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Issue 61 - Short and sweet

Whisky Magazine Issue 61
January 2007


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Short and sweet

Jefferson Chase looks at a career defining moment

Zz Packer is an African-American woman whose career took off in 2000 when, as a virtual unknown, she landed her story in no less than New Yorker magazine.

“Opportunities,”my father says after I bail him out of jail.

How's that for a cracker of an opening sentence? It's from a short story entitled The Ant of the Self by the writer with the unlikely name.

If the moniker makes you think guys with long beards singing about raisin' hell in Texas, you're way off base.

She deserved the success. The Ant of the Self takes the all-too-familiar plot of a thoughtful teenager's attempt to bond with an estranged parent and gives it marvellously absurd spin.

When most people talk about investing, they mean stocks or bonds or mutual funds. What my father means is his friend Splo's cockfighting arena, or some dude who goes door to door selling exercise equipment that does all the exercise for you. He'd invested in a woman who tried selling African cichlids to pet shops, but all she'd done was dye ordinary goldfish so that they looked tropical. “Didn't you just win some cash?” he asks. “From debate?” “Bail,” I say. “I used it to pay your bail.” Packer's work is serious without being earnest, picturesque but not verbose – most important, it's consistently funny.

Not content with just being given a ride home, the father – Ray Bivens Jr. – makes his son take him from Kentucky to Washington, DC to attend the Million Man March.

Much to the narrator's chagrin, the tr...

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