottles being smashed in a back lane.
- Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture

I like the repetition here - those three phrases that end in "to me", with the next phrase ending in "with me", which subtly transitions from the interiority of the three phrases to an observation of the broader world outside. And I love the "cornerboys" description. I've been kicking around a Joliet story in my head for the past several years (surprisingly, I've never written a story set in Joliet, despite living there for eleven years now) that involves young bums just like that, and Barry's imagery is something I will certainly be borrowing from.

March 30, 2011 in Books | Permalink

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