Celebrating Colorful Language

whiskeytangofoxtrotI realize that I do not have the most focused blog in the world. Some people blog about nothing other than, say, capital punishment or new developments in whiskey. I write about psychology, behavioral economics, ethics, the doctor-patient relationship, health policy, political partisanship… a relatively wide range of things, but topics often linked by the connections I make between them and the weird way we humans make judgments and decisions. On occasion, however, I go even further afield to celebrate great writing. And I just finished reading a fun, new novel called Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, by David Shafer. And I felt compelled to share some tidbits to give you a flavor for his writing style.
For starters, he can’t help himself from commenting on the name of the country one of his characters is working in at the beginning of the novel:

“Myanmar, which sounded like a name cats would give their country .”

And then, for anyone who’s ever traveled to a country in Southeast Asia, there is his wonderful description of a ceiling fan:

“There was a ceiling fan in her two-room flat; it was on now. But it whorled and kerchonked around at such an unstable and idiotic rate that what it gave in breeze it took back in worry.”

Or this wonderful description of one of the characters in his book:

“He drove an old Saab. He read and read and read. It was like being a professor but with no students, which he understood from professor acquaintances was pretty much the way you wanted it. He had a wicker lampshade over his kitchen table; stalagmites of magazines and journals grew in his living room.”

His hilarious take on chemical ingestion gone bad:

“The one banana he’d eaten at seven a.m. fought bravely against the double whiskey, the two chardonnays, and the Xanax. Or what he’d thought was a Xanax. But when he didn’t fall into a dry-mouthed slumber, he’d realized that, in his stupid drunk, he had fished out the wrong pill—a Nuvigil—from the bottom of his Dopp kit, and he went into a kind of fugue, and his mind kept running, and he kept drinking (the Nuvigil in valiant neurochemical conflict with airplane whiskey) until the flight attendant cut him off, and then he and the ghoul driving his body deplaned together, and the turquoise carpet in the Portland airport nearly made him ill, and the beach-themed restaurant in the concourse had quit serving so his ghoul got them a taxi and got them to the hotel and there was a fridge in the room and more pills in Mark’s Dopp kit and then they went out together, his ghoul and he, Mark as blank as a bodhisattva, but also gross and reeling.”

And I leave you with one final thought, a simple little description which takes a third of the verbiage of my set up:

“He just lay there, half out of his sleeping bag, like a banana begun.”

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