While I’ll recommend the work of a rascal if that rascal’s work is great enough, there are enough brilliant and kind writers out there that I’ve rarely had to resort to that. How do I know if they’re kind? The same way you find out if anyone is kind – you google them, show a picture of them to your neighbor’s hounds, and then carefully observe the hounds’ reactions. With this month’s recommendation, I needn’t confirm the internet’s verdict with a hound test. Arthur Bradford’s gentlemanly nature shows in the big-hearted way he renders his characters and because the good sir is dedicated to helping people. In addition to some film work and two incredible collections of short stories, he’s worked at the Texas School for the Blind, been a co-director for Camp Jabberwocky (a camp for people with disabilities), and he’s currently working in a juvenile detention center. He’s not your typical literary superstar who spends all his time eating figs, drinking brandy and bidding for antique typewriters on eBay.
Bradford writes without the sort of fanciful verbiage, flowery descriptions and unnecessary addenda that this immaculately groomed (wearing the casual cummerbund, because it’s Friday) gentleman so vigorously gravitates toward. His sentences are direct, and they’re hilarious. His characters make mistakes, sometimes constantly, but they’re not trying to hurt anyone, and they’re often trying to help someone.
“Turtleface and Beyond” is his most recent collection of short stories, and it’s awesome. The titular Turtleface is an unfortunate young man who, after drunkenly deciding to dive from a cliff to impress his canoeing companions, dives face first into a turtle. Both he and the turtle are in bad shape, but Georgie (the soft-hearted narrator of the entire collection) decides to slap some duct tape on the turtle and nurse it back to health.
There’s a story about an under-dressed man travelling with friend to a wedding. They find a man ailing at the side of the road. He’s been bitten by a snake. He convinces Georgie to suck the poison from his leg. George reluctantly attempts it and ruins an outfit that was already insufficiently formal. There’s one where a reluctant Georgie is cajoled into assisting a boss’s decline into total depravity. There’s one called “The LSD and the Baby.”
When “The Gentleman Recommends” blog post series was first conceived, my primary intent was to highlight books that I like, but I also wanted to further the agenda of the gentleman. That agenda: constant politeness, regular charity, enough hat-tipping/doffing to cause calluses on the fingers you use to tip/doff your hat, always bowing when introduced to someone or when someone you know does something worthy of a bow, and regular snack breaks. I didn’t know that what I really wanted was to recommend a writer who had written a story called “The LSD and the Baby.”