Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Quote of the Day (Donna Tartt, on Being a Freshman Cheerleader in Mississippi in 1984)

“The gymnasiums were high-ceilinged, barnlike, drafty, usually in the middle of some desolate field. We were always freezing in our skimpy plaid skirts, our legs all goose pimples as we clapped and stamped on the yellowed wooden floor. At halftime there were the detested stances, out in the middle of the court, which involved perilous leaps, and complex timing, and—more likely than not—tears and remonstrations in the changing rooms. As soon as they were over and the buzzer went off for the third quarter, the younger girls rushed in a greedy flock to the snack bar for Cokes and french fries, Hershey bars, scattering to devour them in privacy while Cindy and her crew slunk out to the parking lot to rendezvous with their boyfriends. We were all of us, all the time, constantly sick—coughing, blowing our noses, faces flushed with fever: symptoms that were exacerbated by bad food, cramped conditions, exhaustion, and yelling ourselves hoarse every night. Hoarseness was, in fact, a matter of pride: we were accused of shirking if our Voices Weren't Cracked by the end of the evening, the state to which we aspired being a rasping, laryngitic croak. I remember the only time the basketball coach—a gigantic, stone-faced, terrifying man who was also the principal of the school and who, to my way of thinking, held powers virtually of life or death (there were stories of his punching kids out, beating them till they had bruises, stories that perhaps were not apocryphal in a private school like my own, which prided itself on what it called ‘old-fashioned discipline’ and where corporal punishment was a matter of routine); the only time this coach ever spoke to me was to compliment me on my burned-out voice, which he overheard in the hall the morning after a game. ‘Good job,’ he said. My companions and I were dumbfounded with terror. After he was gone they stared at me with awestruck apprehension and then, one by one, drifted gently away, not wishing to be seen in the company of anyone who had attracted the attention—even momentarily—of this dangerous lunatic.”—Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Donna Tartt, on life as a freshman cheerleader in Mississippi in 1984, in “Basketball Season,” Harper’s, April 1994

(This photo of Donna Tartt was taken Oct. 21, 2015 by Antonio Monda.)

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