Photos of the Day: Smoking

Look, I am not an advocate of cigarette smoking, if such a person exists in today’s world.

I do not myself smoke cigarettes. I know that big corporations hid the truth for years, and many died for their malevolent subterfuge, maybe millions.

But I am a novelist, and my characters smoke. They smoke and they smoke and they smoke. Smoking is good for drama.

The excerpts below show the uses for smoking in literature. Smoking represents freedom; rebellion; sophistication; a youthful rite of passage; noirish danger. Or buffoonish ignorance. Cigarettes can mean anything.

As Steven S. Drachman notes in his short story, Smoking Girl, as government regulations drove smoking into the shadows, the shadow-dwellers found each other, poignantly. Or as Mark Laporta shows, a cigarette can be shorthand for a sort of idiotic, thuggish villainy. A cigarette sets the scene, almost any scene, perfectly. Smoking says it all.

In real life, smokers are unattractive. They smell bad. They have smoker’s face, yellow teeth. Even their hair, it’s smoker’s hair. But in photographs and and films, smoking is photogenic. Smoking looks good in movies and photos. The hand holding the match, cupped against the wind, as the tobacco ignites; the cigarette between two beauteous lips; a lovely face, engulfed in a cloud of smoke.

These excerpts and photographs are beautiful. It is deeply irresponsible to romanticize smoking. So here we go.

— Alon Preiss

I imagined that Willie, as I liked to call him, since his first name was Cyril, who wore bow ties and smoked dark, foreign cigarettes, was charmingly eccentric, urbane; a modern-day Noel Coward, but more educated.

Extraordinary Means, by Donna Levin

Cigarette me, Cossack!

Mae West, Goin’ to Town

[Eden] remembered waking up, as she had a few weeks ago, to find Roger asleep beside her, the television blaring white noise, a lit cigarette hanging between his fingers. She imagined what would have happened if she had not woken up, if the cigarette had dropped quietly onto the sheets and she and Roger had died in the fire, their skeletons wrapped together like Esmeralda and Quasimodo at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.… She stared through the window, shut her eyes and let the darkness wash over her, felt herself sink into it.

In Love With Alice, by Alon Preiss

Long about 11:30 that same morning, a dark figure skulked toward the Skudderton bus terminal, passing empty lots, stepping over broken concrete slabs — with the stub of a cigarette clinging to his lips…. “Work your ass off for a guy and he goes and clones you,” muttered Blade…. “He’s gonna hear about that,” Blade added, lighting up a cigarette. Cigarettes still made sense, even if he couldn’t remember why.

The Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek, by Mark Laporta

Daniel was smoking, and Susan was holding a lit cigarette between two fingers and taking a puff every once in a while, not inhaling, just looking strangely innocent and beautiful with a cigarette in her left hand, not really smoking, and talking about God.

A Flash of Blue Sky, by Alon Preiss

My fellow soldiers and I sat around in the camp smoking cigarette after cigarette and growing increasingly worried about being in the first wave of soldiers sent into Lebanon, as we had little doubt that Israeli troops would be heading north. We were clearly a second-line infantry unit consisting of older men, not the kind of soldiers that the army brass would want to send into battle. But we understood that we had one advantage for the army: we were already in uniform.

Figs and Alligators, by Aaron Leibel

“You understand what I’m sayin’, don’t you, Mrs. Wolensky?” He released her arm and took out a pack of cigarettes, tapped the pack on his hand and slowly pulled one out with his mouth. He offered her the pack with a questioning look. He shrugged when she didn’t respond and put away the pack. Then he pulled out a lighter and thumbed a flame to life…. He lit his cigarette, inhaled deeply and slowly blew smoke toward the stroller. After a few moments, he stood up, tugged at his jacket and turned to stare down at her. “You don’t wanna see me again, now do ya’, Mrs. Wolensky?”

“Oh, please, I don’t want any trouble.”

“Then we ain’t gonna have any. S’long as you understand you made a mistake.” ….

Hawkins turned and walked slowly away, trailing smoke.

The Inevitable Witness, by Ed Rucker

Charlotte shed her nightgown and dressed in a shirtwaist and skirt…. Later she would dress her hair in a chignon, how she had worn it for years, despite the changing styles. First, however, she would smoke a cigarette, a less-than-genteel habit for women, but a freedom, Charlotte swore, more important than the vote.… She rolled a cigarette, licking its thin edge, and then lighted it with a match scratched on the sole of her shoe. She inhaled, feeling guilty, because she knew she must quit … but in her guilt, she also felt at home. She exhaled and watched the plume of shame rise toward the ceiling.

Bloomsbury’s Late Rose, by Pen Pearson

Sergio sat across the table from her, and Carly was holding both his hands, playing idly with his fingers. He had a carefully maintained two-day growth of beard, long hair, and a flatteringly and expensively casual wardrobe. His faux-Communist cigarette hung from his lower lip at an impossible cockeyed angle.

In Love With Alice, by Alon Preiss

I am watching Westworld while smoking a cigarette. This is a phase of my life.

Kalyee Srithnam

“We are not monsters,” [he] said at the opening press conference. He was so tiny in this huge room, miles below its towering ceiling with intricate gold leaf. He lit a cigarette. The room was already filled with smoke. Then, to emphasize his point, he repeated himself. “We are not monsters.” He looked angry. The Western reporters began scribbling, and his eyebrows knit crossly. “I know what you will do,” he said. “You will all lead your story in the same way. ‘We are not monsters, said the little man with the cigarette.’ The implication will be ironic.” ….. He took a deep drag on his cigarette, held it in his lungs for just a moment, then blew it out rebelliously.

A Flash of Blue Sky, by Alon Preiss

“Standing here, in the street, in this light rain,” she said, and then she stopped and took a long drag on her cigarette. It was almost done, her cigarette, but she didn’t flick it into the puddle just yet, she stared at it, the little glow in the dimness. “Standing here like this, in the rainy night,” she continued, “it reminds me of one rainy night in the forest, when I was little, behind my house, hundreds of miles away from here. Maybe thousands, I don’t know.”

Smoking Girl, by Steven S. Drachman

I know I don’t smoke. I don’t inhale because it gives you cancer, but I look so incredibly handsome with a cigarette that I can’t not hold one.

Woody Allen, Annie Hall

Jimmy took the hand rolled cigarette, and Rhoda produced a book of matches and lit it. He puffed the smoke tentatively. “You can inhale it,” she told him. Jimmy tried and coughed violently. Rhoda grabbed the cigarette and handed him a glass of water. She took a drag and exhaled the smoke. “Don’t take in so much till you get used to it.” She handed the cigarette back to Jimmy. He took another puff and managed it better the second time. Then Rhoda rolled one for herself, and they sat there, smoking contentedly, and gazing out across the fallow field at the pine woods on the other side.

The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe, by Granville Wyche Burgess

Irina threw her carpet bag into the middle of the living room floor underneath his big TV. She sat down on the floor, and she lit a cigarette. “I will never feel guilty about this,” she said. “Smoking. I will never apologize.” The room filled with smoke. “Just so you know.” The room looked better filled with smoke.

A Flash of Blue Sky, by Alon Preiss

One of the SEALs noticed a lone Iranian soldier standing there smoking a cigarette, for the moment oblivious to the carnage around him. The SEAL adjusted his aim slightly upward and deftly beheaded the man from more than a hundred yards away. “That’s for more than twenty years of Jihadist bullshit, asshole,” mumbled the SEAL….

The Tenth Plague, by Alan N. Levy


Photos and Art from Pexels and Pixabay, and by Petar Stacevic, Cottonbro, Max Knoxville, Roman Odintsov, Oleg Magni, Masha Raymers, Kam Pratt, Merlin Light Painting, Megan Forbes, Dishan Lathiya, Ukeiri, the Digital Artist, Jessica Nunes, John Mor, Brett Sayles, Steven S. Drachman, Kalyee Srithnam, Kool Shooters, Amir Hashemi, Thais Silva and Hiew Nguyen Trong.