Juxtaposition: The Old Man and the Sea & The Young Man and the Hood
30 Sep 2013
I will sometimes find two very short pieces of writing, usually excerpts from longer works, that strike me as interesting if juxtaposed. Here's one that I call "The Old Man and the Sea & the Young Man and the Hood".
”… an old man fishing alone in a skiff out of Cabañas hooked a great marlin that, on the heavy sashcord hand-line, pulled the skiff out to the sea. Two days later the old man was picked up by fishermen sixty miles to the eastward, the head and forward part of the marlin lashed alongside. What was left of the fish, less than half, weighed eight hundred pounds. The old man had stayed with him a day, a night, a day and another night while the fish swam deep and pulled the boat. When he had come up the old man had pulled the boat up on him and harpooned him. Lashed alongside the sharks had hit him and the old man had fought them out alone in the Gulf Stream in a skiff, clubbing them, stabbing at them, lunging at them with an oar until he was exhausted and the sharks had eaten all that they could hold. He was crying in the boat when the fishermen picked him up, half crazy from his loss, and the sharks were still circling the boat." 
"I was kicking it in front of my house with some homies and stuff, and then a few of them were wearing red. And they thought we were claiming. They rolled by and passed once and came a second time. And we was fighting. And I was running by myself, and my brother went that way to the right. Then I came down this way to the left, and they caught me. And they just shanked me. They shanked me four in the stomach, one in the chest, and eight in the leg. They were like twenty-five years old. You don't feel nothing, but then after, I just blacked out and woke up at the hospital. My mom came, and I told her I was okay and blacked out." 
 Ernest Hemingway, excerpt from "On the Blue Water: A Gulf Stream Letter," published in Esquire magazine in 1936. This incident formed the plot of The Old Man and the Sea (1952). Charles Scribner Jr. said of this excerpt that it was, "clearly an almost perfect short short-story." Note: I changed "fisherman" in the second sentence to "fishermen" for grammatical correctness.
 Victor Rios, excerpt from "Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys" (2011). This quotation is a lightly edited version of a story told to Rios by "Spider."
Both stories are non-fiction, and both create powerful effects using just a handful of plain words. I'm not sure I can explain why reading the second one made me think immediately of the first, but it did and so here they are together.