Denis Johnson

When we catch sight of one of those birds balanced and steering on the currents, its five-pound body effortlessly carried by the six-foot span of its wings and therefore not quite constituting a material fact, the earthbound soul forgets itself and follows after, suddenly airborne, but when they’re down here with the rest of us, desecrating a corpse, brandishing their wings like the overlong arms of chimpanzees, bouncing on the dead thing, tearing at it, their nude red heads looking imbecilically minuscule and also, to a degree, obscene–isn’t it sad?

–from “Triumph Over the Grave” by Denis Johnson

Paul Beatty

And here, in the Supreme Court of the United States of America, fuck if between the handcuffs and the slipperiness of this chair’s leather upholstery, the only way I can keep from spilling my ass ignominiously onto the goddamn floor is to lean back until I’m reclined at an angle just short of detention-room nonchalance, but definitely well past courtroom contempt.

–from The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Jonathan Lethem

Mothers calling kids inside, the bus lit inside now, fat ladies coming home from offices at the Board of Education, on Livingston Street, their weary shapes like black teeth inside the glowing mouth of the bus, the light fading, street lights buzzing as they lit, their arched poles decorated with boomeranged-up sneakers, and Mingus Rude saying, one dying afternoon, eyes never ungluing from a panel in Marvel’s Greatest Comics in which Mr. Fantastic had balled himself into an orb the size of a baseball in order to be shot from a bazooka into the vulnerable mouth of an otherwise impervious fifty-foot-tall robot named Tomazooma, the Living Totem, “Your moms is still gone?”

–Jonathan Lethem, “View from a Headlock”