The first person I met at the Bar & Chill was a bald guy in a black T-shirt, black drawstring shorts, and flip-flops, with a Harley-Davidson tattoo on his right arm and a claddagh ring on his left hand.
He was drinking and laughing with a few friends. He gestured to the empty stool next to him and said, “We don’t bite.”I offered an expression of if-you-insist, and he said, “Bring it.”
His tone was cheerful, as you might expect at the Bar & Chill, the principal drinking-and-dining establishment that looks out on the town center of Latitude Margaritaville, an active-living community for Jimmy Buffett enthusiasts, aged “55 and better,” in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The Bar & Chill was open to the evening. A gentle breeze fanned the lanai. On a flat-screen, the Providence Friars led the Vermont Catamounts by a few buckets. A bartender brought a Perfect Margarita in a plastic cup.
The Grolier Club, a private society for bibliophiles on the Upper East Side, with its marble foyer and dark wood-panelled gallery, would be a fine stage for a nineteenth-century fictional murder, perhaps done in the library with a candlestick, most certainly involving a will.
On January 12th, an exhibit called “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects” opened there. It features a proper Baker Street-number of items from the collection of Glen S. Miranker, a former executive at Apple, who has been buying all manner of things Holmesian since 1977.
There are a number of Arthur Conan Doyle’s letters; an “idea book” in which he jotted notes for possible future stories; and a never-before-displayed speech, written by hand, in which Conan Doyle talks about why he killed off Holmes. There are also handwritten manuscript pages and a pirated copy of “The Sign of the Four,” which Conan Doyle apparently signed, despite loathing the pirating practice.
There is a cheap way of invoking the American South—common to country songs and television shows and pulpy novels—that involves setting the scene with cornfields or battlefields and setting the table with gravy and grits.
You know that you’re in the midst of it when an otherwise deracinated character drops his final “G”s and says something about livin’ high on the hog or complains about how it’s colder outside than a witch’s tit.
But it takes more than kudzu or a Mason jar to make a work of Southern fiction. A real sense of place requires something else—more verb than noun, not a thing but a way of being.
Pressed inside an old book of mine is a gray sheet of paper, folded in uneven quarters, titled “Dune Terminology.” On it, there are thirty-seven words and phrases, including a baffling array of place names (Giedi Prime, pronounced “Gee-dee”), machinery (ornithopter, a “small aircraft capable of sustained wing-beat flight in the manner of birds”), and rituals (kanly, a “formal feud or vendetta under the rules of the Great Convention”).
Moviegoers with tickets to David Lynch’s “Dune,” which premièred December 14, 1984—I saw it on opening weekend at a mall, in suburban Buffalo—would have picked up the glossary from a stack as they entered the theatre, though the guide was unreadable in the dark, and it contained more than a few spoilers. To the novice, it must have looked like homework. It must have looked like no fun at all.