Why is it great? This essay has a more famous line, which is being quoted a lot these days: “Then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble.” Yes, that one is great too. (Especially the use of repetition and the screech of brakes in the rhythm of those last words, “bad trouble.”) But I love this one because it conveys the same dread, the same nerves-on-a-knife’s-edge feeling, without being preachy. The coyotes are restlessly waiting for the scent of blood. The jukebox is playing a song whose ominous-sounding title contrasts with its too-jaunty pop.  The transplanted Midwesterners (waiting to die in the sun) are holding a “prayer sing” at the Faith Community Church. And snaking through it all is the desert, with all its spaces that are terrifyingly open, but at the same time closing in.

Most popular articles from Nieman Storyboard

Show comments / Leave a comment