Very Good Paragraphs

From Peter Hessler’s bit on a small-town druggist in the 26 September 2011 New Yorker:

In his will, [former customer] Mr. Brick left more than half a million dollars in cash and stock to the local druggist[, Don]. After taxes and other expenses, it came to more than three hundred thousand dollars, which was almost exactly what the community owed Don Colcord [for drugs and other services rendered]. But Don didn’t seem to connect these events. He talked about all three subjects—neglecting his dying brother, offering credit to the townspeople, and helping Mr. Brick and receiving his gift—in different conversations that spanned more than a year. He probably never would have mentioned the money that was owed to him, but somebody in Nucla told me and I asked about it. From my perspective, it was tempting to apply a moral calculus, until everything added up to a neat story about redemption and reward in a former utopian community. But Don’s experiences seemed to have taught him that there is something solitary and unknowable about every human life. He saw connections of a different sort: these people and incidents were more like the spokes of a wheel. They didn’t touch directly, but each was linked to something bigger, and Don’s role was to try to keep the whole thing moving the best he could.

This, in a piece where the author’s self is kept chiefly out of the action. Some of the best NF writing on NF I’ve seen in a long while.

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