Tuesday, April 22, 2014

the last book I ever read (Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, excerpt four)

from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:

As a child and an adult, Akhmed had been captivated by stories of Khassan’s sixteen-year odyssey. To a man who had never even been to Grozny, Khassan’s travels rose to the realm of legend. In 1941, the Red Army gave him five bullets and an order to find a gun among the dead. With a rifle pried from frozen fingers in Stalingrad, he shot a path through Ukraine, Poland, and Germany. He pulled two bullets from his left thigh, lost three friends to hypothermia, killed twenty-seven Nazis by bullet, four by knife, three by hand, fought under five generals, liberated two concentration camps, heard the voices of innumerable angels in the ringing of an exploded mortar, and took a sh*t in one Reichstag commode, a moment that would forever commemorate the war’s victorious conclusion. After his years of service he returned to a Chechnya without Chechens. While he had fought and killed and sh*t for the U.S.S.R., the entire Chechen population had been deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia under Stalin’s accusations of ethnic collaboration with the fascist enemy. His commanding officer, a man whose life Khassan had twice saved, was to spend the next thirty-eight years working as a train porter in Liski, where the sight of train rails skewering the sun to the horizon served as a daily reminder of the disgraceful morning he shipped Khassan, the single greatest soldier he’d ever had the pleasure of spitting orders at, to Kazakhstan on a train packed with Russian physicians, German POWs, Polish Home Army soldiers, and Jews. Khassan’s parents hadn’t survived the resettlement, and in 1956, when—after the death of Stalin three years earlier—Khruschev allowed Chechen repatriation, Khassan disinterred their remains and carried them home in their brown suitcase.



Monday, April 21, 2014

the last book I ever read (Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, excerpt three)

from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:

Dark plumes drifted from distant smokestacks, a chain of wind-rounded mountains, the taste of post-Soviet air like a dirty rag in her mouth. When they reached the bus terminal, she waited until her roller suitcase was safely on the ground before paying the driver. The Samsonite, a final gift from Brendan, might as well have been a neon-lit billboard advertising her foreignness as she rolled it past the imperial-era steamer trunks of other travelers. The nationalized bus line no longer ran routes into Chechnya, but after she had waited for an hour in a three-person line, a clerk directed her to a kiosk that sold lesbian porn, Ukrainian cigarettes, Air Supply cassettes, and tickets on a privately owned bus that made a weekly journey from North Ossetia to Chechnya. The next departure wasn’t until the following morning. Though tired from travel, she knew she wouldn’t sleep. She sat through the night on a wooden bench with one of her shoelaces tied around the suitcase handle to discourage gypsy children from rolling off with it.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

the last book I ever read (Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, excerpt two)

from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:

“You’re the nurse,” Akhmed said, curtly. “We met earlier.”

“He speaks out of turn, without being addressed,” Deshi observed.

“I just want to say hello.”

“He continues to speak without being spoken to. And he has an ugly nose.”

“I’m standing right here,” Akhmed said, frowning.



Saturday, April 19, 2014

the last book I ever read (Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, excerpt one)

from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:

“Are you a bearded one?” she asked.

He reached for his whiskers in embarrassment. “No, no. Absolutely not. I just haven’t shaved recently.”

“What do you want?”

He nodded to the girl. She wore an orange scarf, an oversized pink coat, and a sweatshirt advertising Manchester United, likely, Sonja imagined, from the glut of Manchester apparel that had flooded clothing-drive donations after Beckham was traded to Madrid. She had the pale, waxen skin of an unripe pear. When Sonja approached, the girl had raised the lid of the suitcase, slipped her hand inside, and held an object hidden from Sonja’s view.



Friday, April 18, 2014

the last book I ever read (Post Office by Charles Bukowski, excerpt eight)

from Post Office: A Novel by Charles Bukowski:

“May I ask you why you are resigning? Is it because of disciplinary procedures against you?”

“No.”

“Then what is the reason for your resignation?”

“To pursue a career.”

“To pursue a career?”

He looked at me. I was less than eight months from my 50th birthday. I knew what he was thinking.

“May I ask you what your ‘career’ will be?”

“Well, sir, I’ll tell you. The trapping season in the bayou only lasts from December through February. I’ve already lost a month.”

“A month? But you’ve been here 11 years.”

“All right, then, I’ve wasted 11 years. I can pick up 10 to 20 grand for three months trapping at Bayou La Fourche.”



Thursday, April 17, 2014

the last book I ever read (Post Office by Charles Bukowski, excerpt seven)

from Post Office: A Novel by Charles Bukowski:

But, there were still bits of action. One guy was caught on the same stairway that I had been trapped on. He was caught there with his head under some girl’s skirt. Then one of the girls who worked in the cafeteria complained that she hadn’t been paid, as promised, for a bit of oral copulation she had supplied to a general foreman and three mailhandlers. They fired the girl and the three mailhandlers and busted the general foreman down to supervisor.

Then, I set the post office on fire.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

the last book I ever read (Post Office by Charles Bukowski, excerpt six)

from Post Office: A Novel by Charles Bukowski:

She stopped, then came on over. “Hi, Hank. How are you?”

I knew her from the central post office. She worked another station, the one near the water fountain, but she seemed more friendly than most.

“I’ve got the low blues. Third funeral in two years. First my mother, then my father. Today, an old girl friend.”

She ordered something. I opened the Form.

“Let’s catch this second race.”

She came over and leaned a lot of leg and breast against me. There was something under that raincoat. I always look for the non-public horse who could beat the favorite. If I found nobody could beat the favorite, I bet the favorite.

I had come to the racetrack after the other two funerals and had won. There was something about funerals. It made you see things better. A funeral a day and I’d be rich.