This vivid, funny, terrific sentence could have been drawn from Lewis Carroll, but it’s from the middle of a deadline story on the frustrations of two “peace commissions” that were unable to keep the peace in Vietnam.  The observer is a Polish Army colonel assigned to one of the commissions. He was drinking lukewarm coconut milk at the bar of a down-at-the-heels hotel — the Grand Hotel — in My Tho, Vietnam.  In 30 words, it conveys tropical boredom, lazy flirtation and timeless absurdity. It’s stuck with me for decades (though I had to look up the exact wording) and it still works.  And it’s only enhanced in the next graf by the colonel’s deadpan  candor:  “‘Our work is stopped,’ Col. Wiernokowski said, conceding when asked that it had not yet begun.”

Most popular articles from Nieman Storyboard

Show comments / Leave a comment