January 31, 2005

What I couldn't help wondering, in Michelle O'Donnell's fantastic story about gold-leafer Jerry Pagane, is how he, deaf, focused, in a gilded world of his own, read the story. Did he like it? I mean, half of New York (well, one-eighth, given the Times circulation) fell in love with him today. But the writer's perception of him, physically and emotionally, felt so fine-tuned that it was intrusive, and then his foster father enters the story with only six paragraphs left:

"There was the day Mr. Simonds came home and heard from the bathroom the whirring of the electric clippers with which he gave all his sons crew cuts. Jerry, small and wiry, emerged with his ears, created with skin from his pubic area, covered in blood.

"Have hairy ears," Mr. Simonds remembered Jerry saying. "Other kids don't have hairy ears. Want to be like other kids.""

God, how brutal to read that about yourself in the morning paper, front-paging the Metro Section, even.

Posted by dbrown at January 31, 2005 07:16 PM

It's the idea of the foster father mimicking him, or at least immitating him, as he retells the ear epiphany.

Posted by: dbrown on February 1, 2005 12:13 AM

I've been down on the Times but that piece cheered me up. The article starts off seeming to be a description of goldworking but then shifts into being a lovely, objective portrait of an interesting man.
And then, finally, we get hit with the pathos you describe.

That same Metro section had a great photo of two latinos serving time upstate. They are posed in a hall of the prison with venetian blind shadows subtly striping them like a Harold Lloyd prison uniform. They are shown full length so we see their white Reebok prison sneakers. They are shot from far away; the distance emphasizes that they're unreachable.

[comment moved to the right post --db]

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