“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

excerpt three

I'm running behind on everything. I meant to put this excerpt up this Sunday, but indignatio gnawed at my bones: this happens when I read the Sunday NYT.

Anyway, here's the next excerpt from my novel in progress:

Jealous God – Chapter 8

Pike Sterling -- a square jaw, a broad brow, pepper and salt hair at forty – the man was prematurely graying. But his evenly tan skin was robust, was youthful, he bounced along, he always walked down polished halls swiftly, the corridors of power where the colored janitors are keeping the tiles clean or the dusty little passages to the records rooms of old creaky courthouses, he was always proud of his energy, he always kept a watch on his waistline, and he was proud, too, that he wasn’t just finicky about eating, he could eat, his intake of grease in a week, of fries, burgers, when he was on the road, steaks, potatoes, butter, he preferred nice things but he could eat with both the high and the low and had to in his job, but the thing is he didn’t put those calories and fats into sitting for hours on a barstool, slouching in the recliner before the boob tube at home. He was outside, or he was on the dance floor, or he was playing a game of touch football with his pals, he organized that, on crisp autumn Sundays in the park, past his twenties, in his mid thirties, or he was encouraging his little girl, his princess, to keep her kite in the air, or he had on a hard hat and he was striding purposefully towards an oil derrick in a field in Manitoba, the engineer next to him having to keep up, reciting a stream of facts and figures. And he had a horror of sloppiness, of slouching, of bad grooming habits. When he came home he might slip into his nice leather slippers, sometimes he’d walk around in his terrycloth bathrobe, but at the table he’d still be wearing his tie.

If Pike took a lot of trips, if Charlotte and Sunny and Hutch, kindergarten age, ate their dinners on trays in front of the tv, Charlotte looking at Dragnet through the amber fluid in her glass, first of two highballs for the night, well he had to rise in the world, he had to work hard, it was dog eat dog, he had to keep a sharp eye out for his company. He didn’t find opportunities, they found him. And you knew he was organizing something, teasing someone, looking unruffled and like he already knew, the broad brow and straight eyes and the smile that would creep up at the corners of his mouth, the amusement he took in life’s rich pageant in the eyes that could just gaze so coolly and in those blue depths who knew what you looked like, how you appeared? If you were a woman, you knew that you wanted to look your best down there, in that blue light. They were like putty in his hands, even the old biddies at court houses guarding old plats that he had to look up sometimes. And it was known that he’d call, that he’d tell Charlotte, baby, how the ignorance he dealt with made you wonder, how the bullshit you had to listen to sometimes made you feel like socking somebody in the jaw, how the weather was in Tacoma or Billings or Dallas. How he was hot for his hottie, was she hot for him, was she wet? These things were so known, the energy, the family, the love, the rising through the ranks at his company that you could take them to the bank. The houses got bigger, Sunny and Hutch went from kindergarten to private day schools, Pike and Charlotte spent fifteen thousand in 1965 on golf and club memberships.

Joan Malcolm picked up a copy of “Hutch’s Progress: a Texas lawman rediscovers the religious foundations of our Republic” from a display table dedicated to Holly and Hutch Sterling in a Houston Borders. It was a busy weekend as the crowd flowed up and down a mall that Joan remembered being much more novel in 1976, when it had gone up with two anchor stores that were parts of a chain long bankrupt. Joan had come in to look at the Holly’s Folly – it was Holly Sterling’s first store. After she had talked to the manager and found that she had only been there a year – she had nourished the wish that, by some offchance, she would stumble upon some platinum blonde veteran from Holly’s golden era straightening the French maid undies -- she had drifted past the food court and the fountain and the running kids and the noise from the arcade and come upon the two story book store and wandered in. It surprised Joan how many different Sterling books there already were – not only Hutch’s rediscovery of the religious foundations of the Republic, but an unauthorized account of the rise of Holly’s Folly, an 200 page pasquinade, “The Many Births of Hutch Sterling,” by Honey Babo, a liberal writer for a Dallas newspaper, and a new book consisting mostly of photos of Holly with a sensationalized, typo ridden account of her life tucked into the spaces on the page that the pictures left blank. Joan had met Babo – referred to by Hutch’s supporters, inevitably, as ‘Baboon” – at various literary and political events, knowing her enough to call her Honey when she sat next to her at a dinner. Knowing her enough to recognize the strong traces of the two packs a day that Honey had not been smoking now for ten iron willed years in the spasms of painful coughing that would rack her after she laughed. Honey had a huge, inclusive laugh, and she liked to use it. Honey called Joan “dear”, which is how she dealt with not remembering Joan’s name. Joan put Hutch’s book in her purse and walked out of the store without paying for it.


Patrick J. Mullins said...

'It was a busy weekend as the crowd flowed up and down a mall that Joan remembered being much more novel in 1976, when it had gone up with two anchor stores that were parts of a chain long bankrupt.'

Really, really nice.

And I think somehow your long-winded nature finds its true voice more in the long sentence, and, to my surprise, captures what is usually found in the shorter and choppier kinds of sentence. I thought these long sentences throughout this excerpt had a lot more character than the previous segments (not that I have any reason to think you want to use them all the time, since I can't know that; also, it's been several weeks, so my perceptions may have undergone severe alterations.)

roger said...

Patrick, you are right, man -- the sentences built by Miller, Mailer and Bellows, full of money, dick, cunt and Christmas ornaments, are much more my style than the sentences built by Hemingway, each one a reliable box with a reliable present inside. It is all a difference in wind. On the other hand, I try to resist my natural inclination, because it gets to be too much of the same thing.